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The Communist League -- A Preliminary Investigation April 30, 2005 by RedStar2000


In the course of events, you will inevitably run into new "revolutionary groups". How do you begin to figure out "what they're like"? You ask questions, of course.

Sometimes, the answers are surprising.



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Communist League

quote (Communist League):

Communists seek the broadest possible union of the proletariat on a political level for the purposes of uniting the localized and isolated struggles of the working class including economic struggles into a common battle for revolutionary democracy, designed to aid the proletariat and its task of elevating itself to a ruling class. This is why every class struggle is, in the final analysis, a political struggle.


Unless I completely misunderstand this, it sounds as if "communists" should be a kind of left-wing version of the American Civil Liberties Union...seeking to turn proletarian struggles into struggles for "more proletarian rights" within the context of a bourgeois republic.

Calling that "the struggle for revolutionary democracy" does not make it so, of course, since no revolution is involved in the expansion or contraction of bourgeois "civil liberties".

And there's nothing here that necessarily implies that the CL has a desire to muck about in bourgeois electoral rituals.

It seems more like...

1. Repeal Taft-Hartley

2. Expand the Wagner Act to cover all workers

3. No "right to scab" laws

4. Expand the "Bill of Rights" into the workplace

The way workers would achieve gains like this would be in the streets and in the workplaces...not in supporting this or that candidate in bourgeois "elections".

This would seem to be an innovative approach to the problem of communist organizing in the advanced capitalist countries -- as is their slogan "For a 3rd (Workers') Republic".

I don't think much is accomplished by dismissing it "out of hand".

More interesting is the question of what message would we be sending with demands like these?

Is it realistically possible to win on such demands? Why should the ruling class be prepared to grant them? Is there any reason to believe that late capitalist "democracies" can be made "more democratic"? (The trend seems to be in the opposite direction.)

Whenever a "new" tendency emerges, I think it's always crucial to examine not just what it says "on its face" but to "dig in" (as Maoists like to put it) and look at the implications of what they say.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 11, 2005
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quote (Communist League):

You completely misunderstand this.


Ok.

But then I don't really understand anything you're saying.

You know this stuff is not just about selecting what you perceive to be an appealing formula...it actually has to make sense.

What is the real world meaning of the phrase "Communists seek the broadest possible union of the proletariat on a political level for the purposes of uniting the localized and isolated struggles of the working class including economic struggles into a common battle for revolutionary democracy, designed to aid the proletariat and its task of elevating itself to a ruling class."?

You seem to be speaking here of "what is to be done" prior to a proletarian revolution.

You want to battle for "revolutionary democracy" as something that will "aid the proletariat" and its task of "elevating itself to a ruling class".

That suggests: bourgeois democracy -> revolutionary democracy -> proletarian revolution -> working class becomes ruling class.

Is this wrong?

Or perhaps you are using the phrase "revolutionary democracy" to be synonymous with what communists have traditionally called "socialism", the "transition period" between capitalism and communism...?

Or: capitalism -> revolutionary democracy -> communism?

Nothing wrong with that, of course...but when you want to use new terminology, you do need to explain clearly what you're doing and why.

I do rather like the "For a 3rd Republic" slogan, by the way. It's very "fresh".
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 11, 2005
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quote (Communist League):

When we talk about the need for "revolutionary democracy," we are talking about the proletariat taking political (state) power, and we see it as synonymous with the establishment of a workers' republic (the dictatorship of the proletariat) and the beginning of the transition from capitalism to communism.


Got it.

Now to the hairy part...

How is the 3rd Republic to be structured in such a way as to insure that the will of the working class is actually implemented?

I'm presuming here that you are sufficiently familiar with the history of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to realize that the organs of working class power (the soviets) were rendered ceremonial by the spring of 1918 (at the latest)...and that thereafter, the Bolsheviks ruled as a party/state despotism.

Ever since that time, all of the various regimes that have claimed to be "communist" have simply assumed that a party/state despotism "is the way to go".

