Nothing new to look at here: Towards a Critique of Communization

Donald Parkinson takes a look at some of the theorists under the label of ‘communization’ and takes a stab at their ideas. 

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Awaiting the release of Endnotes 4 I decided to write a critique of the broad tendency of communization, focusing on Dauve and TC in specific. Quite a few people have asked about my critique of Endnotes and Communization theory more broadly, as I mentioned these things briefly in my earlier piece Towards a Communist Left. As a result I decided to elaborate on my critique of these currents as well as provide a critical introduction to communization in general.

Communization must be placed in the context of the overall defeat of the proletariat’s wave of struggles in the 20th century. This defeat has in many ways led to a crisis of Marxism, where increasingly isolated theorists look to make innovations and breaks from orthodoxy in hope of ‘saving’ Marxist theory and politics. Sometimes breaks with orthodoxy are necessary, yet there is also a danger of needlessly breaking with orthodoxy with the hope that one is making real theoretical innovation when instead the result is just a repeat of past bad politics. While communization theory does make the occasional interesting insight and serve as a useful theoretical foil it largely is the case that what it offers is not a fresh new perspective for marxist politics but a repeat of Kropotkinist and Sorelian critiques of Marxism with more theoretical sophistication.

Communization refers to relatively broad tendency of writers and journals that don’t all agree on everything. When referring to communization one has to be careful what they say, as there is as much divergence amongst ‘communizers’ as there is ideological unity. Overall what unites this tendency is a belief that revolution will have to immediately establish communist relations of production from day one, that an immediate break from waged labor, commodity production and the value-form is to be favored as opposed to an approach where the working class holds political power and dismantles capitalism in a transition period that may temporarily maintain aspects of capitalism. Added to this is a general hostility to organized politics and anything resembling “old forms” like parties, councils, and unions.

Overall communization can fall into two camps: Gilles Dauve’s “normative” communization and Theorie Communiste’s “structuralist” theory of communization. The key differences between these tendencies can be found in Volume 1 of Endnotes, essentially a debate between Dauve and TC. In his pamphlet When Insurrections Die Dauve puts forward the thesis that the proletariat failed in past revolutions because it didn’t make a sufficient break with waged labor, opting for self-management and collectivization instead where labor vouchers replaced money. Using Spain as his example, Dauve argues that these revolutions failed because they aimed to manage the proletarian condition rather than abolish it, therefore reproducing capitalism in a different form. Therefore the idea of a transition period where the proletariat raises itself to the ruling class within a decaying capitalism is to be rejected in favor of the immediate ‘self-abolition’ of the proletariat.

Dauve’s work is in many ways an attempt to square the insights of old school left-communists like Pannekoek and Bordiga with ideas of the Situationist International. Dauve is just as critical of workers councils managing production as he is critical of the party-form, opting for an approach that focuses on the content of revolution, this content being an immediate break with waged labor and money aka communization. For Dauve the abolition of value is key to revolution, something that can not be achieved gradually or “by half steps” but in the process of insurrection itself. This means rejecting any kind of scheme involving ‘labor vouchers’ or ‘labor notes’ where labor-time is directly measured to determine the worker’s access to the social product, even if these measures are merely temporary transitional steps towards communism.

Dauve makes many important points, many of which are re-iterations of classic left-communist politics (for example, rejecting the anti-fascist popular front). Bringing value and its abolition back into the picture is certainly important, reminding us that communism is not simply a better way of managing capitalist forms but a radical break from waged-labor and the commodity-form itself. His critiques of councilist formalism and workers self-management also are welcome as antidotes to many ideas among the anti-stalinist left that act as if stalinism would work if more self-management existed (PARECON comes to mind). It’s also a move away from traditional leftist workerism, that valorizes workers as workers rather than a class which abolishes itself and all other classes. Putting the transformation of social relations at the heart of communist revolution is certainly a step forward. Yet Dauve has little to suggest how this can be achieved, only stating that Kautksy and Lenin’s formula of merging socialism with the workers movement is to be avoided because communism is imminent to the struggle of labor against capital.

