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May Day 2008

category international | workplace struggles | feature author Thursday May 01, 2008 19:39author by FdCA - WSM - ZACF - Anarkismo Report this post to the editors

International anarchist communist statement

Towards a new international movement of the exploited,
Against neo-liberalism, against war, against hunger and poverty,
For peace, food and housing for all, for safe and secure jobs,
Towards the libertarian alternative!

We support:
  • the horizontal creation of networks, coalitions and forums inspired by the practice of self-organization, self-management and direct action, which represent the collective capacity for acting against the contradictions and violence of neo-liberalism and develop the greatest possible international solidarity;
  • all efforts to contribute to the development of the international class-struggle anarchist movement, by supporting its political networks and its capacity for social insertion in the struggles and struggle fronts in support of popular power, so that we can spread the anarchist communist project and put the libertarian alternative into practice.

[ Italiano ] [ Ελληνικά ] [ Nederlands ] [ العربية ] [ Castellano ]

May Day 2008

Towards a new international movement of the exploited,
Against neo-liberalism, against war, against hunger and poverty,
For peace, food and housing for all, for safe and secure jobs,
Towards the libertarian alternative!

A harsh reaction has been unleashed by States around the world against the cycle of social, labour and political struggles which have been carried on by the movements of opposition to neo-liberalism since the late 20th century, with a consequent general worsening of living conditions for millions of proletarians who are increasingly enslaved by capitalist exploitation.

In every country, the primacy of finance as the motor of the economy, with its lethal rules based on interest rate increases, credit clampdowns and social dumping, is provoking a grave crisis. Its results can be seen in millions of families falling further into debt and impoverishment and losing their homes and their economic security. The workforce is being concentrated into more intensive and highly flexibilized units of exploitation in order to strengthen supply and competition in macro-economic areas (EU enlargement, the re-launch of Mercosur and ASEAN, the WTO crisis, etc.). The concentration of production into monopolies on an international basis (motor industry, energy, telecommunications, agro-chemical/pharmaceuticals, etc.) is destroying social wealth and jobs and producing a food crisis without precedent. Economic development is tending to create a neuron-like network of privileged sites and related corridors of capital and raw materials around which public and private investment can coagulate, thereby impoverishing the large areas in between. And the background to all this is the state of endemic war generated by the USA for control over the system of imperialist dependencies, the increasing use of militarism and nationalism (and all its religious and ethnic varieties) in order to control/de-stabilize an area which goes from the Middle East throughout Asia and Africa and to destroy the autonomy of the exploited classes by forcing them to side with a particular State, religion or elite to whom they entrust their present and future destiny of exploitation.

In this difficult situation, the social, labour and political struggles of the proletariat in every country are seeking to resist the various forms of capitalist exploitation and the harsh repression that the States have unleashed, making it increasingly evident that today we need to:

  • ensure the total independence of all mass struggles and movements from all political and economic institutions (no State, government or market has any interest in fighting neo-liberalism);
  • demand peace, so that it can the cradle for the re-emergence of civil society and allow the development of struggles for the emancipation of today's downtrodden classes;
  • work to rebuild the autonomy and the role of the exploited classes, the defence and reconstruction of their free and independent organizations, as a condition and indispensable factor in the struggles against neo-liberalism and war in every country of the world.
Anarchist Communist and Libertarian Communist organizations support, promote and assist every initiative aimed at rebuilding a large international movement
  • against neo-liberalism, denouncing the crimes of exploitation and bringing solidarity to proletarian organizations and local movements fighting against local or foreign bourgeois aggression;
  • against war, demanding ceasefires, demilitarization and disarming by every State and ethnic or religious elite, who are united in their contempt for the lives of proletarians;
a great international movement whose heart and whose base lie in the grassroots social, labour, cultural, political and anti-militarist organizations, and also in their ability to federalize the struggles that develop, on a national and international level.

To that end, we support:

  • the horizontal creation of networks, coalitions and forums inspired by the practice of self-organization, self-management and direct action, which represent the collective capacity for acting against the contradictions and violence of neo-liberalism and develop the greatest possible international solidarity;
  • all efforts to contribute to the development of the international class-struggle anarchist movement, by supporting its political networks and its capacity for social insertion in the struggles and struggle fronts in support of popular power, so that we can spread the anarchist communist project and put the libertarian alternative into practice.

Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (Italy)
Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland)
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (South Africa)

1 May 2008

author by Karl Blythepublication date Sun May 04, 2008 13:18Report this post to the editors

An excellent statement, insightful and to the point, albeit rather short (which is much better than long due to pointless filler, as is often found in "manifesto"-type pieces). I especially am impressed by the clearly explained context which it gives, along with proper degree of specificity when it comes to general propositions (which sounds contradictory, but it is actually an important quality when proposing any sort of program).

My only substantial criticism would be in regards to the first two bullet points ("ensure the total indepence..." and "demand peace..." etc.), which strike me as fundamentally the same kind of line that is usually put forward by syndicalist and related groups (e.g. "apoliticism"). Sadly, these groups are often extremely advanced and insightful in their analysis (Batay Ouvriye in Haiti comes to mind), and even quite effective in immediate struggles, but lack the kind of political program which is necessary for a successful revolution. The result is that, despite their clear understanding of the problem and their effective militant response, they achieve nothing more than some provisional reforms (and that using basically legalist techniques such as court decisions and even, though it is rarely admitted, parliamentary reforms).

This, incidentally, is what I am really getting at elsewhere when I speak of taking up some of the better elements of insurrectionist teachings and applying them in a more or less Platformist organizational format. It is my personal view that our fundamental goal in the struggle must be, in a broad sense anyway, a general uprising of the masses (which may even take the form of a general strike, or something along those lines), i.e. popular insurrection. That alone has the capacity to overthrow the ruling classes and the state, clearing the way for the constructive social work of the revolution.

That is, in my interpretation at least, somewhat different from the idea of "independent mass struggles" as it is usually meant. Of course, I may be misunderstanding that part of the statement. In any case, I will probably write out another essay on the subject, so that is enough for now.

author by Jos Antonio Gutirrezpublication date Wed May 07, 2008 01:44Report this post to the editors

Ricardo Flores Magn once said that "to preach about peace is a crime". This he said in a revolutionary context when the people where fighting an unbearable oppression with the arms at hand. Other times, particularly in the middle of gruesome wars, the demand for peace can actually be a revolutionary demand -in 1917's Russia, for instance, peace was one of the two demands of the people that then launched the Revolution. And when the revolution happened, they were willing to defend it with arms against the whites and invading armies.

Today in Colombia the watchword of the popular movement is "peace with social justice" -after 60 decades of horrific internal strife it is obvious that a political resolution is needed for class struggle to move forward.

The point I'm trying to make clear is that we can't have a definite position "to talk of peace is reformist" in the same way as we can't hold some sort of fetishism for a single tactic which may be at all times right, irrespectively of the context. I have criticized tactical dogmatism in the past, in relation to insurrectionalism ( In some contexts it will be the right thing, from the point of view of the revolutionary movement, to demand peace, in others it won't. Peace, however, in our mouth never means oblivion of class struggle.

The context has to guide us to reach our demands -in this particular context, it is quite clear that the demand for peace is anti-war, is against imperialist aggression, a demand that us and the oppressed in the invaded Middle East would fully support. I would not read much more into that particular demand than an anti-imperailist and anti-war statement.

As anarchists we do want peace, sustainable peace, peace to live our lives in freedom, not the peace of the cemeteries that capitalism can offer us. We have to acknowledge that and being our goal, we cannot stress that enough. Peace is not a dirty word: it is so in the mouths of the State and the capitalists and their defenders. We have to reclaim peace as a part of our programme. However, we acknowledge that because of capitalism we have a protracted and hard struggle ahead, the class struggle which can assume different expressions in different times in history -and when we talk about peace we never forget that as long as there are oppressors and oppressed there will be struggle between them.

Similarly, I would not interpret the call for independence of mass organisations as apoliticism, but as the necessary independence of working class and social organisations from an alien chain of command. We fully support political work into mass organisations and we openly adovcate the struggle of ideas in the heart of the working class -but disagree with turning any organisation into the backyard of any party (including anarchists).

On another part of your comment, I personally tend to have a problem with the line of "Popular insurrection (...) That alone has the capacity to overthrow the ruling classes and the state, clearing the way for the constructive social work of the revolution".

I believe such a statement could be seen as underestimating the importance of a strategy of popular power (or dual power) that time and again we see as critical in leading to a successful revolution. As anarchists, we tend to idealize the spontaneous impulse of the masses and believe that after the ruling classes and the State are overthrown, the way will be clear for us to start (then) thinking of the constructive problems of the revolution. This means that often anarchists have disregarded the vital problem of building up a revolutionary programme, with disastrous consequences.

Instead of the free will of the people flourishing the second day of the revolution, in countless insurrections we have seen quite the contrary happening -that people overthrow the ruling order, but in the absence of a constructive programme of action or of a proper people's alternative developed before hand in strong organisations of popular power, the "power vacuum" is quickly filled by a new version of the old elites, by an authoritarian project (even military rule) or by people resorting to the only way they know how to do things -in a capitalist and authoritarian way.