Does your group depart from this view in any significant way?

If the anarchist-communist option (proceed with building communism from "day one" after the revolution) is rejected as "impractical", then the question of how a workers' republic is constructed becomes crucial.

I, for example, could accept a "Paris Commune state"...one that would be "hyper-democratic" with regard to the working class but which would nevertheless ruthlessly oppress and even destroy (by exile or execution) the old ruling class and its lackeys.

But the party/state despotism that is still advocated by the followers of Lenin would be unacceptable to me...and I think unacceptable to most or nearly all modern workers in the advanced capitalist societies.

Nobody wants that! And consequently, no one will fight for that except a very small number of people who think they "ought to run things".

You're probably aware of Marx's remark concerning the original Communist League: When Engels and I first joined the secret communist society, we did so only on condition that anything conducive to a superstitious belief in authority be eliminated from the Rules.

How have you overcome a "superstitious belief in authority"?

Or have you?
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 12, 2005
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"On the Lessons of the USSR Experience" by Hank J. Miles

Workers Republic, No. 2, Spring 2005, pp. 7-15.

I don't know if anyone has suggested, prior to yourself, that the petty bourgeoisie are capable of seizing state power and actually running a society. Wouldn't they show a marked tendency to take on the attributes that we normally associate with the "big" bourgeoisie over time?

Another theoretical question: why, inspite of the documented "anarchy of production" in the USSR during the 1930s, did the USSR never undergo the kinds of periodic depressions (crises of overproduction) that we associate with "normal" capitalism?

Finally, in terms of your "lessons to be learned", you are likely aware of the dominant role of "petty-bourgeois intellectuals" in the leadership of all the Leninist parties of our era (perhaps the CL is an exception to this?). In fact, the vast bulk of the membership comes from the same class...with rare exceptions.

What can be done about this in a period when the vast majority of proletarians are simply indifferent to revolutionary politics? Not to mention that the few who are interested in left politics seem to follow the politics of the petty-bourgeoisie.

Are we like "monks" in the "dark ages"...reduced to keeping revolutionary ideas alive for a future time when they will be important and relevant to proletarians again?

It sometimes feels like that to me.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIs Possible on April 12, 2005
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quote (Communist League):

The membership of the League is exclusively proletarian; we do not admit non-proletarians as members. Period.


Wow!

It does occur to me that many young men and women from proletarian backgrounds "absorb" (for want of a better word) a good deal of petty-bourgeois ideology just in the process of growing up in a social climate hospitable to those kinds of ideas.

I have known some skilled workers who were attracted to the left but, at the same time, wanted to start "their own business" (off-the-books subcontracting)...as a means of at least temporarily escaping wage-slavery.

And I've known other young workers who were the first in their families to attend college...where, of course, they were carefully taught that to be proletarian was to be "uncultured" and "ignorant" while to imitate the petty-bourgeoisie was to be "cultured" and even "erudite".

So I wonder how your group deals with this problem: someone who clearly comes from a proletarian background and even has an objectively proletarian job himself/herself...and yet has "absorbed" a good deal of petty-bourgeois ideology and "outlook on life".

I would imagine that recruitment would be a very difficult for you in the present period.

quote (Communist League):

Without overblowing the analogy, I would say that the experiences of the proletarian member of the petty-bourgeois socialist movement parallels that of someone in an abusive relationship.


Well said. I once knew a young working class woman who threw away her entire record collection after a visiting "leader" expressed a critical view of it.

Sad.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 13, 2005
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More about the CL's policy of admitting only proletarians...

I think such a policy could be considered a "percentage bet" -- that is, you risk losing the occasional Engels or Lenin...but you keep out a class with a very high percentage of people who are "revolutionary in words" and "reactionary in deeds".

And haven't we all seen a ton of that in our political lives?

Further, there's nothing in such a policy that would "prohibit" learning from a petty-bourgeois or even a bourgeois theorist who, by chance or design, came up with a useful idea that actually would serve to advance the proletarian cause.