TC responds to Dauve by accusing his argument of essentially being tautological: the communist movement failed because it failed to produce communism. For TC Dauve sees communism as a normative essence within the proletariat itself, and that past revolutions failed because the proletariat failed to live up to this essence or are betrayed by managers and chose to manage capitalism instead of create communism. Dauve fails to answer the question of why the workers didn’t create communism, and instead simply states the obvious. Rather than being some essence to the proletariat, TC see communism as a product of the historical periodization of capitalism, which is itself a series of cycles of contradictions between the proletariat and capital.

For TC the “why” question of why workers didn’t create communism is answered by the concept of programmatism. Programmatism basically means the “old workers movement” which was all about affirming the proletarian condition rather than abolishing it. This is meant to describe the entire workers movement of the past, not just its more reformist elements, describing all politics where “revolution is thus the affirmation of the proletariat, whether as a dictatorship of the proletariat, workers’ councils, the liberation of work, a period of transition, the withering of the state, generalised self-management, or a “society of associated producers”. Programmatism in this theory  is not a means towards communism, but a product of capitalism in the phase of ‘formal subsumption’ transitioning into the more advanced phase of ‘real subsumption’. This phase decomposed in the period of the 20’s to the 70’s, leading to today’s modern phase of ‘real subsumption’ where capitalism has fully dominated the proletariat. Programmatism created a ‘worker identity’ that allowed for the affirmation of the proletariat that is now no longer possible, and therefore there can only be the complete negation of the proletarian condition through its immediate self-abolition.

This argument, while more sophisticated than Dauve’s, essentially reduces the entire workers movement to a means of capitalist development and claims that all along communism was impossible until (conveniently) now. Yet why this era will produce communism when all class struggle in the past simply affirmed capital is never explained. Without the millenarian expectations of apocalyptic revolution TC’s theory simply would argue that communism is impossible. It also completely writes off the actual possibility of organizing politically and developing a real strategy to defeat capitalism, since any attempt to organize the proletariat to abolish itself would mean organizing it as a class within capitalism and therefore affirming it. As a result the only way forward will be spontaneous outbursts that develop to the point of some kind of “rupture with the wage relation”. TC and Dauve have very similar positions when it comes to their actual political conclusions, which is that revolution will not have a transition based on a dictatorship of the proletariat organized in parties and councils but see an immediate move towards communism, where value is abolished and free access to all goods is established. They just come to these conclusions from different theoretical reasonings. TC are ultra-determinist, almost to the point of being fatalist, while Dauve seems to suggest communism was possible all along if the workers made the right choices.

In this sense they theorize the conclusions of the anarchist Kropotkin, who imagined a revolution taking the form of local communities spontaneously establishing common access to all property and federating with each other as needed without any kind of transition where the proletariat would hold state power. Kropotkin came from a time where self-sufficient peasants were far more prominent as well as their spontaneous outbursts, making his politics a bit more believable and easier to sell. While Dauve and TC don’t spell out the localist implications of their theory, the idea that there must be immediate communization does strongly suggest that in a revolutionary situation isolated regions would attempt essentially autarkic communism rather than making any kind of compromises with the old order. Other adherents of Communization, like Jasper Bernes in his essay Logistics, Counterlogistics and the Communist Project do essentially spell this out. Bernes argues the complexity of the global division of labor means revolutionary zones would have to trade with other nations to operate capitalist means of production. Bernes writes off the idea of trade since this would entail temporarily holding onto aspects of capitalism, instead suggesting that revolutionaries won’t be able to operate most capitalist forces of production. How this strategy will be capable of feeding people in a crisis situation never seems to cross his mind. At least Communization theorist Bruno Astarian in his article Communization as a Way Out of the Crisis openly admits that people may have to starve for his schemes to work out:

“Finally, there is always the chance that the supply of flour for our bakers will be sporadic, at least at first, if the proletarians at the mill prefer to discuss the meaning of love or life instead of grinding wheat. Would this lead to chaos? We shall be told that today there will be no bread. You just have to accept it. Another alternative is that someone conceives a plan, quantified and taking time scales into account, and someone else complies with its terms. In such a case not only is value reestablished. In fact, a proletarian experience of this kind has no future: if it works the proletarians will rapidly lose their rights (restoration of wage labor in one form or another); if it does not work they will return to the old framework of unemployment and unpaid wages. It is likely, in any event, that the communizing solution will not be considered until various chess matches of this kind have tried and found wanting.”