This brings us to the of strategy and tactics, ends and means, and to the importance of anarchists being fully devoted to the construction of popular power, of mass organisation, of social organisations, that can in the future, and imbued in a libertarian spirit, be up to the challenges of social reconstruction and be nowadays living schools of the libertarian alternative. Insurrection alone is not enough and the revolution can take many forms apart from insurrection -the important thing is how strong is the working class not only in its organised numbers, but also in its vision of an alternative future.

I am looking forward to reading the article you said to be preparing...

author by Karl Blythepublication date Wed May 07, 2008 10:22Report this post to the editors

While reserving most points to put them into a complete format, I will briefly address your comments for the sake of clarification:

I agree for the most part with what you are saying. My criticism was more semantical than theoretical, in that I was not disagreeing with thinking behind so much as the rather ambiguous expression of it. The line about "total independence from all political insitutions" and such, is rhetorically almost identical to the past and present policies of syndicalist groups of various stripes (e.g. the CNT-FAI, Batay Ouvriye, etc.), which have opted again and again for immediate goals as the focal point of the struggle, that being the natural outgrowth of an "apoliticist" program. I am not saying that that is the actual meaning in the statement, rather I am calling for more direct and clear language so as to avoid ambiguity.

As for the second line, I do not by any means believe "to demand peace is reformist." On the contrary, I believe the anti-war movement, as a crucial example of anti-militarism, is of enormous importance both morally and strategically. My criticism, the substance of which was the same as toward the previous point, was aimed at the line about peace being "the cradle for the re-emergence of civil society" and "the development of struggles for emancipation," etc., which seems to me, rhetorically speaking, to imply some sort of containment of struggles within "civil society" and a gradualist approach of breaking up the revolutionary struggle into various seperate, specific "movements" for this goal or that goal, all of which by leads logically and naturally to a reformist, minimal program. (I will adress this issue in more detail in my next article, given that it is theoretically of fundamental importance and not at all a simple problem.)

Furthermore, as I have argued elsewhere, I believe it is crucial to devise a strategy of militant nonviolence -- the most complete form of which would be nonviolent insurrection. The groundwork for a popular mass rising must be layed beforehand, of course, by popular base organizations through the development and elaboration of popular struggles, together with a project of constructive social work. Naturally, I am also very strongly in favor of a practical and ideological program which would offer some degree of preperation for the intense struggles and problems arising out of a radical overturning of the state and economic apparatus. I am in full agreement with you, therefore, in rejecting the notion of a spontaneous rising as the ideal.

I hope that has clarified my previous point adequately. I ralize now I should have been a little more specific in what aspects of the statement's proposals I was criticizing. Also, I realize this statement is, of course, made in respect to May Day, which after all revolves around the general labor movement (not the anarchist movement), and that also would make sense with tendency toward syndicalist rhetoric in the statement. Therefore my criticisms are meant more as a reminder of the limitations of "revolutionary" unionism, rather than as an ideological critique of the statement's content.

author by Nestor - FdCA (personal capacity)publication date Wed May 07, 2008 16:54Report this post to the editors

Karl, with regard to your concerns over the phrase "ensure the total independence of all mass struggles and movements from all political and economic institutions", I find it difficult to understand where the problem lies.

By their very nature, mass movements cannot be ideologically based, given that there is no political homogeneity in the mass (at least not now). A mass movement is one that fights for a particular demand, often an immediate demand, and one that is sought by people of varying political opinion.

The specific anarchist movement is concerned with the final end of social revolution and transformation, the preparation for which contains all those single struggles and movements that the mass carries on. The immediate pre-revolutionary period will be characterized by greatly increased consciousness on the part of the mass of the final end, of their historical interests over and above their immediate interests.

This is one of the most obvious characteristics of the anarchist communist ("platformist") movement,one which the Italians call "organizational dualism". The concept is quite clearly explained in one of the FdCA's theoretical documents, which you might like to read. You can find it online at (it is also available to download as a PDF).

author by Karl Blythepublication date Thu May 08, 2008 03:26Report this post to the editors

I admit I am probably giving it too much concern, although as mentioned above it was a minor criticism and more a matter of clarification. Also, as I stated at the end of my last comment, in terms of substance, it is simply a reminder of the limitations of syndicalism, which I realize is very well known by the authors of the statement.

I should also note, I do not take issue with the principle of independence of mass organizations -- on the contrary, that is a central idea to all organized anarchist teachings, given that it stems directly from the principle of free association. Any organization which is not independent could hardly be called a libertarian organization in even a loose sense.

Realizing, however, that this is specifically a labor statement and not a programmatic document of some sort, I would retract my original comments as a criticism per se, though the general content remains true in my opinion. So, in concluding, I say again it is excellent statement and it is only theoretically limited insofar as its lenght and subject matter are specifically and narrowly address. In other words, it is a fine document and addresses perfectly all the points relevent to its subject.

Also, that is indeed a very interestingand valuable document, so thanks for the reference. I especially appreciate its straightforward manner which does not unnecessarily dwell on semantical qualifications (i.e., vanguardism). Its treatment of Marxism is also refreshing compared to the excessively dogmatic and prejudicial style that I have noticed with a lot of anarchists (including Skirda, unfortunately).

author by Irving da Naile - IWWpublication date Wed May 14, 2008 07:10author email michaelhargis at netscape dot netReport this post to the editors

My question is why insist on the concept of "neo-liberalism"? "Neo-liberalism" just happens to be the latest manifestation of the capitalist system. Aren't we anarchists against all manifestations of capitalism whether it be "laissez-faire", "state capitalism", "welfare capitalism", or "neo-liberalism"?

author by Nestor - (FdCA - personal capacity)publication date Wed May 14, 2008 16:25Report this post to the editors

Certainly we are. It is simply that neo-liberalism is the latest trend, and a particularly aggressive one, compared with some others that preceded it. In no way should the statement be taken to mean that we "prefer" any other form of capitalism.

author by TNCpublication date Thu May 15, 2008 02:55Report this post to the editors

Towards a new international movement of the exploited

New? How is this new? It's the same wishful thinking I've heard from anarchists for decades.

Related Link:
author by Jan Makandalpublication date Tue May 20, 2008 18:28Report this post to the editors

Clarification on autonomous struggle.

I am not a member of Batay Ouvriye but I have a level of political unity with them on different issues. I would take the liberty of giving some explanation of their political orientation for the sole purpose of clarification. I think some positions taken by Karl Blythe may reflect an incorrect interpretation or understanding of that organization. I may add that my contribution is a reflection of the level of political unity shared with BO and also may reflect the limitation, politically and ideologically, of this level of unity. I will like to briefly point out there are two distinctive levels of organization in the working class. One is the revolutionary organization with the political objective of radically transforming society under the leadership of the proletariat. The other is the autonomous democratic organization of the working class, the mass movement. BO is the latter. These two levels exist from a standpoint of relative autonomy, even if is necessary to have a coordination and articulation between the two, where the revolutionary level is determinant.

BO is potentially a workers organized movement and inside that movement there is a trade union level. BOs objective is to organize workers and laborers in their struggle against capitalist exploitation. BO is building organizations in neighborhoods in the struggle for basics democratic rights. There are also the trade union struggles being waged inside factories and other unit of production for local consumption or for export such as the textiles industry. So therefore as a mass workers movement, BO does not have a political objective of taking power thru a revolutionary process. It is a level, mostly tactical, of a workers movement. In fact BO is a workers movement in construction that will go through an ongoing process of flux and reflux and within that movement many levels will interact in a very complex manner.

I do agree with Jose in his interpretation of independence as apolitical, although I would rather use the concept of autonomy due to its theoretical value. One element of autonomy is the capacity of the working class to advance in its struggle based on its own interest, putting forth its own politics at all levels.

There are many reasons for the autonomous struggle of the working class in class society dominated by capitalism. I will point just a few. We need to recognize there are two types of struggle being waged in social formations whether it is a fully grown capitalist society or one dominated by capitalism however deformed that capitalism maybe. One is the struggle in these social formations among the dominant classes, among the different fractions of the capitalist class itself, the different fractions existing in a any social formation whether it is for hegemony, enlargement of bourgeois democratic rights, restructuring of bourgeois democracy or in a society dominated by capitalism: the struggle between feudalism and capitalism. These classes sometimes enter, depending on existing capitalist or feudal structures, in very antagonistic struggles. In order to advance, they do tend to rely or use other classes in the peoples camp to pursue their political objectives. The civil rights movement began as a working class movement, but was usurped to finally degenerate in a struggle for acceptance, or accommodation if you will. In Haiti or in South Africa, the bourgeoisie leaned on the petty bourgeoisie to advance its own politics.

The other aspect is the fact only the working class in capitalist society can actually lead a struggle to end exploitation. In class society, the peoples camp is also comprised of different classes. All these classes have very different interests and see reality quite differently. Only the unity of these classes under the leadership of the working class can bring us to a transitational process that is in the interest of all these classes. The capitalist class is the constructor of capitalist society and the workings class is its destroyer. The working class is the only force capable to replace the capitalist class thru its autonomous struggle. The working class will have, in any given society, to use the contradictions existing within the dominant classes and also to advance its own autonomous politics. For example after the Fall of Duvalier, the question of a new constitution was aimed to normalize the new conjuncture, to give it some sort of legitimacy. It was correct for proletarian forces to denounce it as a reactionary document while at the same time using it in their best interest.