Suppose, for example, that Marx and Engels had never been formally connected with any proletarian organization at all...would that have made their genuine contributions to revolutionary theory any less useful?

Sure, you can imagine that had Marx and Engels been in Paris in 1871...well, things might have turned out differently (better for the Commune).

Or even if Lenin had been a German and a leader of the Spartakist Bund in January of 1919...well, maybe...

Also, there have been proletarians who led communist parties in the 20th century...with disappointing results.

Exclusively proletarian membership does not "guarantee" a proletarian line -- but perhaps it reduces and maybe even sharply reduces the probability of political degeneration, reformism, opportunism, etc. (what Maoists would call revisionism).

And the CL is correct about Marx's warnings concerning the petty bourgeoisie inside the proletarian movement...Marx brings it up in several late letters that have been preserved.

It looks to me like the Communist League is "trying something different"...and can anyone here seriously deny the need for some fresh approaches?

I will watch how they do with considerable interest -- they look to me like they are worth paying attention to.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 13, 2005
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quote:

However, I feel that the Communist League's conclusion that the middle class is a part of the enemy camp- and thus middle-class people cannot be part of the revolutionary struggle- is very wrong (and in fact, dangerous). I come from a middle-class background and I don't feel that hinders me from being able to grasp Marxism and be part of the struggle for communism, and I think that it is proletarian consciousness and line, rather than just a mechanical "did-they-originate-from-the-proletariat-or-not" dictate, that should determine whether a person is ready to join a revolutionary party (who is better-suited to be a Marxist: the doctor who is trying to grasp MLM and is actively working to build revolution, or the factory worker who is a member of the KKK?).


I'm going to take a "wild guess" (LOL!) and suggest that the CL hears this objection a lot and is going to hear it a lot more: what about me???

First of all, there's nothing (and certainly not the CL!) that prevents anyone from "grasping Marxism". The books are in the public domain and easily available online.

Secondly, there's likewise nothing that prevents anyone from "being part of the struggle for communism".

At the risk of sounding tautological...you do those things by doing them.

What the CL is saying is simply that you can't do them "as part of the CL".

After all, I took part in the civil rights movement even though I am not black...but my place was not in the formal membership of that movement and should not have been. In the 40s, 50s, and early 60s, it was discovered that whites as a group tended to "water-down" the struggle for black equality (not because they were villains or closet racists but because they occupied a different social position).

There were some radical white people that the black movement did work very closely with -- but their numbers were very small and consisted of people who'd spent a lifetime in the struggle for black equality...they had earned the trust of militant black people.

Marx, Engels, and even Lenin earned the trust of the proletariat by a lifetime of consistent work...they "showed up" on the side of the workers so many times as to render their class origins irrelevant. And even Lenin retreated in the end.

I don't read what the CL is saying as equivalent to "there are no reactionary workers" or anything like that. They seem to be simply saying that a consistently communist organization should consist of workers...period.

They don't seem to rule out the existence of middle class communist groups...but they don't count on them.

And should such groups come into existence, the CL assumes (with Marx) that those "communist" groups will "back away" from communism when they realize that it's not going to mean a "dictatorship of the petty-bourgeoisie".

It seems to me that they have a great deal of historical justification for that position.

Also, keep in mind that the CL does not, evidently, regard itself as any kind of a "vanguard party"...being excluded from it does not necessarily reduce your chances of playing "a leading role" in the revolution.

You just have to convince a very large number of working people that you really are "on their side"...that your line reflects the class interests of the proletariat and not the class interests of the petty-bourgeoisie.

And that's not going to be easy.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 13, 2005
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quote (Communist League):

From our perspective, workers who come to the communist movement do so with a significant amount of ideological and cultural "baggage" given to them by a lifetime (short or long) of living under capitalism. Undoing the damaging effects of that "baggage" is a long process (even communists who have been active for many years -- including those who recognize these issues -- find they have problems to still overcome). One of the chief responsibilities of the League is the fostering of a "culture of liberation", comprised of concrete steps that are designed to undo much of the damage of bourgeois ideology.