What all of this ignores is that communism isn’t possible on a local scale, and that “true” communism where value has been completely abolished will require the co-operation of all of humanity utilizing the the worlds collective productive forces. This reason alone explains why immediate communization is not possible, with transition being a necessity imposed by objective circumstances rather than the will of revolutionaries. It also misses the basic Marxist insight that it is capitalism that creates the conditions for communism in the sense of creating a globalized society (with a global class, the proletariat) with forces of production that are developed enough to allow humanity to pursue a life beyond endless toil and starvation.

Immediate communization is also impossible because of the realities of specialization under capitalism, where a large and essentially petty-bourgeois strata of professionals with skillsets necessary for the reproduction of society (surgeons for example) are able to use their monopolies on skills and information to assert a privileged position above proletarians in society. This strata would have much reason to resist communism and withhold their skills at the expense of society to assert material privileges. As a result concessions would have to given to this strata until their skill monopolies can be broken through the collective reorganization of production and education in a way to challenge the very basis of the mental/manual division of labor. Such a process would not happen overnight, problematizing the notion that a immediate transcendence of capitalism is possible. In other words transition isn’t something revolutionaries choose but something imposed by objective conditions. Communism must be created from the raw material produced by capitalism, raw materials that aren’t as malleable as the ‘revolutionary will’ of communists would like them to be.

Some communization theorists go as far as to reject the notion that the proletariat is a ‘revolutionary subject’ at all, while offering only ambiguity as to what could replace it. While Dauve seems to maintain some notion of the proletariat as the revolutionary agent other writers like Woland from SIC write about a ‘revolutionary (non-)subject’ that takes from the form of the rioter. A common theme in modern communization theory is the riot as the main form of struggle in this period. According to the communization group Blaumachen we are currently living in the ‘Era of Riots’, where the absence of strikes and prominence of riots signals the replacement of proletarian affirmation with proletarian abolition. The rioter doesn’t affirm any kind of proletarian identity through forming class-based institutions, but instead directly acts to negate capitalist relations and the state. It is seen as a form of practice that cannot be recuperated, as though the content of the riot itself is the content of communism. While it is not clear who this new subject is, it is clear what it will do: riot. The Endnotes groups seems to suggest the basis for this new revolutionary subject lies in the existence of ‘surplus populations’, or those formally excluded from the wage relation.

There is nothing new about rejecting the proletariat as the revolutionary subject yet trying to maintain some kind of revolutionary anti-capitalist ideology. In early 20th century in intellectuals like Georges Sorel, Edouard Berth and Robert Michels responded to the popularity of reformist and electoral social-democratic parties as opposed to a more active and violent class struggle by questioning the notion of socialist revolution being based in the rational class interests of the proletariat. This circle of intellectuals, detailed in Sternhell’s The Birth of Fascist Ideology, developed out of the syndicalist movement and diverged from classical marxism in a variety of ways. Sorel would develop a cult of action based on the general strike as the myth that would drive the proletariat to rebel rather than any kind of objective class interest. Berth and Michels took it a step further and argued the working class was not a revolutionary agent at all, with working class organization no longer a necessity for socialism. This abandonment of class and embrace of vitalist voluntarism led many intellectuals in this circle to embrace the nation as the revolutionary subject, becoming ideological influences on fascism.