In order not to be too lengthy, some of my comments maybe somewhat schematic, but I hope to bring some elements that may help in this debate. Although I do have certain disagreements in the declaration of these 3 organizations, some of them fundamental, some utopians demands, the limitations of their concept of independence, the non-mentioning of feudalism in dominated countries, the role of the mass workers movement and the lack of clarity on the role of the working class, I also tend to agree with Jose that in the struggle either for popular democratic right or the struggle for revolutionary change there are no recipes. We may learn from other struggles in their positive and negative aspects, but in reality, is it is the role of every revolutionary to develop their struggles based on the concrete reality of their social formation.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Wed May 21, 2008 15:22Report this post to the editors


I think you have misunderstood the nature of my criticism of Batay Ouvriye. I am aware of the fact they are, as you put it, an "autonomous democratic organization of the working class," more specifically a labor organization in the syndicalist tradition of the IWW (in a Haitian setting). Within that role, they have carried out some extraordinary work. Additionally, their overall analyses (those that I have read, at any rate) have been extremely insightful.

The limitations of Batay Ouvriye are the same limitations of syndicalism in general: being strictly economic (viewing political organizations as bourgeois), while it intently focuses on immediate improvements in the living conditions of workers, it by and large neglects and even rejects political struggle.

While that is not necessarily problematic, and in Batay's case I would say that their activity in land struggles (for which a few of them were arrested for several months in 2002, while Lavalas was still in power) has, in fact, been perfectly in tune with the political stuggle in the countryside,* the absence of a coherent revolutionary political program (either by Batay or anyone else) is reflected, I think, in the preponderant influence and popularity of Lavalas (especially of Aristide).

I am necessarily arguing that Batay Ouvriye ought to become a more political organization. However, it is clear, in my opinion at least, that no revolutionary organization (certainly no anarchist one) has been able to influence the popular movement in a significant and more far-reaching way than Lavalas. The closest attempt that I know of is the PPN (Marxists), which, however, has shown itself to be quite hypocritical in its shifting stance on Lavalas (particularly regarding Batay Ouvriye, who made a clear point of this in a few of their statements). This is all the more unfortunate given the extremely high level of struggle and militancy in the popular movement there.

Perhaps that helps to explain my stance better with respect to autonomous struggle and mass organization. It is explained in a slightly different format, in more detail, in my new article on "Insurrection and Organization" (not to self-advertize, but if my argument here is unclear then that article might help to elaborate it more fully for the reader).

*The overlap between political and economic struggle is usually greater and more simplified in agrarian than in urban contexts.

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Sun May 25, 2008 23:48Report this post to the editors

I tend to agree with the comment posted by Irving da Nalle on the limitation of the usage of the concept of Neo Liberalism. Even if neo-liberalism is the latest trend, and I doubt that, but only mentioning this sub-element of capitalism without taking a strong anti-capitalist stand is very limitative, especially when these positions are taken by forces that proclaim themselves to be revolutionary. I think we need to step out of the sectarian box of a backyard mentality of seeing ourselves as Trotskyite, Stalinist, Populist and Anarchist, defending dogmatically positions elaborated decades ago, for which a tune up is long overdue in the interest of proletarian struggle and of proletarian internationalism. There is a need to give an interpretation of formal abstract, constantly in formation, guided by dialectical materialism and historical materialism. The limitation in the usage of Neo-liberalism divorced from a strong anti-capitalist position opens the door for very limitative political practices and also favors opportunism. In Haiti a lot of reactionary forces, forces within the block of the dominant classes, some sectors of the petty bourgeoisie and some yellow unions are against privatization but at the same time support other policies of neo-liberalism. This is the case of CTH, in Haiti, they are part of the tri-lateral committee of the HOPE 2 and openly support it and at the same time oppose privatization. The government of Duvalier, in particular Francois Duvalier, took some demagogic stand on privatization due to the fact these state owned enterprises where a viable source of capital accumulation. The same thing has happened under Aristide. All these governments did show in their own unscrupulous way some levels of resistance but entered fully with high speed in neo- liberalist policies..

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Sun May 25, 2008 23:57Report this post to the editors

Basically my point
Karl, briefly I never considered PPN or the political current that organization emanated from as Marxist. This is not a sectarian attitude toward another organization. I will go even further, in a book produced by the Committee Unity-Struggle-Unity [M-L] and published by New Idea Proletarian Idea in the seventies, we consciously did not include MHL now PPN as a Left organization or even worst, as a Marxist organization. Their political practice on the ground has nothing to do with Marxism or the left. I think we were correct then even more now. Karl, what you identify as the limitation of BO is in fact a problematic of the Haitian proletarian revolutionary movement. If BO [Batay Ouvriye] has formulated this view that political organizations are bourgeois or address them as such, it would have been a metaphysical interpretation of any given social objective reality. First BO is not a union; there is a trade union level, inside the movement. To avoid any more misinterpretations, I would like to ask a few questions. What is purely an economic struggle? Is the struggle against occupation an economic battle? Is the battle to build an autonomous proletarian alternative, independent of bourgeois interest, an economic battle? How do you see the dialectic between political and economical struggle? I do think that the working class will wage political struggle at the democratic level.
The proletarian struggle against capitalism is a two-legged struggle, one is the democratic level of that struggle (and inside that democratic level there is a trade union level) and the second is a revolutionary level. You have only interpreted pragmatically one leg of that battle. Your interpretation of that leg also is not quite correct. I do agree to the fact there is a need for an overt expression of the revolutionary leg. The popular democratic leg is a level where the working class trains itself, learns how to develop organization, develops struggle in its midst to solidify unity. The democratic level too is a level where workers define priorities in the struggle against exploitation and really develop the skill to not only weaken capitalism but also to be conscientious of their task. Of course the level of politics in the democratic level is a reflection of that level. It would be dangerous, erroneous to make that level transform itself into a revolutionary level. The most advanced workers will need to detach themselves, from a principle of relative autonomy, to build their revolutionary organization, a precursor of their party. In reality, the struggle of the working class, in any social formation, will need to advance on its two legs to defeat capitalism and offer a new society. Both levels will and should reflect the political intervention of that class at that level. But we cant in any way shape or form dilute these two levels into one. They do not have the same objective and the same political line. One is tactical and the other is strategical. This why I tend to disagree in your statement that BO needs to become of a political organization. It would be very erroneous to attempt to do so. In fact one of my reserves on BO, it could be a disagreement if I was not aware of the reality, due to the limitation of the revolutionary level, it tends to occupy a space solely. Therefore representing itself in complex dualism in a combination of these two levels. In this case your point does have some validity and I do share your criticism. Even in this case, it would have been a bit ultra-leftist to bring this level at the revolutionary level. There is also a deeper aspect that shows the urgency of an autonomous presence of the revolutionary level. In Haiti, all the classes that dominate the social formation have failed and are incapable of offering a viable alternative. The petty bourgeoisie has also failed has entered a level of opportunism so low they are incapable to even wage any struggle to render Haitian capitalism more democratic from a bourgeois standpoint. The social formation is rapidly decomposing. This is one of the main reasons for the occupation. In face of this contradiction, the Haitian working class, if incapable of rising up and offer their own alternative, will also decompose.
Now to think that the working class organization at the level of its mass organization, doesnt wage political struggle is totally erroneous and reflects a certain level of elitism. I think the struggle of the American workers against the Sherman Act and against the Clayton act was a political struggle against the state apparatus and against the capitalist class. It was a struggle not aimed at taking power, but a popular democratic struggle, and the same could be said for the struggle in Haiti against the outdated labor law. The working class did and will have to develop its own capacity intellectually to wage these types of democratic struggle. These struggles, by nature, are autonomous and are aimed at the interest of the working class.
The question of class autonomy needs to be addressed at all levels [two legs]. Even Marx at certain times faulted enormously in this question. Marx praised, in a letter, the newly capitalist class in the U.S but at no time raised the repression that the working class was facing in the burgeoning bourgeois democracy. He repeated the same mistake in congratulating the British Empire for introducing capitalism in India through a brutal occupation. The question of proletarian revolution must be at the forefront and it is a problematic that needs to be resolved now. The question of class autonomy is a question raised that needs profound debate.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Mon May 26, 2008 02:30Report this post to the editors


You raise a very basic, crucial point in addressing the twin questions of revolutionary organization and of working class autonomy. My understanding (and this may be inaccurate, but I am basing this on their published statements) is that Batay Ouvriye is first and foremost an autonomous working class organization. (By the way, my apologies, for I intended to write I am NOT necessarily arguing that Batay Ouvriye ought to become a political organization -- I should have checked over my writing again before submission.) Also, they have described themselves consistently as a labor organization (slightly different from a trade union), which in turn is the phrase I used. Even so, it seems to me, judging from their statments, their activities and their policy line in general, that they follow very closely in the tradition of syndicalism. The idiot Jeb Sprague even tried to claim for that reason they were anarchists (which Haiti Progres, who should have known better from their position, foolishly accepted, by publishing his article in their paper)!