If it's not too much trouble, I'd be interested in a more detailed discussion of the CL's "culture of liberation".

quote:

I'll be quite clear on this point: I don't think you're for real.


What evidence would convince you otherwise? And why is it relevant?

For example, you could assume that this CL guy and perhaps a couple of friends think that a real communist group should consist only of proletarians...and decide to create the internet impression that such a group already exists in order to see if their hypothesis is true -- that radicalized workers would be attracted to such a group.

What difference would it make in the long run? A good idea will attract supporters, right?

I think his ideas are not without interest...even if he were speaking only for himself.

I'd imagine that the time to concern oneself with the CL's "real existence" is when one was preparing to apply for membership.

quote:

OK this is an organization that shows up out of nowhere in November 2004. The only person that is referenced in their literature is some guy that posts on message boards. There are no pictures of any actions or events that they have partaken in. All the articles seem like they're written by the same person. And the text called "Basic Principals" is produced by the "literature department"? It just seems phony to me.


There was a time when the Red Papers (I think that's what it was called) was just a pamphlet that "showed up" in an SDS mailbox "out of nowhere".

Everything new "comes out of nowhere". Only if it eventually amounts to something do people start tracing its origins and noting its early milestones.
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It does seem to me that up to this point much of what he says reflects a dependence on Marx's own words, some of which have been surpassed by events since Marx's time. For example, when Marx spoke of "completing" the bourgeois democratic revolution, I think that's already happened (in the "west")...and that the further evolution of the bourgeois state will be towards less democracy (even in a formal sense) as time passes.

I also think that promoting the re-structuring of American political institutions is probably "off the agenda" in the foreseeable future...in a future revolutionary period, I see no reason not to simply abolish most or all of them altogether and set up new institutions according to proletarian needs and values.

There also seems to be considerable ambiguity about the role of a "proletarian political party" -- would it or would it not be an "electoral" party? I emphasize that question because of the enormous consequences that flow from either answer.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 14, 2005
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quote (Communist League):

The specifics vary from person to person. However, for the sake of explanation, and bearing in mind that I will not go into great detail about the League's internal life, here are some policies that a new comrade might experience:

1. In the process of recruiting a comrade, we would be able to gauge their basic interaction skills: reading, writing, speaking, etc. If there are problems with literacy, we help the comrade improve their skills, using basic works by communist authors as primers.

2. If a comrade is not familiar with using a computer, we will help them learn to use one. This helps a comrade in two ways: first, they can use the Internet to deepen their own knowledge and understanding of the world; and, second, they can improve skills that can be applied on the job. (In general, if comrades need skills -- either job skills or skills associated with organizational duties -- and other members are familiar with the tasks, the new comrades will be offered a type of "apprenticeship", where they will work with the skilled member one-on-one.)

3. If comrades have children, we arrange for other, single (and male) members to watch the kids, allowing the comrade to be able to participate in meetings, educationals, aggregates, etc. As a rule, the comrades chosen for childcare duty are veteran members.

4. Comrades in need of assistance in the battle of survival (e.g., maintaining utility services) will be helped by other members as much as humanly possible, including financially (including assistance "in kind") or in ways that, by bourgeois standards, would be considered illegal.

5. We find there is value to a "free-ranging" discussion, which would move from current events to general political issues to cultural questions to economics to ... well, whatever. This helps comrades improve their extemporaneous speaking and discussion skills, as well as see connections between areas that are often considered "separate issues".

6. When having political/educational discussions, the "answers" are never given. Comrades are encouraged to think through the issues themselves, to assess the material situation and apply the communist scientific method (materialist dialectics). Veteran comrades are expected to only offer "points to consider", which will add to the comrades' understanding of the overall political picture, and overall guidance.