The New Left of the 1960’s and 70’s also saw similar ideas that aimed to abandon the proletariat, the most notable being Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man. While Sorel and Michels were responding to the rise of reformism Marcuse saw consumer society as the main factor integrating the working class into capitalism and pacifying it. Robbed of any dialectical opposition to capitalism by the lures of consumer society the proles were simply “one-dimensional men” with no antagonistic relation to the system. Yet for Marcuse there was still hope in the “great refusal” which would be led by third world resistance movements, student rebellions and a vague ‘oppressed’. What this looked like in practice was a fractured collection of identity and nationalist movements that were incapable of finding a commonality in the basis of class and instead became integrated into public-interest liberalism.

While the communization theorists who express doubt or even disdain for the potential of the proletariat to act as a revolutionary subject operate in a different context and with a different discourse from the Sorelians and Marcuse they are both generally informed by a sort of ‘worry about workers’. While the Sorelian lamented the rise of parliamentary reformism in favor of a more directly antagonistic syndicalist inspired by heroic myths, Marcuse was responding to the ‘post-war compromise’ where Keynesian policies were able to temporarily win a better deal for (sections of) workers under capitalist democracies. Today communization theorists are responding to the general tendencies of de-industrialization in the core economies, where a shift towards service and retail type labor in favor of manufacturing has largely made traditional labor organizing impotent. There indeed is no denying that in the US the typical proletarian is not a muscular factory worker who identifies with their labor and wants self-management but rather someone working in a call center or Mcdonalds under precarious conditions.

It is clear that the class composition and terrain of class struggle today is different from the past, and that a simple strategy of building labor parties out of trade unions won’t cut it. Yet pointing to the decline of unions and todays explosive riots to claim that ‘programmatism’ is now impossible seems like an overreaction to new conditions. Truth is that the shift towards de-industrialization, service economies and precariousness is a big blow to the traditional forms and tactics of organized labor. Yet the inherent antagonism between capital and labor and the need for workers to organize as a class within capital is there as much as ever. So while the need for class based organization on the economic front is still with us workers as a class have yet to learn how to struggle on this new class terrain. This won’t happen overnight, but will be a trial and error process that will require a break with the traditional union apparatus to open room for experimentation in tactics and strategy. It is arguable with the recent strikes in Spain of “pseudo self-employed” telecom workers that this process is happening before our eyes. We have to realize that the proletariat is not a class ready-made for revolution at any moment in history but rather must form as a class into a collective subject through creating its own institutions in society. The proletariat derives it’s social power not from the ability to shut down production but from its ability to organize as an entire class and pose an institutional alternative to the old society. This will mean reviving the ‘programmatism’ that TC claim is now permanently dead.

The “worry about workers” that haunts communization theorists is hardly a new phenomena. During any period of reaction or slow-down in the class struggle impatient revolutionaries will question the notion of a proletarian revolution and look elsewhere for revolutionary subjectivity if not completely giving up hope in marxist politics. This is not necessarily consistent among all adherents of communization however. As mentioned earlier, Gilles Dauves tends to maintain the notion of a proletarian subject while Endnotes has a more ambiguous position. Yet what all the proponents of communization do seem to have in common is a hostility to any of the ‘old forms’ of worker organization, such as parties, councils and unions. In fact there seems to be a hostility to the very notion that the proletariat can form mass organizations within capitalism that can be a basis for the overthrow of capitalism. The whole approach seems to hinge on a spontaneous rupture with the value-form that will create entirely novel forms in the process of struggle itself, with struggles themselves taking up communizing measures of out necessity. While there is legitimacy to the notion that new forms of class organization arise in struggles, this reliance on spontaneity offers little to conscious communists in terms of moving forward in formulating a coherent revolutionary strategy. Overall communization theorists are too quick to dismiss the “old forms” as completely obsolete due to new conditions. When it comes to pointing out these new conditions journals like Endnotes do have much of value to say, yet when it comes to explaining why exactly these changes make old forms fully obsolete the answers are very abstract and unconvincing.

