4th may reading group: parliamentary socialism

The next of The Commune’s London reading groups on ‘communism from below’ will be focusing on the subject of so-called ‘Parliamentary socialism’ and its historic failure. We will be discussing the questions:

– What problems were created in the British labour movement when it separated into ‘parliamentary’ and ‘industrial’ wings?
– In what ways and for what reasons does parliamentary activity lead to the accommodation of the workers’ movement to the existing system?
– Should we refuse to participate in all elections and bourgeois parliaments?

The recommended preparatory reading for the discussion is this chapter of Communism and Society by William Paul and Modernisation as domination in the Chilean and British Left. All are welcome. Comrades will give lead-offs on the text, followed by general discussion.

The meeting takes place from 6:30pm on Monday 4th May at [EDIT: The Lucas Arms, near King’s Cross]. Contact uncaptiveminds@gmail.com or 07595 245494 to register your interest, request printed copies of the texts or find out more information.

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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.

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 uncaptiveminds@gmail.com 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.


new texts in ‘ideas’

We have added some new articles to the ‘ideas‘ section of the website. Foreword by Chris Kane

The national question remains of particular concern to  communists and socialists in the 21st century. One of the principle sources on the national question remains the writings of the Russian communist Lenin.  Here is a critical examination of Lenin’s theory of the national question by the Ukrainian Marxist Andrij Karpenko, from the Ukrainian socialist journal META.  We have also reproduced a pamphlet by the theorist of the then newly formed and at that time genuine Communist Party of Great Britain, William Paul, on the Irish question and its relationship to the world revolution.

Indeed, since the launching of The Commune many on the traditional left have been searching for ways to categorise us: we have been branded ‘anti-Bolsheviks’ by the Trotskyists and ‘Leninists’ by the anarchists. We recognise Lenin, with other communists of his generation, as an vitally important revolutionary of the 20th century.  As critical Marxists, we neither demonise Lenin nor raise him to the figure of a Pope. On The Commune we have published a number of writers who have critically engaged with Lenin’s ideas such as Paul Cardan (Castoriadis).  Here we reproduce a defence of Lenin against Cardan by Raya Dunayevskaya, the founder of Marxist-Humanism in the USA.  Dunayevskaya was critical of Lenin, in particular his views on the leading role of the vanguard Party, but she was equally critical of anti-Leninists.   The Scottish Marxist-Humanist edited by Harry McShane first published this article.

william paul’s ‘the state: its origins and function’

Here we reproduce sections of William Paul’s The State.

Introduction by Chris Ford – William Paul: a pioneer of communism from below

 William Paul (1884-1958) is a largely forgotten Marxist theoretician and activist from the early part of the 20th century. Paul joined the De Leonist influenced Socialist Labour Party (SLP) in Glasgow and was to become its leading Marxist theorist and tutor and later a founding member of the Communist Party and one of its key figures in the 1920s. Paul was joint editor, with Tom Bell, of the SLP’s paper, The Socialist, and was a formidable lecturer and theoretician mainly active in England. Continue reading “william paul’s ‘the state: its origins and function’”