texts for 2nd march reading group

The next of our reading groups on ‘communism from below’ takes place from 6:30pm on Monday 2nd March. The subject of the discussion is ‘the roots of left fragmentation and the sectarianisation of history’ and we will be focussing on the questions:

– How can we overcome some groups’ ideas that they represent the “authentic” historical continuity of the communist movement?
– Why is the left so divided by the legacy of the Russian revolution?
– To what extent should we drop the ‘baggage of history’ in deciding our politics today? Is it true that old differences and old disputes don’t matter any more?

The recommended reading is
False historical paradigms: a short piece by Chris Ford looking at how many left groups perceive themselves as part of an ‘order of succession’ going back to the 1916-21 revolutionary wave and failing to see contradictions in their heroes’ thought.
– Michael S Fox’s Ante Ciliga, Trotsky and State Capitalism, looking at the Croatian communist Ciliga’s critique of the Trotskyist movement in terms of its unwillingness to tackle the question of bureaucratisation head on and sectarianism towards other anti-Stalinist forces.
– Maurice Brinton’s The Malaise on the Left looks at the culture of leftist circles and their narrow focus on only certain areas of human experience and repression in society.

All are welcome to come and take part in the discussion – we aim to have open and undogmatic debates rather than training anyone in some ‘party line’. For details of the central London venue, printed copies of the texts or more information, don’t hesitate to email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com

marx and engels on the state and society

by Ernie Haberkern

“The “New Question” posed by the experience of the Labor government is not, then, whether socialism can be established by parliamentary means or only by extra-parliamentary means. It is this: Can the working class reach socialism only by its own efforts, by its direct class rule over the economic and political life of the country, or can socialism be attained without workers’ control and simply by an expropriation of the bourgeoisie carried out, one way or another, under the control and direction of a more or less benevolent workers’ bureaucracy? The spread of Stalinism has raised the same question in one way; the Labourite government in another way. If it is not the most vital question of our time, it is certainly one of the most vital. Not a few Marxists have abandoned the basic convictions of the founders and teachers of scientific socialism by replying, in effect, in the affirmative: Yes, the road to socialism lies or may lie through the domination of society by a workers’ bureaucracy or a bureaucracy that arose out of the labor movement. They have concluded that the Stalinist revolution is the socialist revolution, that Stalinist society is progressive, that the Titoist state is socialist, and the like. As for ourselves, we remain unreconstructed in our belief that the emancipation of the working class, that is, socialism, is the task of the working class itself and no one else. The experience of the Labor government, especially when considered, as it must be, in the light of the social and historical significance of the rise of Stalinism, has not modified our belief in the slightest degree and we see no grounds in the realities of British society to warrant such a modification.”

Max Shachtman, The New International, January/February 1951

This article, in which the author repudiated his long-held position that nationalization by itself was a progressive step towards socialism, argues that nationalization of private capital by the state bureaucracy, even when carried out by a party based on the working class is not a step forward. The article even goes so far as to argue that the Attlee government, if it continued on this path, was heading towards a social system that would differ little, if at all, from Stalinism.

Shachtman was rediscovering Marx and Engels’ views on the subject of statification. Continue reading “marx and engels on the state and society”

obituary of brian pearce

by Terry Brotherstone, from The Guardian

Brian Pearce, who has died aged 93, was one of the most acute scholars of Russian history and British communism never to have held an academic post. Of the historians who broke with the Communist party of Great Britain (CPGB) after the Khrushchev “secret speech” and the suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, he was the most insistent on the need for historical analysis of the party’s record.

A prodigious translator from both Russian and French, Pearce won the Scott-Moncrieff prize three times – in 1976 for Marcel Liebman’s Leninism Under Lenin, in 1980 for Roland Mousnier’s The Institutions of French Monarchy Under Absolutism, and in 1991 for Paul Veyne’s Bread and Circuses. Literary translation was his main source of income after he stopped working for the CPGB, for which he did various journalistic, cultural relations and translation jobs after leaving the civil service in 1950.

Expelled from the party in 1957, he had continued to work as a teacher of English at the Soviet Embassy, but the next year Harry Pollitt, the CPGB’s former general secretary, saw him there. “Soon my pupils … very embarrassed, made excuses for terminating their lessons,” Pearce recalled. Continue reading “obituary of brian pearce”

review of ‘resistance to nazism’

by David Broder

Recently I have engaged in a fair degree of research into working-class resistance during the Second World War, and so at yesterday’s Anarchist Bookfair I was interested to pick up a copy of the Anarchist Federation’s pamphlet ‘Resistance to Nazism’ (subtitle ‘Shattered Armies: How the Working Class Fought Nazism and Fascism 1933-45’), reprinted this May.

The stated aim of the pamphlet is to present an alternative ‘history from below’ discussing the struggles and experiences of working-class people rather than looking at the world through the prism of competing governments and military figures. This is a worthy aim indeed. Continue reading “review of ‘resistance to nazism’”

l’étincelle expelled from lutte ouvrière

The majority faction in Lutte Ouvrière, the second largest Trotskyist group in France, this Sunday expelled its minority L’Étincelle faction, which is sympathetic to the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire and its proposed New Anti-capitalist Party project. Continue reading “l’étincelle expelled from lutte ouvrière”

revolutionary strategy

david broder reviews revolutionary strategy, a new book by the cpgb’s mike macnair

There is much of value in any serious attempt to talk about the tasks of the left today, and what exactly the purpose of its existence is: Mike Macnair’s new book, which carries the subtitle “Marxism and the challenge of left unity” is certainly this. The left sects are crying out for some ideas and some definition for their project: what we have at the moment is a maelstrom of sectarian and internally undemocratic groups, with philistine hostility towards discussion and utter disdain for ideas other than those quoted from the holy texts of Lenin and Trotsky. Continue reading “revolutionary strategy”

more new content in ‘ideas’

today we have added to the ‘ideas‘ section of the website…

the solidarity group’s pamphlet on the 1871 paris commune. this compares trotsky and tales’ insistence that the communards failed because of their lack of a party unfavourably to karl marx’s civil war in france, which makes no such argument; and furthermore celebrates this great display of working class insurgency from below.

we also feature an article by david broder on the organisation of education under capitalism and the alienation of students, and an essay by chris ford on the relevance of the theory of state capitalism in today’s globalised capitalist economy.

the website is now accessible at www.thecommune.co.uk as well as the wordpress address.