In the end communization theory isn’t a progression or advancement in Marxism, but a repeat of past bad politics. In the same way that 1970’s Urban Guerilla groups like the Weather Underground repeated the arguments of Nardonik terrorists from Russia in the late 19th century, arguments regarding the transition period are mostly a return to the ideas of Kropotkin but phrased through citations of Marx’s Capital and Grundrisse. On the other hand the search for a ‘revolutionary (non-)subject’ that some communizers like Woland of SIC espouse is just repeat of pessimism about the working class from the Sorelian revisionists or the Marcuse inspired wing of the New Left.

Breaks from orthodoxy may not always be as innovative as they initially seem and simply open the door to confusing or dangerous ideas instead of a way to move forward. Communization theorists in many ways create a vision of revolution so idealistic and abstract that revolution basically becomes impossible. The vision of a millenarian rupture that immediately breaks with capitalism may be an appealing fantasy but in the end is simply a fantasy. The result of recent waves of spontaneous riots in Ukraine and Greece was Euromaidan and Syriza’s government respectively. Solving political questions and changing society requires positive programme and the organizational capacity to pose an alternative to the current regime. If it is indeed true that these are relics of the past (‘programmatism’) then communism is basically impossible.

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Libertarian Unnecessarian

The libertarian/authoritarian dichotomy is less than useful for communist politics, writes Blake Nemo.  Spanish Leftists Shoot StatueOfChrist Getting interested in Leftist politics at a young age, I formed an interest in Marxism. Just as strongly as I wanted to proclaim the need for a strong worker’s movement, I felt a need to distance myself from the unsavory historical figures attached to mainstream Marxism. As well, I wanted to highlight the need for the defense of individual rights. With the Communist tradition misleadingly characterized by repressive regimes such as the Eastern Bloc or even Democratic Kampuchea (late – 1970s Cambodia), I declared myself a Libertarian Marxist. However, by reading from Marxists outside the tradition of Lenin’s “successors” I realized the faulty reasoning behind my specification as a libertarian along with my Marxist views (also, I learned it kinda isn’t a real thing). This distinction, the use of the terms libertarian and authoritarian, is ultimately improper, and I would argue is not useful in the context of revolutionary politics.

Those of the left that also describe themselves as libertarian socialists create the dichotomy that one either supports the destruction of the Capitalist mode of production and its social relations through a type of worker self-emancipation. With the other being the authoritarian position, characterized as a conspiratorial takeover of state authority by a party dictating the fashion in which class is dissolved in a society, but ultimately acting as a new class – a dictatorship over the proletariat rather than a dictatorship of the proletariat. I find this way of dividing the currents of Communism problematic. Though there is certainly a distinction in the viewpoints that advocate for Communism through revolution, I would put forward that the more accurate divide is between those who seek genuine eradication of class in society and those who would like to imitate the past regimes that were often cadre, nationalist takeovers of the state or merely manage capitalist relations in a different way, essentially the left-wing of capital.

This difference is much clearer in my view, as it is apparent that most who identify as Marxist-Leninist and its variants conceptualize revolution as a takeover of the state and the installation of a party regime that upholds the nation-state and substitutes a bureaucracy of professional revolutionaries for the rule of the actual proletariat. As Communists who understand that the proletariat is where the revolutionary potential is held, such ideas practically seem like a divorce from any notion of Socialism. This divergence of viewpoints is much greater and more important than the divide between those who would use centralized power and those who wouldn’t.

Another supposed distinction to Libertarian Socialist thought that is ultimately not exclusive, is the preservation of individual freedom. The existing forms of “socialist republics” have impeded on the civil liberties, often in reactionary ways, simply because they were in actuality capitalist nation-states. In a genuine revolutionary situation, even with a party, there would be no interest in the suppression of certain lifestyles unless they are tightly intertwined with Bourgeois society, in which they would ultimately be undermined by the dissolution of class. The classic view of states based on “Marxist beliefs” controlling the many facets of people’s lives was not inherently due to the presence of authority, but often the consolidation of power by an opportunistic party. In fact, in the early rule of the Bolsheviks traditional values were largely expelled from the rule of law, legalizing homosexuality and abortion. Not to say there were no authoritarian elements to pre-Stalin USSR, but the tighter grip on personal freedom came along with the active seeking of more Russian influence and the abandonment of international unity by class.

