Well yesterday I went to the Day of Discussion put on by the International Communist Current. They are a left-communist group. People reading this might not know what that is (and probably don’t tbf) so I will explain quickly what my understanding about the communist left is.
The communist left basically originated in the Russian revolution, supporting Lenin and the Bolshevik Party initially and rapidly getting disillusioned. They didn’t make Lenin particularly happy. They were the ones that Lenin was on about when he wrote his notorious “Left-wing communism – an infantile disorder” pamphlet, because they were complaining that the revolution was degenerating (which it was) becoming more and more like capitalism again and becoming more and more authoritarian – basically coming to resemble, what we know now as state capitalism or “stalinism” betraying the russian workers they claimed to lead and distorting Marxism into an authoritarian doctrine. One of the founders of it was a guy called Herman Gorter who wrote an “open letter to Comrade Lenin“.
They think that the Russian revolution degenerated back before Lenin’s death (and also that nationalisation etc is not necessarily a step on the way to socialism or even necessarily an improvement to “normal” capitalism) rather than the Trotskyist view which was that this only happened after Lenin’s death and that what happened in the Soviet union and other “communist” countries was that they were “deformed workers’ states” despite the fact that they were a nightmare for huge numbers of working class people. And therefore that despite the criticisms Trotskyists had of them somehow their governments were usually worth defending.
Lenin and Trotsky were mates and Trotsky had a high position in the Bolshevik hierarchy and he could never bring himself to see the full extent of the wrongness of the Soviet regime.
The communist left on the other hand were closer to the anarchist position in that they believed that the revolution started going very very wrong within a year or two of 1917. There’s loads of stuff, Kronstadt, the fact that they made it very difficult for workers to go on strike, they introduced one-management (bringing back the old bosses that the workers had overthrown during the revolution)
“what? why do you want to go on strike eh, we have socialism now and “the working class” are now in power?”
I was really pleasantly surprised by the meeting. I had expected it to be a really small meeting full of party hacks but actually around 20 people were there and probably around half of them weren’t ICC members but from other organisations or not in an organisation at all. And most of them were pretty normal and had a good sense of humour (no offence but you’d have to have a good sense of humour to be part of the communist left!).
The topic of the meeting was “why is it so difficult to struggle against capitalism”. I’ve got my own ideas (some of which were sadly reflected in some of my observations that day, although i don’t think this was intentional) and in my next post I’ll do like a summary of that debate.
The good points were that I didn’t see any sectarianism on the level of what you would get in trot groups (there was one guy who made a dig about the SPGB which was out of order and he was swiftly shouted down), not many weirdo party hacks, most of the participants seemed to want to learn from other people rather than just promoting the views of their own organisation. And people with opposing views werent shouted down or told they were wrong.
There was also free food.
The bad points could apply to most left-wing organisations. One of the problems is that they assume a certain level of knowledge about terms like “decomposition” and things like that but they are hardly the only offenders for that. It also wasn’t as well publicised as it could have been and most of the people there (although not all) seemed to have all been involved in the “mileu” for a long time rather than people who had never been involved in politics. There were a few young people there but not many and some of the contributions at times seemed to be a bit vanguardist talking about how “we” will do this and that and “we” will integrate people into productive communism etc. I dont think that’s exactly what was meant but that’s how it came across but at least they were willing to take criticisms when I and others pointed this out.
I was actually really pleasantly surprised. I have a lot of differences with the ICC, one of them is my opinion about anti-fascism, as they see it purely as a distraction from class struggle. I can see their point but I still think that it is part of the class struggle. that is the main one i guess.
The other criticism I have got is about their papers, as I said they do assume a level of knowledge, it seems a bit stupid but there should be more pictures in the papers and sometimes the print is too small and a bit hard to read because the articles are so long.
I did pick up a lot of their literature, their paper “World Revolution” their theoretical journal “International Review” and a book called “Communism is not a nice idea but a material necessity”, and a pamphlet called “Trade unions against the working class”. I have read some of the anti-trade union pamphlet online but i find it easier to read books on paper rather than online.
The other left communist organisation that was there. the ICT, printed some articles in their magazine that were about Bordiga and Damen and I think some basic introductions to these people could be useful rather than immediately assuming that everyone knows who they are already (because i know who bordiga is but not really familiar with his writings or that much apart from that really) but that is part of my point about language I suppose.
The other bad thing was the fact that it was in London and therefore cost a lot for me to get to (which i can afford at the moment, but I probably won’t always be able to). I’d love to be able to organise or get involved in something that’s more local but at the moment I don’t have the time and I think a lot of people probably feel the same way.
I am quite wary of getting involved in any organisations these days but I was glad I went to this because it’s very rare that I actually get to discuss anything with people these days apart from the internet. And afterwards we all had a drink together and went for a curry, I thought it was great that we got a chance to talk about stuff afterwards and get to know each other a bit as people!