liberalism, citizenship and democracy

by Mark Ellingsen

A lot has been written recently about the corruption of politicians, the crisis of democracy and the legitimacy of Parliament. This is particularly apt as this year marks 200 years since the death of Tom Paine, the radical liberal who was an inspiration to movements fighting for the vote. On the Left the analysis of this crisis has revolved around the interconnected reasons of the failure of the Labour Party to deliver job security and prosperity to its ‘natural’ constituency of working class voters on the one hand, and on the other, the class nature of the capitalist state which ensures that the policies enacted by governments will ensure the profits of the capitalist class even to the detriment of the majority of voters. Quite rightly these arguments take centre place in any discussion of the problems now confronting both voters and the mainstream parties. However, there is a complementary argument that even on its own terms the ideas associated with liberal democracy are never going to provide a sufficient long-term basis on which the majority of people were going to be motivated to be engaged with what currently passes as the political process. But in order to understand the perceived crisis of liberal democracy we need first to understand the crisis of liberalism. Continue reading “liberalism, citizenship and democracy”

legal victory for self-managed ‘zanon’ factory in argentina

by Marie Trigona

The workers at Argentina’s occupied ceramics factory, FASINPAT (Factory Without a Boss), won a major victory this week: the factory now definitively belongs to the people in legal terms. The provincial legislature voted in favor of expropriating the ceramics factory and handing it over to the workers cooperative to manage legally and indefinitely. Since 2001, the workers at Zanon have fought for legal recognition of worker control at Latin America’s largest ceramics factory which has created jobs, spearheaded community projects, supported social movements world-wide and shown the world that workers don’t need bosses.

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“This is incredible, we are happy. The expropriation is an act of justice,” said Alejandro Lopez the General Secretary of the Ceramists Union, overwhelmed by the emotion of the victory. “We don’t forget the people who supported us in our hardest moments, or the 100,000 people who signed the petition supporting our bill.” Continue reading “legal victory for self-managed ‘zanon’ factory in argentina”

the positions of the workers’ communist party of bosnia and herzegovina

Introduction by Chris Kane

The revolutionary communist movement in the former Yugoslavia has produced some of the most pioneering Marxists: Anton Cilliga, the critic of Stalinist state-capitalism, and the dissident Marxist humanists of the Praxis group in the League of Communists of Yugoslavia who produced figures such as Gajo Petrovic and Mihailo Markovic.  They developed an emancipatory school of communism closely identified with workers self-management, de-alienation and the importance of Marx’s early humanist writings.   Many of these ideas have been lost to West European communism and the insular British left: and with the wars in Yugoslavia the tradition appeared defeated.  But in Bosnia communists are reviving: the internationalist Workers’ Communist Party was founded in 2000.  These comrades have drawn a number of lessons from the experience of state-socialism, which is of particular relevance to our own situation in the UK today.  The Bosnian communists are clear that:

Nationalization of the means of production cannot bring freedom for the working class. State-owned enterprises are under the control of the state, in other words, under control of the ruling party. Exploitation remains. Only socialization of the means of production can produce real changes in the position of the working class. Social ownership is connected with socialist self-management (government).”  They take a clear stand against Parliamentarianism, stating that:  “The political system of socialism will be based on self-government at all levels of social organization. We do not accept a system of parliamentary democracy because it is based on partocracy – rule of the powerful parties and their leaders.” We republish below the basic goals of the Workers’ Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Continue reading “the positions of the workers’ communist party of bosnia and herzegovina”

reprints of the commune’s pamphlets – buy online

We have printed more copies of our series of pamphlets, several of which (in particular the long-unavailable Venezuela pamphlet) were out of print. See below for a list of the seven pamphlets available. They cost £1 +50p postage per copy. To order online, work out the total of your purchases then ‘donate’ the money here, making sure to specify in the text box what you are ordering.