Marx himself critiqued authoritarian socialists of his time like Blanqui. He made himself clear in stating this: “We are not among those communists who are out to destroy personal liberty, who wish to turn the world into one huge barrack or into a gigantic workhouse. There certainly are some communists who, with an easy conscience, refuse to countenance personal liberty and would like to shuffle it out of the world because they consider that it is a hindrance to complete harmony. But we have no desire to exchange freedom for equality. We are convinced that in no social order will freedom be assured as in a society based upon communal ownership.” — Marx, Engels, et al., Communist Journal, 1847. Marx himself was a champion of individual freedom and had this as his ultimate goal his entire life.

This divide has existed since the Soviet Union became an obvious force of counter-revolution. Before the question was revolution or reform, but no one ever thought a reformist could play a revolutionary so well. For nearly the rest of the century Marxist-Leninist(Stalinist) parties quelled uprisings and worker’s strikes. These parties would convince workers to go back to work in exchange for good favor for their parties in the government and small reversible benefits for the workers, to use the PCF in May 68 uprising in France as an example. Today, the tradition continues with mediocre parties like CPUSA and Syriza, supporting Democrats and making alliances with anti-immigration organizations, respectively. Both act to appease capitalism, regardless of one being in power and the other not. They’ve simply turned in their portraits of Stalin for Obama bumper stickers.

The next major point that I believe makes the libertarian/authoritarian dichotomy a problematic one is the fact that revolution is inherently repressive and undemocratic against the ruling class and their supporters. To change the mode of production is a monumental task, one that, if successful, will directly change the nature of human experience as we know it. As proponents of revolution, we will not take into consideration the consent of those who keep the current social order and have a vested interest in Capitalism. To quote Engels, “A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is” (On Authority, 1872).

Certainly, the programmatic and centralized suppression of bourgeois class interest could be called authoritarian, but realistically the entire movement would organically choose when to be lenient and when to act more aggressively. Even within examples of so-called Libertarian Socialism, workers militias acted as a major force of authority in their areas of operation. Instances of suppression against the church existed by Spanish Anarchist brigades and they were largely justified in doing so. The church, during the Spanish Civil War helped propagate for the Nationalists and help garner support for right-wing causes, consequently the revolutionary situation called for their suppression. In cases such as this worker self-defense was intense and vigorous and often meant taking the offensive against reactionaries. Yet in these scenarios these forces acted as the institutional authority and the real question is whether they acted as effective and legitimate forces of the proletariat. As advocates for revolution we should defend them for their merit as legitimate advancements in the way towards Communism, if they are so.

All in all, I believe Libertarian Socialism in the realm of revolutionary politics represents a need to separate one’s views from a tradition that had turned it’s back on proletarian revolution close to a century ago. However noble it is to separate ourselves from these regimes, the terminology of Libertarian implies that Communism on its own does not entail an end to the social order that controls our lives. Communists who want the empowerment of the proletariat to overthrow this existing social order should not have to make a distinction, it is the opportunist and LARPer left who should give up the label of Communist and Socialist.  Nothing will maximize the possible liberties in life more than Full Automated Luxury Yacht Communism.

My Political Journey: On Left Communism and Isolation in 21st Century

Here’s an article from a Croatian communist group Svjetska Revolucija (World Revolution) that makes some basic critiques of the diffuse tendency that is modern day ‘left-communism’. While left-communism has been an important influence on CLT’s politics we also feel it is necessary to engage in critique of this tendency and to develop a communist politics that can address current conditions and build a real alternative to the current leftist swamp. While the critiques in this article are by no means complete nor do they represent the views of all members in CLT we reposted it because we believe it’s a good start for a conversation that needs to take place. 