7. Perhaps one of the most important things we do is imbue new comrades with a class consciousness that goes beyond merely recognizing their role in the production relations. We try to undo years of cultural and social stereotypes, often manifested as a feeling of "inferiority", by instilling a "pride" in their place in society -- in their being a worker. There is no shame in working for a living, and yet that is a common point of view that many workers have. In a sense, we combat the effects of bourgeois ideology, one comrade (or small groups of comrades) at a time.

As new circumstances arise, we take the time to sit down and see what kind of new policies we can adopt that fit with the "culture of liberation". These are the ones we've had to face so far. Over time, as the League grows, we hope to expand these kinds of efforts in a more public, generalized manner, helping proletarians regardless of their relationship to the organization.


If I may offer a suggestion, I think you (or you and your comrades) should write up something formally about your "culture of liberation" for publication...because I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like your approach.

There've always been informal networks of support in left groups, of course, but usually they are sporadic and dependent on a particular comrade's "good will" or "patience", etc.

A systematic effort along these lines may well be unique to the CL...and really deserves to be publicized.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 14, 2005
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quote:

Unless you think people only "act for self" and so only workers can give their heart to the revolution, and middle class students or intellectuals inherently only serve middle class interests.


I think people do primarily "act for self". The rational and self-interested reason for a worker to become a communist is because it's the road out of wage-slavery.

The Maoist variant of Leninism is very big on the rhetoric of self-sacrifice -- "serve the people", etc. This is something that has considerable appeal to some members of the middle class -- especially idealistic young students who want to "help people".

It's a way for them to "feel good about themselves" -- inspite of their "superiority", they have offered to undertake the relief of the "less fortunate".

Converting those feelings into "Marxist" terminology does not change their selfish essence. One who "serves the people" with "exemplary dedication" will not only feel good about himself but will also advance his career in the party (and the state, if the Maoist party has state power).

Eventually, he may well find himself saying things like "I know the workers from first-hand experience...and you've really got to keep after those lazy bastards".

What begins with an impulse towards kindness and altruism ends with condescension, paternalism, and the threat of repressive violence for the "ungrateful" recipients.

quote:

What I find interesting is that this one point, mechanical class analysis, is so alluring to some people that they seem to forget their demands of instant communism. It doesn't apparently matter to many people that your program is far from advocating revolutionary change.


A "zinger" aimed in my direction, I believe.

Very well.

The CL appears to want a post-revolutionary "commune state"...something that I've said I could live with should a more direct and immediate transition to communism prove impractical.

If they want to call it a "third republic", so what?

And if they wish to "dress it out" in some of the clothing once worn by earlier American revolutionaries, again, so what?

(Recall that French revolutionaries in the late 18th century pretended to be ancient Roman republicans. It's happened before.)

I'm "guilty" of this too, by the way. On any number of occasions, I've drawn a parallel between modern communists and the abolitionists of 1830-65...especially the "extremists" who wanted to foment a massive slave uprising.

My view of the CL at this point is that they are worthy of serious attention. I will visit their site, engage in discussions with them, and watch carefully what they actually do.

If I see them rolling over like puppies for the Democrats, engaging in backdoor support of U.S. imperialism, dropping hints that they should be "in charge" of everything after the revolution, etc., then I'll just write them off as any kind of serious alternative.

And even then, they might still do some progressive things.

But you are quite right when you emphasize the significance of their "proletarians only, please" standards.

That is something new. And I want to see how it works.
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First posted at AnotherWorldIsPossible on April 20, 2005
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I think some of you folks are missing the point.

The view of the Communist League appears to be that the overwhelming majority of middle class people do not want communism because it's not in their material class interests to want communism.

What "middle class communists" want is a more humane version of class society with the elimination of all the big capitalists and their lackeys and, instead, themselves in the driver's seat.

Sound familiar?

And further: do any of you really think that it's "impossible" for the working class to produce a "Marx" or a "Che"? Or, for that matter, a "Bakunin"?