communestall

Alternatively, write to uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to place your order. We take payment by cheque (addressed to ‘The Commune’, at The Commune, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St. John Street, London EC1V 4PY) or by transfer to Co-op account S/C 089299, A/C 65317440. Continue reading “reprints of the commune’s pamphlets – buy online”

imperialism and populism in latin america: the case of peru 1968-75

by David Broder

For many mainstream commentators, the clashes following the coup against soft-left Honduran president Manuel Zelaya fit into the usual analysis of a continent-wide battle between pro-US conservative parties and a radical “pink tide”.  It is indeed striking how prominently supporters of the Honduran military coup allege interference in the country by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, a theme also particularly commonplace in the political discourse of the right in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia. The Times[1] this week approvingly quoted one observer to the effect that “Chávism versus anti-Chávism is a new version of Communism versus anti-Communism”.

However, while the Venezuelan president is evidently an influential and controversial figure and the focus of much attention, we must go beyond the typical media epithets about his personality – ‘firebrand’, ‘outspoken’, and so on – and ask: what dynamics and social forces do these conflicts represent? Why has Chávism and anti-Chávism generalized across Latin America, how irreconcilable are the divisions, and to what extent are these questions of anti-imperialism and class struggle?

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To understand what is taking place, it is important to contextualize the supposed “pink tide” led by Chávez in the history of Latin America, and in particular the continent’s many examples of ‘populist’ governments with supposedly ‘anti-imperialist’ and statist agendas. This article looks in particular at the case of the ‘Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces’, which governed Peru from 1968 to 1975. Continue reading “imperialism and populism in latin america: the case of peru 1968-75”

twenty years after the ‘collapse of communism’: forum this thursday

The Commune’s 25th June London forum: click here for leaflet

Polish Poster 2

Twenty years ago a revolutionary wave on the scale of 1848 and 1919 swept across Eastern Europe and the USSR. It brought down the state-socialist regimes which called themselves “communist”. Western capitalism declared the “collapse of communism” and some spoke of the “end of history” with a new era of liberal democracy. Instead the era of neo-liberal globalisation brought a new phase of war and recessions: in Eastern Europe the optimism of 1989 gave way to economic shock-therapy and widespread impoverishment, while in the former USSR the old elite has been replaced by the rule of exploitative oligarchs. Continue reading “twenty years after the ‘collapse of communism’: forum this thursday”

yugoslav “self government”

by Dan Jakopovich

The Yugoslav experiment is a gold mine of experiences. As it is useful to learn about the positive aspects of this experience, it is also good to learn from Yugoslav mistakes and limitations.

Professor Stipe Šuvar humorously depicted the Yugoslav experience, in accordance with its underdeveloped material and cultural reality, as a form of “shephards’ self-government”. About 75% of the Yugoslav population were peasants prior to the Second World War. A leading communist and perhaps the single most important architect of the Yugoslav system of “self-government”, Edvard Kardelj, noted that Yugoslav pre-war electricity production was 59 times below the European average. Continue reading “yugoslav “self government””

twenty years after the ‘collapse of communism’: june 25th forum

click here for leaflet

Twenty years ago a revolutionary wave on the scale of 1848 and 1919 swept across Eastern Europe and the USSR. It brought down the state-socialist regimes which called themselves “communist”. Western capitalism declared the “collapse of communism” and some spoke of the “end of history” with a new era of liberal democracy. Instead the era of neo-liberal globalisation brought a new phase of war and recessions: in Eastern Europe the optimism of 1989 gave way to economic shock-therapy and widespread impoverishment, while in the former USSR the old elite has been replaced by the rule of exploitative oligarchs.

What happened to the radical ideals of the freedom movements of workers and intellectuals which challenged the old regimes, which called for workers self-management, and end to all forms of oppression and alienation, which opposed the ruling bureaucracy and the restoration of capitalism? The legacy of totalitarian “communism” still hangs over us all; amidst the worse crisis of capitalism in decades there remains a real crisis of confidence in a viable alternative to this system.

Did communism really collapse? Can we develop a vision of an emancipatory communism in the 21st century? On Thursday June 25th The Commune is hosting a forum in London to address these questions. Continue reading “twenty years after the ‘collapse of communism’: june 25th forum”

an introduction to the commune

By Joe Thorne

The Commune is a political project incorporating a newspaper, a series of pamphlets, and a series of open discussion forums.  It is a group organised round these activities; small at present, but growing.