Original article can be found here.


It is important to state how the following text represents the view of one member in our collective and is not necessarily the views of the collective as whole. Even though we tend to publish material that represents the collective as whole, the nature of this text is polemical and it’s coloured in the personal remarks of one our members.

* * *

I’ve started writing this text a few times and stopped to ask myself “is there any point in writing this?”, mostly because I am not the type of person that likes to attack political movements or “milieus” that I used to be part of. Still, I believe that sometimes, when a person is at a certain turning point in their political consciousness it is good to write down some thoughts in order to clear things out, not just with themselves, but also with people that they’ve communicated with over the years – and with which they’d like to continue to communicate with.

After few years of trying to organise a group in my country (which is actually working better then I’ve expected) and communicating and visiting other left communists and left communist groups, I’ve grown apart from left communism. In this article I will try to present why that happened to me and what are in my opinion some of the problems with left communism of today. I recognize that for some left communists I might not be the one of “them”, because I was never a part of “the big groups” but a member of small collective. Nevertheless, I’m not particularly interested in such nitpicking as I don’t think that one should be member of one of the “international” groups to be a left communist but one should be engaged in class and political struggle to be so.

This text is a critique of the left communism of today as I’m not interested in politics of 20th century as much as I’m interested about our present. Also, the point of this text isn’t “to bash” left communism and scream some sectarian nonsense, but to raise a certain critique and ask certain questions that many younger left communists, especially those that are not affiliated with any of “the big groups”, are asking these days. The ideas presented in this article are aimed at opening up a discussion around what we can do today instead of talking about how we can defend yesterday.

LEFT COMMUNISM TODAY

I want to start this critique by saying how it is really weird to call yourself a left communist in the 21st century. When I first heard of left communism I asked myself “what does the left stand for?” And even to anyone who knows a little bit about left communist history it is perfectly clear what the name of tendency stands for, but we can still ask the question: what exactly are left communists the left of?

To continue, I believe that left communism as a political tendency and as a tradition, does not belong in 21st century. In my understanding, it is an ideology that belongs to 1920’s splits and opposition within the Communist International. During that time left communists were the real tendency of the real communist movement and their activity, lessons, and history are really important for us if we want to understand the Russian Revolution, struggles within the Bolshevik Party, and the Comintern.

However, today we don’t have the communist working class movement (we can’t even talk about labour or union/syndicalist movement, because unions compete more than they work together), so there is nothing to “be the left of”. In other words, left communist politics demands strong social-democratic movement so that it can offer its alternatives to its militants.

We could say that left communist ideas have a historical significance and how some of their lessons are really important for communists of today. But at the same time, a lot of the political ideas of today’s left communist are inherited from the 20’s and they haven’t evolved much with the times. In that I mean that the conditions of capitalist reproduction have changed, class dynamics has changed, but nobody has adapted to it. Except perhaps in the cases of ideas that were put up by left communist groups formed in the 70’s, but those ideas, for example the idea of decadence, were merely used to canonise the infallibility and stubbornness of a lack of analysis and involvement with the class.

ABSTRACT POLITICS AND SECTARIANISM

One of my main problems with left communism is its focus, and even sometimes obsession, with ideological and abstract politics. That focus makes left communism both appalling and unattractive at the same time, but to different types of communist “militants”. On the one hand, it is really developed and shaped “thought system” that, once you embrace it, makes perfect sense and has an answer to an every question. On the other hand, it is a very closed and dogmatic system based upon “true believer principles” that is increasing its hostility towards the rest of the left and every class action with every minute. It is a system that is based on ideal conceptions of everything; from ideal class action, to ideal intervention, to ideal organisation, to ideal discussion, but it offers very little experience in actual practice.

As I’ve stated, left communism focuses on ideological and abstract politics rather than on class dynamics, struggles, needs, problems, etc.