Why?

As to how they define a proletarian -- we didn't really get into that in the AWIP thread. But the traditional Marxist definition is one who must work for a capitalist in order to survive.

I don't know the details of their individual decisions, of course -- it's none of my business. But I would imagine that there's a certain amount of pragmatism involved; e.g., a 30-year-old adult from a middle-class background who has become proletarianized over his/her adult working life would probably be considered by them to be a proletarian and eligible for membership.

And you should also keep in mind that just because they exclude "middle class communists" from membership does not mean they are "unwilling" to learn from middle-class scholars and theorists.

It's just that they think that when it's time to make decisions...the workers should decide.

If that doesn't "make sense" to you, why doesn't it?
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First posted at RevLeft on April 16, 2005
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quote:

Of course it is a question that can't be hidden; where are the working class theorists of the revolution?


In the time of Marx and even Lenin, access to education was very much a class privilege...and now that's no longer really the case in the advanced capitalist countries.

In addition, of course, the internet is something entirely new...a cheap and easy way to access the accumulated theoretical and practical knowledge of the human species.

The material conditions are "in place" for a proletarian "Marx"...which doesn't mean that one is "inevitable" but simply that one is now possible.

The thesis of Kautsky and Lenin that revolutionary theory could not arise from the proletariat was a historically specific observation...and I think it's obsolete.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 16, 2005
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quote:

Higher Education is still a privilege in Developed Captialist countries as well as ...hmmmm... everywhere.

So, I guess the Communist LEAGUE, discounts the main proportion of college students that make up the Left and whom more than likely will go on to make middle-class incomes.

So that leaves.....


Getting into a "top-rated" American university is still a class privilege...but I think lots of working class kids go to the second and third tier colleges and junior colleges. Sometimes, they only go for a year or two...but that may well be sufficient to give them a "taste for ideas".

The Communist League doesn't necessarily "discount" the "main proportion of college students that make up the Left and whom more than likely will go on to make middle-class incomes."

It simply does not want them as members of a proletarian organization.

Also, you cannot assume that a leftist college graduate is "going to go on" to make a middle-class income. Some of them will find the rampant ass-kissing of middle-class employment intolerable. And others will be simply unable to secure a middle-class job and have no choice but to return to the proletariat.

"And that leaves"...proletarians.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 17, 2005
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quote:

I think it's active discrimination, surely the communist movement needs all the support it can get.


The Communist League argues that "middle-class support" is objectively unreliable.

What good does it do to make a proletarian communist revolution if, immediately afterwards, middle-class "communists" take over from the old ruling class?

And create a society that is, at best, a slightly more humane version of what we already have?
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First posted at RevLeft on April 17, 2005
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quote:

Communists don't want any version of the class society, let alone a humane one.


quote:

How can someone be a communist if they don't want a classless society?


You should not direct that question to me but to your neighborhood Leninist party.

All of them are led by "middle class communists" and most of their members come from the same class. A genuine proletarian is as out of place in those groups as a penguin at a convention of elephants.

And what is their "universal" goal? Capitalism without capitalists. (They call it "socialism" and promise us that "later on", they'll give us communism "when we've proven ourselves worthy of it".)

What it means in practice is that the middle-class "communists" just become the new ruling class...and the rest of us are still in the shit.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 17, 2005
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quote:

The main proportion of the current Left is college educated or on the brink of college. That's just the way it is. The Left that still needs to be reached is not. So, what is the advantage of the Communist League or any other Communist organization cutting off their nose to spite their face when the main objective is to get the majority of All people to Communism.


No, I don't think that's the best way to summarize our goal.

What we need is to win the vast majority of the working class to communism...not "all people". The latter might be nice...but it's not required for proletarian revolution.

And, significantly, it would be wrong to sacrifice the class interests of the proletariat in order to "appease" or "reassure" or "recruit" the middle class. The Communist League seems to think that's what would happen if they admitted members from the middle class.

quote:

But workers voted themselves ridiculous pay rises and production fell drastically so Lenin had to step in.