There is a problem though in your characterization of a "two-legged struggle." To what degree do you seperate revolutionary organization and "democratic" (i.e. autonomous working class) organization? If our goal is a proletarian revolution, naturally I think working class organizations must be in some sense revolutionary. But according to your model (and this is also the case in the "dualist" model of most platformist organizations), that appears to be out of the question for fear of confusing the "democratic" level with the revolutionary level. Are we to say that the working class should not adopt a revolutionary program, which it can claim for itself? Is the revolution only a theoretical ideal proposed by political parties, independent of the real working-class struggle?

As for your question ("What is purely an economic struggle?"): By strictly economic, I am speaking of immediate struggles over living conditions, as in wages and workplace battles (labor rights), land struggles, as well as cost of living, etc.. The struggle against the occupation is, in my view, more political in nature, and in that sense Batay Ouvriye does seem to be adopting somewhat of a political policy. To tell the truth, I am rather confused by their position, which sometimes appears as "apolitical" and at other times consciously links up with the political struggle. Perhaps you understand this better than me, and could explain more clearly?

Returning shortly to the question of class autonomy and revolution, I will put my view this way: I do not believe the dualist or "two-legged" approach is adequate to address the basic problem of proletarian and revolutionary organization. The role of the party (that is, the specific political group) should be to instigate the working class to revolutionary struggle. The measure of working-class organization is not its "autonomy" in a political sense (the working class is not in any way "apolitical"), but its capacity for working-class self-mobilization. So the levels of organization are not really "dual" but "triangular", consisting of: popular organization; revolutionary organization; and popular revolutionary organization. The latter is the ideal, and the most difficult to achieve, for it represents the internalization of revolutionary ideals by the working class. (To clarify, do not confuse politicism with organizational dependence -- a workers' organization can and should be functionally autonomous, but nonetheless adopt a revolutionary political line.) In reality, there is enormous overlap between these levels, but the idea is to push for revolutionary working-class organization until the point that the working class itself is able and determined to overthrow the ruling classes and the state.

As a side note: I am intrigued by your remarks about PPN, and I would like to get a closer perspective on that overall subject. Would you be interested in writing or publishing something specifically about this here, or providing a means by which I can research it for myself?

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Fri May 30, 2008 08:36Report this post to the editors

First, Karl, let me point out my side note was primarily aimed at demarcating myself from a very ambiguous and sectarian political structure such as PPN. Unfortunately many of our writings that somewhat addressed that structure are in Creole. But I could tell you, it is a very secondary task to invest time and energy on a political structure that is a comatose corpse in Haiti. Their only life support system nowadays is tailgating Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas, very opportunistically I might add. Their pseudo anti occupation position by asking for the return of Aristide, MHL position, in the eighties in asking US imperialism to stop supporting Duvalier before it is too late, is very telling of the fact that while in theory they talk anti-imperialism but in reality, they walk on the imperialist path. Since the eighties, this political current has made a political task to attack, in very unprincipled manners, other political organizations or revolutionary organizations and even allying itself with ultra reactionary forces to consolidate these attacks. It was the case of Haiti Progres/MHL, in a radio program called Eddy Publicite, a pro-Duvalierist program, attacking a progressive radio program Heure Haitienne. I would not have minded if HP/MHL went to this radio show to expose Duvalier, but to use a reactionary medium to attack a progressive radio show was very telling of their unprincipled and unscrupulous political orientation. By the way, in our view, Heure Haitienne /En Avant, was part of the Haitian opportunist left, but we need to recognize their contributions in offering a progressive political alternative, at some point anti-imperialist, in the struggle for the emancipation of Haiti. All these reactionaries politicians such as Manigat, Bazin, Latortue and some disgruntled Duvalierists, the Haitian opportunist left greatly contributed in their promotion by calling them democrats and by conceding fundamental positions to them in order to maintain unity in their struggle against Duvalier at the time. HP/MHL APN and now PPN is a very negative political trend in the political arena in Haiti from a progressive/revolutionary perspective. History, one day, will prove us wrong or right.
Now their attack on many progressive structures, some NGO, and their silence and justification of the pro-imperialist practice of the Lavalas movement also clearly shows which side they are on They justify their position with the argument that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and that since Aristide has fallen out of favor with the imperialists and was deposed by them, he must then be supported. This had led them to denounce the progressive opposition to Lavalas and to accuse it of collaborating in the ouster of Aristide and the occupation! What a twisted argument! They turn the world upside down just to justify their opportunist stands as they flip flop repeatedly while trying to maneuver Ben or some other PPN leader into a viable candidate.

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Fri May 30, 2008 08:53Report this post to the editors

Karl, ultimately the conflict of Capital and Labor could only find a viable solution thru antagonistic class struggle, the battle for political power. The confusion, on the political practice of BO, is based on the appropriation of a contradictory reality; we are not only dealing with one aspect but two. One task of the working class is to take power, the other is to wage political struggle to defend it rights. It is not quite a duality, but rather a complex phenomenon in which 2 levels exist, dialectically linked. As mentioned before, the revolutionary level is determinant. The political level in which they functioned respectively determines the objective separation. For example, the May Day 2008 declaration by the 3 organizations, the source of this exchange, would be reformist if these organizations called themselves revolutionary. I think the level of the declaration is the popular democratic level, the level of mass struggle. In this case, besides minor disagreements; I have no fundamental problem with the content at that level. One level, the revolutionary one, is the level that allows the proletariat to realize its fundamental interest: to destroy exploitation. This is in this level where the proletariat, with discipline, constructs a political line, defines priorities, develops orientation in organizing other classes from the peoples camp under its leadership, and brings to an end capitalist exploitation. The most advanced workers, the most conscientious workers need to develop their revolutionary theory that will guide them in the social practice to achieve its fundamental goals. The two tasks of the working class are not separate from each other. The revolutionary level needs to take all its life from the mass struggle. One could be present in the other one but not vice/versa. The revolutionary level needs to have a mass line that allows it to develop political practice that corresponds to the level of class conscience at the historical time. But most importantly, assesses the situation takes initiatives and puts forth a tactical political line that corresponds to the conjuncture. The proletarian revolutionary levels needs to be in the masses of workers like fish in water. The proletariat cannot / would not achieve its political objective without the revolutionary level.
There are no social formations in which we will find the working class political conscience uniform/homogenous. We most likely will find different levels of political consciousness. In any scenario, the working class consciousness will also be determined by its collective struggle and how the class, in its different levels, has been able to break away from bourgeois ideology and petty bourgeois ideology. In reality, the working class doesnt exist by itself. The class will have not only to breakaway from the domination of the dominant classes but also develop its capacity to unify the peoples camp under its leadership, the only path to be the destroyer of capital. The political battle of the workers against capital, it most advanced form surplus value, is struggle at the economic, political and theoretical/ideological fronts. For me, one of our differences is, I think the battle at the economic front is a political battle, a sort of training ground, a school of/ for a new society.
This also why you are confused on the political action of BO. This organization, as a movement, is articulating the different political battles of the workers at the economic, theoretical and political fronts. Basically engaging the dominant classes and the state apparatus in a struggle based on its own interest. The last leaflet BO put out, they even called for a new state, but short of defining what kind of state. This should be the task of the proletarian revolutionaries.
As the mass struggle develops, it can also come to encompass many different levels. A mass revolutionary level, the organized alliance of the peoples camp, linked with and under the leadership of the autonomous proletarian avant-garde organization can be a powerful revolutionary force. Not to envision this process would mean refusing to recognize the reality of the peoples camp: a number of different classes and fractions that need to be brought together under the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat around the common revolutionary positions of the peoples camp.
The confusion is also mostly a problematic of addressing a contradictory reality. A class is not homogeneous, it manifests itself in actions at different faades of a political struggle, at different fronts. In fact the economic struggle of the workers is useful and has efficacy if it is able to preserve itself from economism and reformism. The democratic level, in and of itself, is not reformist. The battle for popular democratic rights is not reformist or economist when proletarian revolutionaries in the mist of the battle are aiming to weaken capital, not to accommodate it. We have seen this confusion you have manifest itself in a very negative way, by ultra leftism when proletarian revolutionaries bring the politics of their level in the democratic level and or by thinking the economic struggle/or popular democratic struggle is the ultimate objective.
Now another point to me that makes the economic battle a political battle at the democratic level: the resistance of the workers against wage reduction and the effort to constantly win wage hikes is a battle against the whole system of wages and is provoked by the same fact that labor is assimilated as a commodity and is directly affected by laws that regulate the general movement of valuation. The objective during these continuous uninterrupted battles between labor and capital is for the workers to win. This why in my previous comment I took as examples the various acts [Sherman and Clayton act] taken be the capitalist state to regulate this question of wages. It is only thru legislative regulation that this question could be resolved. Then we know to accept an absolute fact in the popular democratic struggle the capitalist class is the strongest. The general tendency of capitalism is not to elevate wages but rather to reduce them, to reduce the value of labor to its lowest possible point. The working class should resist such a tendency but at the same time continue on the struggle for the ABOLITION OF WAGES.
I will respond, if you permit, to the point you raised on the 4th paragraph at a latter date.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Sun Jun 01, 2008 08:49Report this post to the editors


You are quite right in depicting a "complex phenonomon" with two "dialectically linked" levels. But I think that you are just slightly off the mark in your explanation of this phenomon. In a sense you connect the economic and political struggles together, and really your characterization that the "battle at the economic front is a political battle, a sort of training ground," is essentially correct in my view. Also, I like what you say in the last paragraph: "The objective during these continuous uninterrupted battles between labor and capital is for the workers to win."