For example, among certain “Internet left communists” we can see a constant need for quoting he writings of Amadeo Bordiga as an example of such behaviour, mostly because his closed ideological system doesn’t motivate people to leave their rooms, leading people to the belief that they are doing something important and significant. Indeed, it is an ideological krokodil that destroys the flesh of young generations of political militants that have overcome classical leftist voluntarism and activism. Also, these kinds of politics depend on the isolation that most communist “militants” are facing every day.

Left communism focuses on building of an ideal political platforms and is quite hostile to outside world – especially to the left. And by the left I’m not only thinking about other various political currents that were created as an answer to defeat of October Revolution, but I’m thinking about left communism itself.

A lot of us younger communists wanted to join existing organisations rather than creating our own groups and collectives. There are numerous reasons, from the fact that it’s easier to be part of something that already exists and has its own functions and protocols, to the fact that it is incredibly hard to start off as a new group. In most cases, what we have got from those groups were dogmas and sectarianism.

 ACTIVISM, CLASS STRUGGLE AND PARTICIPATION

 As I’ve stated before in the text, the problem with left communism is that its class dynamics is rooted in the 1920’s instead of our present. It is for this reason that their political judgements are clouded with almost a century old political decisions and discussions that affects their present, especially when discussing class action, activism, and interventions of communists in the struggles.

And while the majority of other left political tendencies tend to be voluntaristic, and tend to do “actions for sake of actions”, left communism subscribes to another extreme. That is, as I’ve said already in text, waiting for ideal class action to make ideal intervention. If there is no such class action to intervene to left communist stay on the side criticising, observing, discussing, but never participating. So, even we understand the need to criticise activist voluntarism, we also understand the need to criticise ideological idealism that results in total inactivity.

Indeed, what we need today is neither activism nor ideology, but communist politics and action based upon concrete foundation and class dynamics. In other words, we need a political action that comes from the class, but we also need political action from communists to which a working class can relate to. Communists must stop thinking about their petty fights on “the leftist scene” and concentrate on answering the question: how is our political activity relevant to the working class? When one answers that question there will be no more need for hiding behind activism and ideology.

Expecting ideal class actions and interventions is also pointless, because today in the 21st century, the peak of class action are spontaneous wildcat strikes or struggles of workers whose companies are facing lock downs (this is written mostly from a Croatian perspective). These struggles have their good and bad sides, in the sense that while they unite workers outside of institutions of capitalist management, they are also doomed on failure because they are isolated from the rest of the class. Nevertheless, this article is not the place where I’d go into detail about these struggles. My main point was to indicate how one should take every struggle into account and try to learn from them, especially if the type of struggle is repetitive in various workplaces. Only by understanding class dynamics can we affect new struggles with our knowledge and experience.

Also, one shouldn’t be afraid of reforms or struggles for reforms. A lot of reformist struggles have “revolutionary” potential, because people are united under a common goal because of problems that affect their lives. There is nothing wrong if they fight and win. There is nothing wrong in gaining something, no matter how big of an “illusion” it might be. If it improves lives of the working class then it is worth it.

IS THERE ANY ALTERNATIVE?

So, is there any alternative to left communism?

As I’ve repeated few times in this text, in my opinion the key is to have communist politics based on clear and concrete foundations and class dynamics. It is necessary to abandon ideological and activist approaches and start to think about the class and how our activity may be relevant to it. This of course, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have positions or discussions about abstract subjects, but it means that our course of action and preoccupation must be the class.

The best way, at least how I see it, to achieve that goal is trough our own workplaces, unions, and everyday life. Of course, there is necessity for local groups of communists, but we should also be aware that we too are workers and that we need to act in our workplaces. In that way one is not just a distant observer of class action, but an active participant. Of course, there is nothing wrong in being and observer but a lot of communists just stay in that role instead of embracing the active role of conscious proletarian.

By analysing class dynamics and other factors that affect it, we are not only deepening our own knowledge about how capitalism functions today, but we are developing an “archive” of struggles, and attempts for the future. Documenting workers struggles and their failures or gains gives us opportunity to learn from the class and to understand the way in which capital defends itself.

Iskra