Do you understand what you're saying here? The working class will "fuck up" unless the middle class is around to "manage things".

But if all the working class is going to get from a revolution is a new set of middle class managers, why bother making a revolution at all?

quote:

I thought 'middle class' was a sociological concept, more obfuscatory than real. Perhaps an ideological buffer. But I get your point about access to privilege for the so-called 'middle' class. Yet the Marxist definition of class is based on relationship to the means of production, and to one's position within these social relations. It does seem a little off-base to have a litmus test on class background, as if proletarian (as in manual labor or more overtly exploited labor) status guaranteed revolutionary purity. I mean, isn't this kinda empiricist? What, the workers can't be 'bought off' as in an aristocracy? Is consciousness really so automatic?


The Communist League actually uses the term "petty-bourgeoisie", not "middle class". The latter term was brought up early in this thread and I just "went with the flow"...perhaps a mistake on my part.

They don't seem to think that one's class position or class background "guarantees" anything at all. Their point is that what is needed are proletarian communists...with both words receiving equal emphasis.

And, further, that a communist group in the Marxist sense, should consist exclusively of proletarians. As I believe I noted earlier, they have no objections to middle class groups forming "communist" organizations -- they just think such groups will "back away" from communism "in the crunch". They will follow the class interests of the petty-bourgeoisie rather than the class interests of the proletariat.

Also, they don't deny that a small number of middle class people will "proletarianize" themselves or be proletarianized as a consequence of the normal operations of capitalism...and they'd probably admit such people into their group provided this was demonstrated over a significant period of their adult lives.

What they don't want are people who have the mind-set of "managers"...which is generally what characterizes the middle class. Whether they are born into the middle class or move up to that as a consequence of their own efforts, they have a genuine "superiority complex" with regard to working people.

A real communist organization should not permit that to happen within its own ranks.

quote:

Though my dad was a factory worker, and my mother a charity worker, by income standards I am middle class. I don't need to justify myself to these bigots, if they don't accept my views due to the conditions in which I was born they're no worse than fascists.


Why are you so angry?

It sounds to me like your class background is proletarian (income is not really a definitive criterion).

They'd want to know how you make your living, of course. If your ambition is to be some kind of a boss...then you don't belong in a communist group.

That may seem or even be "bigoted"...but it's not "fascist". Fascist parties admitted anyone who agreed with them -- and were, in fact, dominated by ambitious middle class types.

Adolph Eichmann was, in a way, a kind of "laboratory Nazi"...interested in "bettering himself" and "moving up socially". And who was quite willing to do anything to accomplish those goals.

To him, becoming a Nazi was "a good career move".

The Communist League does not want people who think that joining a communist organization is "a good career move".
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First posted at RevLeft on April 17, 2005
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Of course the Workers' Opposition was right.

But it makes you wonder...all those delegates at the 10th Party Congress that voted against the WO -- weren't they voting just to save their own jobs?

(And perks, of course.)

I also agree with you about all the pissing and moaning about the CL excluding the middle class...when I read about the CL policy, I felt a "sharp pang" of immediate empathy with them. I think they'll be under tremendous pressure to weaken that policy...but I really hope they stand firm on this.

The "optimal result" is that they'd end up attracting the small number of middle class people who were really serious about joining the proletariat...to the point of renouncing their class privileges.

And I can't see anything but good coming from that.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 18, 2005
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Back in the 60s and 70s, a number of Maoist groups tried the same approach...and while there were a few "success" stories, it was mostly a disaster for the middle class kids themselves.

Nothing in their class backgrounds had prepared them for work in heavy industry...and since they were mainly motivated by idealism and a desire to "do good things", they were very much like "fish out of water".

Some of them talked up their politics right away...and got fired. Others were so overwhelmed by it all that they couldn't think of anything to say.