However, I think a central aspect of your conception is faulty, which is the place of the proletariat's political party. Your framework here is essentially the Marxist framework: the proletariat, or its most advanced section, organizes itself as a political party, and sets out to conquer political power with the immediate economic struggles (the "training ground" above) serving as a launchpad for that political struggle.

Leaving aside the question of seizing state power vs. abolishing it (Marxism and anarchism, respectively) -- even assuming for the sake of convenience that our objective in that regard is identical -- the problem with that conception is that it confuses the role the political party or vanguard group with role of the masses and the working class. The role of the vanguard, in that sense, must be to act as an a ideological motor force and a starting point for mass organization, providing a theoretical basis for the revolutionary struggle in the form of a program, and practical basis in the form of concrete action and strategy.

But the "vanguard" in this sense is only catalyst, a starting point for mass revolutionary struggle. The mistake of Leninism, which recognizes quite well the need for a discipline vanguard, was in making of that vanguard the political "head" of the proletariat, substituting the party for the class. The objective of the party should be, very simply, to lead the way in organizing the working class itself alogn revolutionary lines, with the mass organizations increasingly taking the lead. That is the idea behind my characterization of a "triangular" organizational framework, recognizing that the mass organization must be the basis of the revolution, but at the same time that these are not all revolutionary and it requires a "vanguard" group to push it along the revolutionary road. That is the real significance of the dialectical relationship which you spoke of earlier.

I look forward to the rest of your reply.

author by todd - WSApublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 22:04author email logos at riseup dot netReport this post to the editors

In terms of whether mass movements can be revolutionary, I believe it is possible for mass movements to be revolutionary but it is a matter of the historical level of struggle and consciousness in the working class. This negates two positions: both the idea that social movements can't be revolutionary (i.e. they can, but only when the working class is), and the idea that we can create revolutionary social movements (we can't, but we can create groupings of militants that prefigure and agitate towards it).

The task of revolutionaries within mass movements is to develop revolutionary practices, structures, and consciousness through struggle. In this way I think dualism is correct, but I think you could even make other (less important) divisions, since you can have revolutionary networks, political currents within mass movements, etc.

Karl I actually think the role you see for the political organization might not be that far off from Jan in terms of how it has leadership. To me the question is what role it plays in the mass movement as to whether or not it is authoritarian. If it takes a position of authority where it can coerce its line onto the working class, then it is authoritarian. But if it is agitating as a section of the class, and leads through demonstrating the correctness of its vision through practice and debate, that is the same as any group of people who agree working together (just more refined and effective).

author by Karl Blythepublication date Tue Jun 03, 2008 02:25Report this post to the editors


Looking at your remark on the organization's "leadership," and back again over my last comment, I can see that this needs more clarification to avoid any misconceptions.

When I say that it should "lead the working class in organizing itself along revolutionary lines" etc., I am not speaking in any way of asserting authority or coercing its line on working class organizations. The working must always freely organize, and the mass organizations must be autonomous in that sense most of all. But I believe it is profoundly error to think that those organizations cannot adopt a revolutionary stance. Certainly, it would be ridiculous to think that these organizations will adopt an anarchist program, but that is not the same as adopting a revolutionary stance. There will not be a revolution unless the working class takes a consciously revolutionary position, and the best gauge of this is in its autonomous mass organizations. If those organizations refrain from adopting a revolutionary stance, their revolutionary tasks will be much more difficult, and there is no way the revolution will keep its momentum over a long period.

The purpose of the our specific organization must be to infuse the working class with a revolutionary spirit, which takes forms of both organization and action (struggle). It cannot arrogate itself to an authoritarian role, but it must become a real active force in the broader struggle. It should both push for more militant tactics with further-reaching goals in the immediate struggles, and it should expand upon those struggles in order to carry them beyond an immediate scene into a larger social arena. In that way we lay the groundwork for a similar process in which the class struggle moves from immediate scenes of struggle with immediate demands, to a far-reaching revolutionary struggle.

author by jan Makandalpublication date Sun Jun 08, 2008 22:12Report this post to the editors

The points raised on the fourth paragraph are quite interesting. Before I go any further I would like to mention some concerns. I am for all debates within our movement in the spirit of consolidating unity. I have been following the debate between Anarchists and Maoists. I am neither, but it seems that this debate is addressing secondary aspects of our struggle and our apparent stagnation. I also think it is a debate from different groups that share similar visions. These debates are a manifestation of a backyard mentality that can only lead to sectarianism and ultra-leftist attitudes, detrimental to the construction of a proletarian alternative. By the way, I think present-day Maoism is a deformation, a misinterpretation of Maos contribution to proletarian struggle by petit bourgeois left radicalism.

My different comments were addressing, exclusively, working class organizations. I will try to address different points that are intertwined. In doing so, I will do my best not to be repetitive.

1] I think the two legged is fundamentally different from the dualist concept. On the contrary, I think the two-legged addresses, in the objective reality, the different levels of struggle of the working class but also the two levels are also the embryonic form of the new society we strive for. As mentioned before, a training ground, a sort of schooling, a terrain where we are constantly learning in a wide range of different social aspects, how to destroy capitalism and how to build a new society. I think this is a ground, in the midst of these struggles, where the workers will have to deal with a wide variety of contradictory realities. For example, the question of an old state versus the new one at the same time working for the extinction of this new state. The objective of the working class, in social formations dominated by capitalism or fully developed capitalist state, is, in essence, a political practice defining and constantly rectifying a unified strategy and tactic of revolutionary struggle for the ultimate objective of political power. This is where the question of autonomy, fundamentally, has its importance. The proletariat first, needs to situate itself, based on its relative strengths and weaknesses in any conjuncture, in relation to other dominated classes, and coordinate all the struggles in its own interest. In fact, there is a necessity, an ultimate necessity, to direct different forms of antagonistic struggles in a social formation, so that the fundamental antagonism, capital and labor, overlaps all other contradictions and ultimately determines them. The question of autonomy relates to the process through which the proletariat builds its own organization, participating in constructing organizations of other dominated classes and in terms of political line, defining an orientation in the struggle against capital.

2] In other to advance in the proletarian struggle we need to constantly appropriate two realities, dialectically linked, the processes of capitalist exploitation and the processes of proletarian revolution. This advancement has been somewhat slowed, stagnant, due to the low level of autonomous, scientific, working class struggle and the interference of non-proletarian revolutionaries in this struggle. We need to retake this struggle and really contribute to the production of theories to further our struggle based on two realities, Surplus value and the dictatorship of the proletariat, where the dictatorship is/must be our goal. The only way to truly fully understand capitalism is to base our study on the interest of the proletariat. We need to be able to analyze the different forms of capitalism, its history, from the point of view of proletarian dictatorship. In fact, for the proletariat to adopt a political line, as you mentioned, it cannot be achieved outside a vision of that class taking political power and leading the whole society to a new pathway. The political struggle of the workers, at the mass level as well as the revolutionary level, is due to its relation to capital, as the only force capable to achieve such historical task. Other dominated forces in our time have waged valiant struggles, some even revolutionary, but came short of achieving such an objective. After 50 years, we could point, as an absolute relative truth, that the petit bourgeoisie is historically incapable, even in its most radical sector and its most intellectual sector, to even come close to such historical goals. The struggle, led by the petit bourgeoisie at the revolutionary level was able to force a certain level of capitalist restructuration, for example Cuba, even if in these struggles we could find socialist tendencies, not to be confused with a proletarian concept of total radical transformation of the social relationships of production. We could have taken more complex experiences, in their own right, such as China and Vietnam to prove the point that only the working class could lead us to a new path. I even think that if the petit bourgeoisie were not the product of inherent contradictions of capitalism, capital would create that class because of its role as a buffer in the struggle. The petit bourgeoisie has to deal with its own contradictory reality, its social aspiration as a class and its resistance to domination under capitalism. This class is not fully facing exploitation, but it is still dominated in relation to capital. Its social aspiration and the fact it is being dominated, induces some level of resistance, even revolutionary at time, but, without proletarian revolutionary leadership, it eventually reverts to serving capital and building capitalism. The civil rights movement in the US, the anti-apartheid movement in South-Africa, the Negritude movement in Haiti all favored the interests of the petit bourgeoisie and at the end of the day rendered these struggles reformist in essence. This is the problematic of the Maoist movement that has nothing to do with Maos contributions to proletarian struggle. Both Mao and Ho Chi Min raised respectively, at least in theory, a valuable point in the struggle in their own social formation because workers were a small minority in the party. Mao also insisted on the concept of New Democracy, and the principal role the working class needs to play in that process, the hegemonic role the working class needs to play in fostering a transition to socialism in social formations where two antagonistic modes of productions coexist, Feudalism and Capitalism. At no time did he articulate this concept as a distinct stage (i.e. feudalism, capitalism, socialism), but rather as an uninterrupted revolutionary process, where the proletariat directs the revolution through its various stages. It was a transition being done simultaneously where two political tasks were being accomplished: a socialist one [dealing with capitalism] and a Democratic task [dealing with feudalism]. Whether now we agree with this or not, is not the point, but what made it revolutionary then was an attempt to answer a social contradictory reality, a new element brought to the table of proletarian alternative. So what is going on in Nepal now is basically an attempt to restructure a society where capitalism will impose itself as the hegemonic class. Therein lies also the importance of the question of autonomy of the working class, even in social formations where the workers are a minute minority in the struggle against capital, they need to be the leading force, and they need to organize themselves autonomously in order to be able to do so. One of the problematics of the petit bourgeoisie is that they tend, in their ambivalence, to substitute their problems as a dominated class to the problems of the proletariat while the real issue of the proletariat is being put on the back burner. In reality, for total emancipation, the struggle of other dominated classes is to wage struggle, in their own interest, but ultimately in the interest of the proletariat. The struggle against apartheid was a positive struggle, but stripped of the struggle against capital, that struggle in the final analysis was reformist.