We are feminist, anti-capitalist, internationalist; against the structure of this society, based as it is on mass powerlessness, overwork and war.  We are for change from below, through mass direct action, and a society where everything is held in common.  Based on a broad conception of the working class, including all those who are divorced from social power and rely on exploitative work, state income support, or debt, we say that the liberation of the working class is the task of the working class itself. Continue reading “an introduction to the commune”

the commune’s pamphlets: reprints now available

More copies of our pamphlet series, many of which had sold out, are now available. The text of each of  the seven pamphlets is online (see the list of subjects below), but you can also order paper copies – £1 +50p postage per copy.

communestall

Write to uncaptiveminds@gmail.com to place your order. We take payment by cheque (addressed to ‘The Commune’, at The Commune, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St. John Street, London EC1V 4PY) or by transfer to Co-op account S/C 089299, A/C 65317440. Continue reading “the commune’s pamphlets: reprints now available”

texts for 13th april reading group

The next of The Commune’s London reading group series on ‘communism from below’ is to take place on Monday 13th April. The subject of the discussion, taking place from 6:30pm at the Old Red Lion, near Angel tube, is “workers’ self-government vs. state socialism”.

We will be looking at the questions
– To what extent is it possible to use the existing state’s structures to force ‘socialist’ reforms?
– Should we refuse to make any demands on bourgeois governments?
– What arguments could be made for and against the slogan “nationalisation under workers’ control”?
– Does William Paul’s “industrial executive committee” reflect our idea of working-class power?
– How can self-managed workplaces relate to the needs of society as a whole?
– Does the idea of a “workers’ party” imply an elite counterposed to grassroots activism and workplace democracy, and does it really allow a broader programme of social revolution?

The suggested reading material is:

– William Paul – The State: Its Origins and Function, Chapter 11
– Marx – Critique of the Gotha Programme
– Hal Draper – The Two Souls of Socialism

All are welcome to come and take part in the discussion. Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info.

over fifteen years of collective production and self-management at mst co-operative

The Vitória Agricultural Production Co-operative, belonging to Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) has since 1993 practiced a model of production based on collectivism and diversification. From Passa Palavra.

The Vitória Agricultural Production Co-operative (COPAVI), in Paraná City in the north-east of Brazil’s Paraná state, was founded on 10th June 1993, but its story began in January of that year when several families occupied around 256 hectares and transformed a rugged area of sugar-cane-monoculture land, belonging to one sole owner, into an agro-industrial area with diverse production, securing an alternative – and decent conditions – for more than seventy people.

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COPAVI, according to the National Institute of Farming and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), is among the ten most successful holdings in the state. Its collective forms of ownership, production, and management, under the leadership of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Rural Workers’ Movement; MST), are considered a model [1]. It remains symbolic of the landless workers’ struggle in Brazil. Continue reading “over fifteen years of collective production and self-management at mst co-operative”

report of campaign against climate change trade union conference

by Steve Ryan

Held on 7th March this Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) trade union event was the second such conference of its kind.

The conference was structured in a similar way to the first one with an opening plenary, workshops, forums and a closing plenary. The turnout was however far lower than at the first conference: showing how easily such a subject falls away in recession, when it should, properly argued, be at the forefront. Continue reading “report of campaign against climate change trade union conference”

marković on social preconditions of self-management

intro by Chris Kane

The Commune is pleased to publish below an article by comrade Goran Marković, one of the editors of the magazine Novi Plamen (The New Flame) with whom we have fraternal relations.  This is a democratic socialist publication aimed at audiences across the territory of the former Yugoslavia.   Novi Plamen has been pro-active in developing discussion on the questions of workers’ self-management which has a long tradition in the labour movement in the Balkans.  This article was also published by comrades in Hungary in the journal Eszmelet (Consciousness) in a special issue dedicated to self-government and direct democracy. Continue reading “marković on social preconditions of self-management”