reading for 5th october london discussion group now online

The next of our London discussion meetings on workplace organising is to be held from 7pm on Monday October 5th at the Lucas Arms, near King’s Cross. We will be looking at the questions:

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– Are unions an expression of the self-organisation of the working class, or bodies which seek to win improvements on their behalf?

– What is the difference between ‘trade unionism’ and the revolutionary class struggle?

The recommended reading material and a map of the venue appear below. Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com or phone 07595 245494 for more details. Continue reading “reading for 5th october london discussion group now online”

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5th october london reading group: two views of trade unionism

The next of our London discussion meetings on workplace organising is to be held from 7pm on Monday October 5th at the Lucas Arms, near King’s Cross. We will be looking at the questions:

– Are unions an expression of the self-organisation of the working class, or bodies which seek to win improvements on their behalf?

– What is the difference between ‘trade unionism’ and the revolutionary class struggle?

The recommended reading material and a map of the venue appear below. Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com or phone 07595 245494 for more details. Continue reading “5th october london reading group: two views of trade unionism”

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.

hal draper’s “independent socialism: a perspective for the left”

The following pamphlet was published in 1964 as an outline of the ideas of the Independent Socialist Committees in the USA, which involved such figures as Hal Draper who represented the left trend which emerged from the old Workers’ Party.  Along with a group in Chicago led by Kim Moody and comrades in New York they formed a national organisation which later became the International Socialists.  They sought to preserve the idea of the third camp of independent working class politics.

Chris Kane

There are many pamphlets and books explaining the general idea of socialism; this is not another one. For present purposes and for the sake of argument, we are assuming you know what the socialist idea is: the idea that the ability of human beings to live like men should not be dependent on the making of private profit; that the community of men can operate our economic institutions under social control rather than under the autocracy of moneyed overlords; that democracy can apply as much to the way we make a living as to the way we make a government, by putting the factories and plants under collective control. Continue reading “hal draper’s “independent socialism: a perspective for the left””

hal draper, the state and socialism from below

by David Broder

Recently this site has seen a debate over the question of the state in bourgeois society and after working-class revolution, with comrades from the Trotskyist group ‘Permanent Revolution’ arguing that such a revolution would necessarily have to create a new state which would centrally plan the economy. They call this “socialism”, to be followed by a later classless, stateless era of “communism”. They furthermore argue that state-planned economies such as Cuba’s, despite the lack of working-class power in decision-making, nonetheless represent, in some dilute form, “workers’ states”.

This has little in common with our conception of how working-class power comes about and should be exercised: by the working class itself, democratically, from below and creating its own structures organically. There are no saviours from on high: we do not want a benign régime or enlightened despot to dish out equality of poverty.

With this in mind, we have added three texts to the ‘ideas’ section of our website by the American communist Hal Draper. These argue against state socialist models and for ‘socalism from below’, and see this sentiment as a thread running through the works of Karl Marx.

Click here to read The Death of the State in Marx and Engels; the Two Souls of Socialism; and The Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Marx and Engels.

links added in ‘ideas’

today we have added three more links to the ‘ideas‘ page of the commune.

the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in marx and engels, by hal draper, explains how marx and engels used the term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ not to mean a specific form of government but rather to denote the class rule of the working class once it has overthrown the bourgeoisie. in this vein draper attacks the understanding of the term elaborated by plekhanov, who proclaimed “when we come to power, we will allow no freedom for anyone but ourselves”.

anton pannekoek’s world revolution and communist tactics, written for an organ of the comintern in 1920, effectively combats statist visions of working-class power and bureaucracy in the workers’ movement, and looks at the new organisational forms workers must use to re-shape society: “the formation by the workers of the soviets, their own organs of power and action, in itself signifies the disintegration and dissolution of the state. as a much more recent form of organisation and one created by the proletariat itself, the trade union will survive much longer, because it has its roots in a much more living tradition of personal experience, and once it has shaken off state-democratic illusions, will therefore claim a place in the conceptual world of the proletariat. but since the trade unions have emerged from the proletariat itself, as products of its own creative activity, it is in this field that we shall see the most new formations as continual attempts to adapt to new conditions; following the process of revolution, new forms of struggle and organisation will be built on the model of the soviets in a process of constant transformation and development”.

ubu saved from drowning: worker insurgency and statist containment in portugal and spain 1974-77, by loren goldner, is of particular interest in that focuses on the struggles of the portuguese working class rather than merely the history of the sects that aspired to lead it (much like mailer’s the impossible revolution). the fact that the portuguese revolution represented the end of an era of class struggle rather than the beginning of a new one, and that the onward march of state capitalism had also petered out by the end of the 1970s, by no means devalues the lessons of the portuguese revolutionary crisis, which saw mass working-class mobilisation, factory expropriations and efforts at workers’ self-management.