I just received and read you latest comment, organizing struggle party and class, some points in this commentary will cover it as well.

3] The organizational triangular concept you raised, I tend to agree with it, as long as we include other classes. So therefore before I go further I will raise a very important point. This valuable point is brought up in the mind set of unity with your point but it may bring another level of disagreement in our constructive debate. For me a silent political cancer has been destroying our movement to the core, this disease is populism. This silent disease developed in the midst of proletarian struggle. In this manner proletarian revolutionaries saw fit to resolve inherent contradictions. The problematic of proletarian political power was addressed or was thought of being addressed in many social formations. I do agree with you, in my own interpretation, the limitations in the proletarian nature of these political organizations in many countries in Eastern Europe, or China and Vietnam. In many cases the dialectical relation between Party and Masses, in general, in particular party and working class did not really exist or was totally deformed by a bureaucratic structure and reduced to political commissary and Party instead of the real objective role the working class needed to play in building new social relations. So in reality, it was the production and reproduction of new relations between Capital and Labor that we were witnessing. This is the reason we need to break away from that backyard mentality and really, in the midst of proletarian struggle, develop our capacity to give a proletarian interpretation to these formal abstracts.

4] I am fully in agreement with you on the limitation and errors of a proletarian revolutionary such as Lenin. I will even go further to say that that his positions on where do revolutionary ideas come from are totally wrong. It is now our responsibility to rectify these mistakes in the sense of consolidating our science based on dialectical and historical materialism. The question of political power needs to be addressed as the power of the masses under the leadership of the proletariat. From the onset, the question of the State apparatus, principal instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat, cannot be and should not be the instrument of centralization of the means of productions, even under the leadership of the proletariat. The State, in the sense of a centralization of a new type, should be the result, the product of the organized masses and workers. For me, the new proletarian state should be also a no-state. This should not be interpreted as a process of transition between the existence of the state and dissolution of that state. The non-state also is not an absolute zero, the absence of the state. This will be the task of the proletariat to come with a new concept, but now I will simply identify it also as a contradictory reality. Many of these mistakes led to some very erroneous political practices at the level of theory, developing a political line and also political practices. Also, the capacity of the working class, the limitation of that struggle and the over all experiences did not permit the working class, at these historic times, to rectify and enter a new path. Also the limitations, the lack of experience, did not allow a real confrontation on the deviations that were occurring at the time and created at the time a possibility for the class to enter into a new path. The non-dialectical relations that existed, (or if they existed, it was a total deformation), the non existence of the dialectical relation of Party and the class [workers] for example, formented the construction of a new class; the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, inside the social formation. In this context many, many concepts, fundamental concepts either were losing their theoretical content or simply did not develop and remained stagnant. For example, inside many of these social formations, with the presence of that Bureaucratic Bourgeoisie, many revolutionaries were calling them socialist. In some cases they were simply identify them as nationalist. Even by staying so, we should not deny the role these revolutionaries played, however limited, in the advancement of our theory.

5] Populism is a political, theoretical and ideological approach, of looking at the masses, the peoples camp outside of any class problematic, to be more precise, without seeing the masses as a group of social agents that have specific relations of production [economy]. In a dominant manner, populists will always base this vision from the interest of a particular social group, mainly the petit bourgeoisie. So when the concept of people or mass are used we do not see their social differences and also their social interests, which in some cases could be very antagonistic.

I will agree with the triangular concept under these premises:

a] The working class will autonomously, independently, build its own organization in relation to the organization of other classes in the peoples camp.

b] The working class will construct-build itself as the hegemonic force in relation, to the other classes, and in final analysis, all the struggles waged will be in the objective to weaken or to destroy capitalism.

c] The revolutionary elements from the other classes, the non proletarian revolutionaries, should, thru intense political and ideological struggle, recognize their own limitation and also recognize that their own salvation is the leadership of the working class.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Mon Jun 09, 2008 15:51Report this post to the editors


First I will say that I basically agree with you on debates for consolidating unity, etc., but it must be said as well that what some call "sectarianism" is quite simply a difference of principles, and compromising of one's principles is no better than sectarianism. That is a lesson that anarchists have had to learn the hard way time and again historically, and so it is a bit short-sighted when statists and particularly Marxists and/or Leninists denounce anarchist "sectarianism." That said, I very much like and appreciate the spirit of your comments, so I am not accusing you in the slightest bit of that sort of hypocrisy.

Now then, addressing your comments in the same numerical order:

To your first paragraph: I do not see where the difference is, substantially (as opposed to rhetorically), between the "two legged" concept and the "dualist" concept. If there is a difference, it is only slight: one prescribes a "revolutionary level" and a "democratic level," while the other prescribes a homogenous or specific "political organization" and a heterogeneous "mass organization." The difference here is not the forms, or even the level of activity (that varies from group to group, and from person to person), but rather in terms of the sort of dialectic that occurs, as you have been speaking of. Specifically, you speak of the "revolutionary level" being the determinant, and politically speaking this makes sense if what you mean is that the revolution is the fundamental objective that supersedes immediate struggles, even though the former grows out of the latter; whereas dualism emphasizes the revolutionary role of the mass organizations and puts the "party," so to speak, in a supportive as opposed to determinant role, which again makes sense when we consider that it is the organized masses who will collectively carry out the revolution.

Thus the difference is more conceptual than organizational: the "two-legged" concept emphasizes modes of action which involve some overlap between different organizations, where dualism emphasizes modes of organization which involve some overlap between different levels of struggle. And therein lies the key point as I see it, and the importance of the "triangular" model: it recognizes two different levels of struggle and two different levels of organization, each one overlapping to some extent and dialectically linked as you say, and it then specifies the synthesis or the conjunction of those different levels of struggle and organization -- the ideal of proletarian revolutionary organization. That is also, I think, how the complex problems of autonomy and revolution, party and class, etc., are all more or less definitely resolved without excluding one aspect for the other.

To your second paragraph: I have summarized points above, but now I will pose something more like a question (if not directly then at least by implication). To a large extent I agree with you on emphasizing the proletariat and its interests, and recognizing the limitations of radical intellectual and petit bourgeois movements. However, I think the problem is a lot a more complicated and is not addressed properly by simply saying we must place the proletariat at the head of the people's camp. In the first place, it is perhaps worth specifying what is meant by "proletariat" and "petit bourgeois," given that each of those words has multiple, sometimes controversial meanings, and have been a source of much confusions historically. Beyond that, it has to be recognized that even the proletariat, even in its most reduced, simple form (i.e. when the lines between capital and labor are clearly drawn without any overlap or grey area in between), is subject to multiple, and sometimes contradictory interests -- contradictions between self-interest vs. class interest, immediate interests vs. long-term or "fundamental" (in a manner of speaking) interests, etc. The roots of economicism and reformism, be it parliamentary or syndicalist, are to be found in such self-contradictory interests. Furthermore, it is not enough to argue for class unity on the basis of economic interest for its own sake. All too often that has been followed by former proletarians becoming bourgeois and acting as such due to changing interests. There have even been those Marxists who concluded on that basis that, in the under-developed countries, it would be necessary for the "revolutionary" state to develop industry along state-capitalist lines so as to complete the development of an advanced proletariat -- thus intentionally putting themselves in the position of capitalist exploiter as creator of the proletariat.

I think it cannot be approached in that way without leading to all sorts of insufferable contradictions as we have seen in the so-called "Communist" states. Rather, we must approach the problem in terms of outlining and grasping, in essence, the nature and structure of capitalist society and all other social forms (e.g. feudalism) that persist today, clearly drawing out the fundamental point, that is the revolutionary ideal of overthrowing the ruling class and emancipating the proletariat, and then basing our struggle around that fundamental ideal. So in a sense it the same as what you are saying, putting the proletariat's interest at the head, but that cannot be done in the form of a "proletarian dictatorship over the people's camp" or something of that sort (or to use the Bolshevik program, "dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry"). The truth of the matter is that it is even possible for individual bourgeois to place themselves on the side of the proletariat, and vice versa as well. The problem is then one of bourgeois "class traitors" as well as "petit bourgeois" with mixed interests, setting aside their other economic interests in order to take up the proletarian struggle. To put it very shortly, it is as much subjective as it is objective, and that can be both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on what country you are dealing with (i.e. whether the proletariat are the majority in the "people's camp" as opposed to "petit bourgeois).

