thoughts for a militant autumn…

Steve Ryan shares his ideas for another wave of struggle.

Many Communists would traditionally have ignored the TUC congress this week.

However this one may prove of more interest. Debates will be had about pensions and jobs against a background of escalating industrial unrest as PCS, FBU, Teaching unions etc move to ballot for coordinated action. McCluskey for UNITE calls for civil disobedience. The TUC is actually backing the march at the Tory and Lib Dem conferences – even Barber is talking.

we can do so much more ourselves

This is a real challenge to the libertarian-left.

This IS the biggest wave of strike action for decades, building on the March demo and June strike. Student activists are back and angry with the possibility of further action. The riots demonstrated that there is anger growing – albeit unfocused in many urban communities. Continue reading “thoughts for a militant autumn…”

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”

reading for ‘conceptualising communist society’ discussion group

The next of The Commune’s London reading groups on ‘communism from below’ will take place on Monday 25th May from 7pm at the Old Red Lion, near Angel.

The title of the meeting is ‘conceptualising communist society’. The recommended reading material includes sections of two late 19th century utopian novels outlining a future communist society – Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (chapters 6-7), and News from Nowhere by William Morris (chapter 14). See these chapters as a Word file here.

Bellamy’s vision of communism (read whole book here) spurned a number of so-called “Nationalist” clubs around the United States and the book was also very popular among the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. He envisages a technocratic society where the state is the sole capitalist and every worker’s abilities are used to the full.

Morris’s book (read in full here) was written as a rebuttal of Bellamy’s work, outlining a libertarian view of communism based on collective decision making, extreme democracy and personal freedom from state control.

We will be discussing the following questions: Continue reading “reading for ‘conceptualising communist society’ discussion group”

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

reminder: 9th february reading group meeting

The next meeting in our reading group on ‘communism from below’ takes place on Monday 9th, and the reading material is available online.

While reading the texts, we ask people to think about these questions:

– Is Parliament a neutral arbiter between classes? Does the state bureaucracy have autonomous interests of its own?
– Is state intervention in the economy in Britain today at odds with the interests of private capitalists, and is it of benefit to workers?
– To what extent is it worthwhile for the labour movement to have a parliamentary wing?

The first text is The new forms of appearance of state-capitalism by Andrew Kliman. It argues that the crisis shows that state intervention is not in contradiction to free-market ideology: pro-privatisation dogma means the state squeezes social services and yet uses huge amounts of public cash and regulation to more safely structure capitalist exploitation.

Section 18.4 of Istvan Meszaros’ Beyond Capital argues that because capital’s dominance over the working class extends throughout society, we cannot consider that capital and labour have a “level playing field” in Parliament. Rather, the parliamentary-state apparatus serves to balance the interests of competing capitalists in the interests of capitalism as a whole, and so it follows that we need to look beyond such structures in order to effect real social transformation.

The meeting is taking place from 6:30pm on Monday 9th February. Email to request a printed copy of the texts, register your interest and find out more details of the central London venue. Click here to download leaflet.

the commune issue 2 published


february 2009 – £1 + postage and packing, email to order

click here for pdf or see individual articles below

barack obama is lipstick on a pig – by Ernie Haberkern

civil service pay dispute: defeat or victory? – by Steve Ryan, Wrexham PCS

class struggle on the london underground – interview with Vaughan Thomas, RMT London region chair (LUL)

occupations: the way to win? – guest editorial by Gregor Gall

the people’s charter: a charter for change? – by Chris Kane (online only)

militancy and mobilisation in the anti-war movement

the mindset of israelis in the gaza conflict – by Solomon Anker

anti-semitism and the war – by Aled Thomas

unemployment: a view from the front line – by Christine Hulme, PCS DWP

welfare ‘reform’, the brown premiership and the recession – by Chris Grover, Lancaster University

what does ‘socialism or barbarism’ mean today? – by François Chesnais

call centres: the workers’ enquiry – review by Jack Staunton

ukraine’s ‘new left’ and the russian ‘gas war’ – by Milan Lelich

the socialist movement in iran – by Sam Parsa

political platform of the commune

reminder: january 19th reading group on self-organisation and communism from below

Our series of reading groups kicks off at 6:30pm on Monday January 19th with a discussion on the subject of working class self-organisation and “communism from below”.  Email to find out more info on the central London venue. The texts for this first meeting are:

The Communist Manifesto (click here)

Arguing against different conceptions of “socialism” prevalent at the time, such as paternalistic “utopian” projects, Marx and Engels’ 1848 Manifesto argues that it is the working class must take power in order to revolutionise society. Tracing the development of Western society through the ages, Marx argues that we must get rid of capitalist ownership and the repressive social order and create a new, free and collectively organised system based on the development achieved by humanity thus far.

The Civil War in France – Engels’ 1891 introduction (click here) and chapter five (click here)

Marx’s thundering eulogy to the Communards – the Parisian workers who seized power in 1871 in the midst of France’s defeat in a war against Prussia – and the new order they established, casting aside the state bureaucracy and standing army and taking control with their democratic working-class “commune”. Introduction by Engels traces French history in the intervening decades and summarises the work.

Communism and Society (click here)

This section of British communist William Paul’s 1922 work argues against conceptions of introducting socialism through Parliament, and like Marx in The Civil War in France denies that the working class can take over the existing state machinery. Paul’s piece focuses on the self-organisation of the class and the manner in which the organisation of struggles against capitalism prefigures the society which will replace it.

Socialism and self-management (click here)

Yugoslav Marxist Mihailo Markovic’s piece looks at different aspects of workers’ self-management, with particular reference to post-war Yugoslavia where organs expressing elements of workers’ democracy were in conflict with the state bureaucracy under Marshal Tito. He argues that the state and party should be replaced by organs of workers’ self management whereby the mass of the population make economic, political and social decisions for themselves.

january-july 2009: reading group on communism from below

Through the first half of 2009 we are holding reading group meetings every three weeks, with the texts focussing on different conceptions of communism and the organisational forms needed to get there. Click here to see the full list of dates, subjects and texts.

The next meeting is on January 19th, on the subject of “Self organisation and communism from below”.

All meetings start on Mondays at 7pm, and the venue is in central London. We aim to have inclusive and undogmatic discussions, and all are welcome: email to register your interest.

The series will run parallel to a series of forums on “capitalism and the working class today”, starting on January 26th: more details to follow.