4 Responses to “Some dangerous ideas you won’t hear talked about at the Socialist Party conference this weekend”


  1. October 16, 2016 at 15:18

    Reblogged this on Socialist Fight and commented:
    Good post by Alan Gibson in Cork against the Parliamentary road to socialism illusions fostered by the Socialist Party in Ireland.

  2. 2 Hank
    October 21, 2016 at 18:55

    Lol have you never read “Left Communism?” If you are going to lambaste the SPI’s perspectives at least do so honestly. The reason why a call for worker’s councils is laughable is not because we disagree with the concept of workers councils, but that there is a question of epochs vs. moments. In this epoch, yes we need workers councils to replace the parliamentary system. But does that mean that the subjective forces of revolutionary socialism are capable of building this at this particular moment when the wider masses are only in the last five years beginning to raise their heads against the domination of capital? We can’t build the whole revolution by ourselves, we can only point the way forward, walking one step ahead of the masses.

    Sure you can take two quotes by Peter Taffe out of context(which I’m not sure are accurately quoted but lets just for the sake of convenience suppose they are) but that doesn’t mean that the position of the organization is somehow against workers councils or having illusions that the dictatorship of the proletariat or socialism will be achieved through the bourgeoisie. When you are having a public meeting full of newly radicalizing youth, is it better to talk about the abstract concept of workers councils or is it better to talk about the struggles and issues relevant this year, and then recruiting them to a leninist party and later explaining the need to break from bourgeoisie institutions. When you are actually organizing youth and workers in struggle you realize the need for principled but flexible tactics. Why would we bother reading State and Revolution (which is obviously one of our main texts for new members) if we didn’t agree with the ideas put forward by Lenin?

    • October 24, 2016 at 14:11

      Thanks for the comment Hank.

      Yes I have read Lenin’s “Left-wing Communism” though I am unsure what it has to do with what I wrote. The left-wing communists Lenin is arguing against had it as a matter of principle that communists should never participate in capitalist elections. That is not my criticism.

      Both quotes by Taaffe are a matter of public record. They are available on the CWI’s own web sites – http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/html_article/2006-446-militant and http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/7687. Is that “convenient” enough for you?

      I have been factually accurate in my criticisms and it seems our real political difference is over your comment that the job of revolutionaries is to “walk one step ahead of the masses”.

      It is true that the agitational demands put forward need to as best possible engage with the current consciousness of the working class but that is not the same thing as having some kind of “revealed truth”, one step at a time, approach to the overall programme presented to our fellow workers.

      Certainly it was not the approach of Leon Trotsky who the CWI claims to stand in the political tradition of:

      “We have repeated many times that the scientific character of our activity consists in the fact that we adapt our program not to political conjunctures or the thought or mood of the masses as this mood is today, but we adapt our program to the objective situation as it is represented by the economic class structure of society. The mentality can be backward; then the political task of the party is to bring the mentality into harmony with the objective facts, to make the workers understand the objective task. But we cannot adapt the program to the backward mentality of the workers, the mentality, the mood is a secondary factor — the prime factor is the objective situation. That is why we have heard these criticisms or these appreciations that some parts of the program do not conform to the situation.”
      (‘Discussions With Trotsky: On the Transitional Program’, 7 June 1938)

      “To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one’s program on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives — these are the rules of the Fourth International.”
      Transitional Program

      The immediate demands communists raise that engage with the current consciousness of the working class also need to be consistent with the final project.

      It is my contention that the emphasis on the parliamentary road to overthrowing capitalism through reforms (as outlined in the two Taaffe quotes and SPI major documents like their alternative budget statements) and proposing “community control” of the existing capitalist state apparatus are not consistent with the core ideas outlined in Lenin’s “State and Revolution” – rather they are a reformist alternative that stands in direct contradiction to those revolutionary ideas.

      I am not calling for the immediate creation of fully formed workers’ councils. You correctly point out that the political conditions for them do not yet exist. But I believe it is the job of revolutionary Marxists to try to get that idea across in the current class struggle.

      My own experience in the anti-household/water charges movement (in Cobh and the wider Cork region) shows that it is quite possible to get across the idea of building organisational forms that point in the direction of workers councils – not just in abstract but in very practical terms. The SPI showed no interest at all in facilitating and encouraging these real-life developments of workers’ democracy and instead built another model designed solely for standing in the capitalist elections.

      I’d be interested to know what you would make of the following attempt to get across the idea of workers’ councils (produced in the current British context). Is it the kind of thing that should be being presented to “the masses” right now or would you say it would be an example of left-wing communism to do so?

      “A genuine socialist government would not be dictatorial. On the contrary, it would extend and deepen democracy enormously. This would be much more far-reaching than the parliamentary democracies of capitalism where we simply get to vote every few years for MPs who do whatever they like once elected. Instead, everyone would get to take part in deciding how society and the economy would be run.

      “Nationally, regionally and locally – at every level – elected representatives would be accountable and subject to instant recall. Therefore, if the people who had elected them did not like what their representative did, they could make them stand for immediate re-election and, if they wished, replace them with someone else.”

      “There is another crucial sense in which democracy would be far fuller in a socialist society. Under capitalism most of the important decisions are not taken in Westminster or local council chambers, they are taken in the boardrooms of the big corporations. By contrast, a socialist government would bring major industry into democratic public ownership.

      “It would be necessary to draw up a plan, involving the whole of society, on what industry needed to produce. At every level, in communities and workplaces, committees would be set up and would elect representatives to regional and national government – again on the basis of recall at anytime if they disagreed with their decisions. Everybody would be able to participate in real decision-making about how best to run society.

      “Many people will argue that this is utopian, that people would not be bothered to participate in such bodies. Yet in every mass struggle – from the Paris Commune of 1871 onwards – the embryos of this type of structure have come into existence. In Britain during the struggle to defeat the poll tax, when 18 million refused to pay the iniquitous tax, hundreds of thousands of people took part in meetings to plan the campaign. While the anti-poll tax unions were only temporary bodies, organised to fight against a single Tory attack, they nonetheless give a glimpse of working people’s capacity to organise.

      “Even today, thousands of working-class people attend their tenants’ associations and other community meetings. And organisations in a workers’ state would be completely different to the toothless bodies that working-class people are currently allowed to take part in – the committees would actually have the power to say how the economy and society is organised.”

  3. October 25, 2016 at 10:13

    Also – you say “Why would we bother reading State and Revolution (which is obviously one of our main texts for new members) if we didn’t agree with the ideas put forward by Lenin?”

    Well people can have all kinds of strange disconnects between what they internally believe they agree with and what they actually do in practice. For instance I attended a study group run by the Connolly Youth Movement (Youth group of the Communist Party of Ireland) which discussed various Marxist texts. The participants seemed to sincerely believe they were implementing those ideas despite what I am sure you would agree is a political practice which is at best a “Marxism” that is highly distorted by their Stalinism.


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