Note: An example that is comparable in presenting this problem is with slavery. Only in Haiti, where the overwhelming majority of people were slaves in a complete sense, the overthrow of slavery occurred as a complete revolution against the ruling class; whereas in, say, the United States, the overthrow of slavery was in part the outcome of revolutionary struggle by slaves against their master, but also that of Northern abolitionists and anti-slavery capitalists fighting either for the interests of slaves at the expense of self-interest (abolitionists), or else for their own interests which coincided with those of the slaves (Northern capitalists). Thus the history of the anti-slavery struggle holds some really invaluable lessons and parallels to our own struggle against capitalism.

The points in your third paragraph have mostly already been addressed, or will be addressed later (i.e. populism), so then moving on to your fourth paragraph: Your comments here about the state apparatus within the revolution underscore an important question, which unfortunately is to long and detailed to discuss in this context without going off on a really wide tangent, but I will say a couple things just as considerations. First, this point where you speak of the state apparatus as the "principal instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat" is a point in which we disagree, naturally. To some extent, but not entirely, that disagreement may be merely rhetorical, as evidenced in the next comments in which you say the state "should not be the instrument of cntralization of the means of production," but that the latter must be "the product of the organized masses and workers"; and finally when you say "the new proletarian state be also a no-state" and the subsequent explanation you give of this.

As I see it -- and here is where the disagreement is, be it substantive or rhetorical (that can only be proven by real life practice beyond the realm of theory) -- the problem boils down to this (in very simplistic terms, but that will have to suffice for now): the state, in a classical sense, by its very nature is an instrument of class rule that is both controlled by the ruling classes, and perpetuates the exitsence of such classes, always existing over and apart from the masses. In other words, the state in its classical sense is really alien to the revolutionary work of the "organized masses and workers." Today our task is that of organizing the masses along revolutionary lines, to overthrow the state and capital. That can never be substituted by the objective of seizing control of the state apparatus as a weapon of class struggle, for that would defeat the very purpose of the struggle in the first place. In a sense we might think here of another dialectic: that of the spontaneous free action of the masses on one hand, and on the other hand the collective organization and concerted direction of those masses both in the revolutionary struggle and in contructing the new society. It would be a profound error to resolve this dialectic with a simple call to "conquer state power" as the Marxists do, as history has illustrated.

To your fifth paragraph: I agree there are severe flaws with any simplistic ideology of "populism." However, I do not think it is entirely accurate to describe it as "looking at the masses outside of any class problematic." That is true if you are speaking of a "theory of populism," however by its nature populism has always manifested itself in ways quite peculiar to the specific social and economic conditions of the society in question, and furthermore there are often competing versions of populism (example: Duvalier's "noiriste" bourgeois populism vs. Lavalas democratic populism). Populism has its place, as a mouthpiece to speak with the masses, and as a healthy balance against sterile economic dogmatism, but nonetheless it must tempered by more firm principles and scientific analyses.

As for your three premises, if I am understanding you corectly, I would say I am entirely in agreement with you, except that perhaps you should clarify what you mean by the working class as a "hegemonic force in relation to other classes." I am guessing this relates back to the issue of state power and "proletarian dictatorship," in which case I have already pointed out our differences. But if by "hegemony" you are talking simply of orientation of the struggle toward a clear-cut, definite objective overthrowing capital and building communism, then I agree 100% percent with that premise.

My apologies for the length of this post, and I hope it does not detract from the essential ideas. At any rate, this has been a very interesting and valuable discussion, I think, in elaborating a number of important concepts.

author by toddpublication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 00:17author email logos at riseup dot netReport this post to the editors

On the State-

One thing I take from Marx is what i call a ban on transhistorical categories. that is, sometimes people talk about "profit" and apply it to indigenous gift economies, feudal economies, capitalism, etc. Marx would point out how you loose the content of each of those by abstracting away the social relations.

The same would be true for the state. To call say directly democratic workers councils a state, would be to remove the state from its historical and social context and transpose it to another one.

I agree with Karl that the state is a historical entity, and one that arose in Europe (mostly) coevolving with capital. The state is an instrument of class rule marked by centralized decision making and instituionalizes hierarchical social relations (reproduced throughout society). Without centralized decision making, it's not a state (so workers councils, even if that have centralized activity, aren't states).

Likewise the state is inherently a tool of a ruling class, I don't think it is possible for the state to be a ruling class of the majority, since it sets up the structure for the seizure of society's control by the bureaucracy. The only solution to this is dissolving the centralized decision making of the state apparatus through workers and community councils.

That being said, I agree there has to be a transition to a stateless society. I draw my position on that from the FdCA who helps administrate this site. Their article is here

author by Karl Blythepublication date Thu Jun 19, 2008 02:43Report this post to the editors


I agree with you that the state must be considered and defined according to its historic place and function, and I also agree that is useless and sometimes dangerous to "abstract away" the definitions of social concepts such as the state or capital, but do remember that all such terms are subjective concepts which only exist to help explain and understand objective realities, which in fact are much too complex to simplify and generalize with perfect accuracy. The concept of the state is indeed a relatively modern one, and the term does indeed come from Europe, but the particular characteristics of the state can be pointed out clearly in ancient times (as in Egypt, Rome, etc.) and in many places outside of Europe both before and after the concept of the state was developed. In fact, I would say the best example and, for us, case study of the state as an institution and its relationship to the ruling class, is the Chinese state from ancient times right through to today.

I would go ahead and discuss in detail the characteristics of the state, varying definitions, etc., but it would be rather long and a major tangent from the subject of the main thread and original article so I will refrain from it for now. However, for a detailed discourse I would suggest looking at Kropotkin's essay on "The State: Its Role and Function," which I have not read all of but from the parts I read I thought explained it very well, plus I can guess wuld be a good piece based on other readings of his which touched quite well on the subject.

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:15Report this post to the editors

Answer 1 to questions
I guess on the two-legged questions there is a fundamental difference pertaining to line, political practice and objective. I do think depending also of the general political situation in any given social formations, the nature of bourgeois democracy [repressive nature] and the limitation of bourgeois democratic rights, the functionality of a mass movement and a revolutionary level could be quite different
I do not agree that proletariat and petit bourgeois are just words. For me, these words are concepts, which have theoretical value that are not supposed to be static. Theory needs to be dynamic, vibrant, especially theory that deals with the interpretation of reality through formal abstract concepts, in constant formation, within these dynamic social formations. Inside these social formations, in their development, these concepts carry the trademarks of the modes of productions in which they are developing.
In general, Proletariat and the Petit Bourgeoisie are two classes that have a specific relation to production [economy] and therefore quite different interest and objectives. Since classes in any social formation are not impermeable to the dominant ideology, collectively or individually, these social agents [classes] are constantly under the influence of the ideology of the class[es] that dominate[s] that particular society. The revolutionary level must wage ideological struggle, principally among the proletariat, among all dominated and exploited classes to breakaway from the dominant ideology, bourgeois or feudal.
Without proletarian leadership, the organized masses, even at their highest level of organization, cannot guarantee consistency in a revolutionary process. It is in the nature of such organizations; their lack of political unity prevents such organizations from coming up with a revolutionary strategy to confront a well-organized enemy.
This question has been at the core of the struggles of the labor movement in the US since the 1800s. The mass workers movement started as local labor organizations with no connection to one another, waging their own struggles, leading a precarious existence. Their own class struggles against capital led the labor movement to start building a larger mass movement. The factory workers were first to use the word union in the name of their organizations, such as The Mechanics Union of Trade Associations in their struggle for a 10-hour day. These workers waged strong struggles against exploitation and social inequality. Even in their declarations, their demands were the demands of a mass movement. Even if the Mechanics Union of Trade Associations was an important step forward in the struggle of the workers in the US, it was facing from the onset that contradictory reality I spoke of. They participated in state and city elections. Their rank dwindled and that organization dissolved.
I will not debate, in this arena, their participation in bourgeois politics. But the fact they dissolved, by participating in elections, is a lesson to learn from. Soon after their dissolution, the general Trades Union was organized and declared in their constitution, in its official newspaper, the National Laborer, that no party, political, or religious questions shall at any time be agitated in or acted upon in the union. They even declared that the Trades Union would never be political because its members have learned from the past and the introduction of politics into their organizations has hampered their efforts to ameliorate their conditions. An important step was taken to unify the struggle of the workers, when the National Trades Union was organized in the 1800s. Although it was serious attempt to unify the workers of different trades into a national body, this structure was also faced with that contradictory reality, workers raised the experiences of the merging of the Mechanics Union into the Working Mens Party and their dissolutions. Fearing a repetition of that experience, they decided to remove the word political and replace it with intellectual.
I like to point out even at that time, and as reinforcement of my point, there was a dire need for an independent and autonomous revolutionary level. Even in their narrow objectives, the workers were faced with a political reality: the difficulty of trade unions to improve labor conditions [a similar situation exists in Haiti]. From that difficulty the idea emerged that it was possible for workers, through elections, to take over the government and use it in their own interest. The state apparatus has shown clearly that it was principally a political structure to organize bourgeois democracy and to keep the workers disorganized. The bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie quickly found a place in the workers attempt to participate in bourgeois elections. Even in this case, workers were called upon to choose candidates that would represent the interest of the working class. In that period, the question of working class autonomy and independence was also facing American workers. As soon the petit bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie joined the Working Mens Party they started introducing their own interests, disrupting them from within and/or they started aligning them with existing bourgeois parties. Also the bourgeoisie with its propaganda machine and its usage of religion started to indoctrinate workers in the belief in the importance of private property. Only an organized proletarian autonomous revolutionary level could of adress the internal contradiction of the mass worker movement and also dealt accordingly with the attack of the bourgeoisie.
Neither the socialists nor the communists had a correct orientation in building combative working class organizations. Even if class antagonisms induced valiant struggles from the workers, these struggles remained limited due to the incorrect relations between the revolutionary level and the mass movement, in particular the working class. The end result was that class struggle limited itself to the popular mass level and by doing so, it remained under the domination of the ruling classes. Their political lines were either a reformist electoral orientation or a heavy top down control of the trade unions. In many instances the sold out leadership of the trade unions did prevent them in attempting to achieve the top down political control.
The political practices of the communists were also heavily influenced by populism. The call for a class farmer-labor party or for the Workers Party to become a mass Communist party was an attempt that objectively did not clearly and explicitly define the role of the working class. This is one of the characteristics of populism, especially petit bourgeois populism, to negate the leadership role of the proletariat in a capitalist mode of productions even at the higher stage of capitalism, imperialism. Most of the efforts of the communists were geared toward the building of the Labor party. Attempts to build that Labor Party were thwarted by the concerted effort of the Socialists and the sold out unions officials.
I will also take the example of the RCP [Revolutionary Communist Party] that disbanded N.U.W.O. [National United Workers Organization] and dropped the role of the workers in a revolutionary process in an imperialist mode of production, at the same time engaging the Party in political practices that only guaranteed its reproduction in the petit bourgeoisie. Similar experiences occurred in different social formations. This was the case of Vietnam where the Communist Party changed its name to the Party of Labor, under the leadership of the petit bourgeoisie. China was another experience, although they kept their name, the Communist Party of China, but the base of the party was the peasantry, and the proletariat really did not have its autonomous political party.
For me in other to advance, we need to really learn from these practices, to rectify and lay new groundwork, we must not repeat these mistakes in our continuance of proletarian struggles.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Thu Jun 26, 2008 02:14Report this post to the editors