After six months or so, most of them quit the job, the party, and radical politics altogether...returning to the middle class with a great sigh of relief.

From what I could gather in the way of anecdotal evidence, the workers were not so much hostile as puzzled -- what were these kinds of kids doing here???

One such young volunteer was bluntly asked: "are you some kind of a priest?" *laughs*

My conclusion was that if a young middle class person wants to "proletarianize themselves", the best way to do that is to try for some form of unionized white collar work -- some of your co-workers will be from a similar background and you won't feel so totally "lost". And it will be work that you can handle over a long period of time -- allowing you to build up some genuine friendships with working people as well as developing your own proletarian consciousness.

A popular movie among lefties in that period was called The Organizer...about some Italian guy who travels around getting factory jobs and three weeks later leading the workers out on strike -- and afterwards moving on to the next factory.

Maybe things were like that in Italy (in 1910!)...they were not like that in American factories in 1970 and I very much doubt if they are like that in any modern workplace of any kind now.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 18, 2005
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quote (Communist League):

We live in a class society, where bourgeois ideology dominates. In such a situation, the maintenance of class privileges within an ostensibly communist organization would in fact lead to the reproduction of class divisions (and class antagonisms) within it. You would have the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois members doing all the theoretical, philosophical and otherwise "thinking" work, while the proletarian members are sent out to "organize", sell newspapers, do the heavy lifting and "grunt work". Such a set-up leads inevitably to a situation where proletarian members are kept busy and theoretically undeveloped, while the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois members are squirreled away writing documents and formulating political positions, with no input (or challenge) from the rest of the membership (i.e., the proletarian rank-and-file).


I don't see how anyone with the slightest familiarity with "Marxist parties" (at least in the U.S.) can deny the plain truth of this observation.

Even when a working class kid is allowed to write stuff for the "party", s/he is told to write about strikes or other working class insurgencies...and, in so many words (or hints), to leave the "big political questions" to the party's leadership.

I don't know if the CL guy would agree with me about this or not; but my observation is that membership in these parties for a proletarian is like having a really shitty second job.

quote (Communist League):

In fact, given the fundamental differences in educational style, training, personal development, etc., that young people from different classes get, sometimes you don't even need to ask those questions; the answer will sometimes jump right out at you.

Case in point: this discussion board.


Too harsh. Both middle class and working class kids come here to learn stuff...and they do it largely by arguing with each other.

In the best cases, they learn (or begin to learn) how to "think like communists". Even if many of them do ultimately end up amongst the petty bourgeoisie, they may -- at various times and places -- be valuable (even if temporary) allies of the revolutionary proletariat.

And some, I think, will become proletarian revolutionaries.

The benefit for us older commies is different. We are unlikely to live to see a proletarian revolution ourselves...but we get the chance to "pass on" what we've learned (or think we've learned) to new generations -- for them to use or discard as they see fit, of course.

Once in a while, I must confess, they even teach "this old dog" a new trick or two.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 20, 2005
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Just a thought...

The problem of determining objectively who is part of the petty bourgeoisie is so evidently difficult and...

The popularity of various forms of bourgeois ideology is so wide-spread in the current period...

That perhaps revolutionary groups in the present period have little choice but to rely on a heavily subjective definition, to wit:

Anyone who behaves like a member of the petty bourgeoisie will be excluded.

Displaying "managerial" attitudes is petty-bourgeois; we're not just looking to change bosses.

Sending the message that one is, in some way, "inherently superior" to others is petty-bourgeois; we should be able to explain what we know and what we can do without the implication that we are "vital" and "irreplaceable" or that "no one else" could "possibly" equal our abilities or our deeds.

Consumption for the sheer sake of consumption is petty-bourgeois. (That's not to say that a "vow of poverty" is required -- but I'm sometimes a bit shocked to learn that someone on this board has just spent hundreds of dollars on a single item of clothing, for example.)

I'm just thinking out loud here...so shoot this idea down if you like.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 24, 2005
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