First, a correction: on the state, see Kropotkin's essay titled *The State: Its Historic Role,* not "The State: Its Role and Function." Apologies for the confusion. Now then...


I think we are finally getting to the heart of the matter when it comes to this "two-legged" concept, etc., due to some very important points you've just raised. First I should say that I am in complete agreement with you about the need for theoretical dynamism, matching the real dynamic nature of class relations, and so on. The very fact of that dynamism, which naturally complicates the issue of the class struggle, is exactly why I think it is insufficient to talk simply about the "leadership role of the proletariat," especially when taken together with the subjective problem of class consciousness and revolutionary orientation. That said, again, in principle I agree with you that a *proletarian line* must be the fundamental basis and focal point of revolutionary organization and struggle.

One problem is this issue "proletariat" versus "petit bourgeois." I am not saying that these are "just words" without substantial import. Quite the contrary, I believe that many people take these words much too lightly in the way that they are thrown about without a real careful analysis. From an economic standpoint, "proletariat" can have more than meaning, which is why I say we need specification. Likewise "petit bourgeois" in its frequent usage encompasses a very wide range of social and economic actors whose interests do not always coincide. For instance, you referred to the peasantry, if I understand you correctly, being petit bourgeois and thus part of the reason for the faults and contradictions of Chinese "communism." But I think that is not a correct interpretation and I believe it is coming from a traditional Marxist analysis that is fundamentally misses the mark due to an excess of economic dogmatism. For one thing, in very many cases historically the peasants have been more devoted to the revolution and been more radical in their direction than a lot of urban workers and particularly trade unions. In fact, those economic factors which lead many theorists to describe peasants as "petit bourgeois" are often more firmly entrenched as factors among the unions, the latter being focused on immediate struggles for wage increases or benefits packages while the peasants are more definitely antagonistic towards the ruling classes. Thus we find that it is not as simple as "private property interests" of peasants versus "socialist interests" of workers, for it is also a matter of where the struggle is directed and what the organizational basis is of such struggle.

That above consideration is what leads me to conclude that a proletarian line is not at all a mere question of organizing workers or, more specifically, wage-laborers, against the employers. It is a given that in the course of developing the struggle that there will be many quite limited battles in terms of their objectives (wage hikes, benefits, job security, etc.), and historically it has proven to be the case that enough of such limited battles, if sucessful, can dull the militancy of the working class and lead it to accept a collaborative relationship with employers. In that sense, contrary to the old stereotypes, the urban wage-earner is often more "petit bourgeois" in character than the poor peasant. (It is admittedly a different matter with middle-class farmers, but that really is more of an issue in "first world" countries than in the underdeveloped countries.)

Now, you have addressed this problem in part, and more or less correctly in my opinion, in terms of an independent "revolutionary level." However, the question cannot be adequately resolved in that way, as it still does not address the question of how the "democratic" or popular mass level can achieve a consistently revolutionary orientation without being subordinated to the party or something of that sort. I suppose that abstract talk about a "three sided" approach doesn't really suffice as it is a bit vague and specific elaboration. But I think you have really nailed the issue, so to speak, without quite spelling out the conclusion, in your remarks about immediate workers' struggles and the "internal contradiction" of the mass worker movement. I beleive that from a strategic standpoint, the solution here rests in the capacity of the "revolutionary level" to capitalize upon such immediate struggles and make of them a basis for intensifying and expanding the class struggle. That means that an immediate struggle, with its limited objectives, must be approached by revolutionaries as a focal point around which to organize. That is to say, we should push for a militant tactical line and also we should use each particular battle as point around which to organize broader layers of the masses outside the immediate scene, to support the specific struggle. That is also the basis then of establishing a more firmly-grounded relationship between the different sections of the working class and masses in general, that increasingly acts as a sort of revolutionary engine or motor force. In some respects this is exactly what revolutionary syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism seek to achieve, but lack some important tools in this regard especially when it comes to the "revolutionary level" etc.

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Mon Jun 30, 2008 03:12Report this post to the editors

Answer 2 to questions:
I do agree with you that some elements of the working class will betray the struggles and will even become bourgeois or bourgeois lackeys. These are ideological problems that need to be struggled with and dealt with.
In every class in society we need to recognize 3 levels. Each one of these levels represents complex systems of structures and social practices, and these complex structures determine all elements (structure and practice) that manifest themselves inside them:
1] Economic structure and practice, productions and circulation of goods and services
2] Political structure and practice, coercion, repression and the judicial system
3] Ideology: Ideas, theories, habits, attitudes, perceptions, customs etc
These structural systems determine the social practices that are constantly developing and evolving inside them and that are also constantly developing and evolving. In the relationship between these 3 levels, the economic structure and economic practices, in the final analysis, tend to determine the other two levels that I will categorize as superstructures.
You raised a concern that some Marxists concluded on the need to develop industry along state capitalist lines to complete the development of an advanced proletariat, thus putting themselves in the position of capitalist exploiters as creators of the proletariat. Although your concern is correct, I do not agree with your assessment. I do not think their intent was to develop another form of capitalism, although the result was capitalism.
For me there are two systems that make up the economic structure: the system of productive forces and the system of social relations of productions. These two systems are linked dialectically. At first, proletarian revolutionaries such as Marx, Engel and Lenin insisted on the development of productive forces. They showed how the conditions for the development of the productive forces are prerequisite conditions in the development of these societies. Marx and Engel insisted on the development of the productive forces that overlap social divisions between exploiters and exploited. They tried to prove that the development of the productive forces would create social surplus and that, without this social surplus, the pathway for a classless society cannot be build. This conception of the role of productive forces had a negative impact on the political struggle and also in the building of a political line. We can find the theoretical base of this conception in the Communist Manifesto and in Lenins State and Revolution. We find it in the political line of the Communist Party of Russia, China and many left organizations in the Caribbean and Latin America. All of them insist on the development of the productive forces as core conditions to establishing a communist society. In reality, the implication of that theory and the political line evolving from that theory is that the socialist state must primarily promote the development of productive forces, leading to collective social abundance and collective wealth as the basis for a establishing a communist society. This conception was very mechanical and helped develop an erroneous political line that totally neglected the transformation of social relations.
From the lessons learned in different revolutionary processes, particularly the Chinese revolution through Mao, it has become clear that the social relations of production are determinant in the economic structure and practices, and in their transformation. In fact, the role of the proletariat, the hegemonic role of the proletariat in the peoples block, must be to direct this process that will determine the radical transformation of social relations and bring exploitation and all class divisions to an end.

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Mon Jun 30, 2008 03:29Report this post to the editors

Answer 3 to questions
I do agree with you on the fact that the proletarian dictatorship cannot be over the masses or over the peasantry. Proletarian dictatorship cannot be only a political line of the working class and all its organizations, in a sense to achieve the emancipation of the masses and the eventual abolition of classes. Proletarian dictatorship is also an inevitable historical period, implying all contradictory tendencies of the capitalist means of production, in its specific formula of extorting surplus value, that are the origins of all historical forms of exploitations.
Surplus value is the ultimate expression of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat is its response. As soon as capitalist exploitation begins, proletarian revolution forms it own tendencies that objectively commend proletarian politics. For me, surplus value doesnt only represent a source of economic exploitation and social, political and ideological pressures on the life of the masses, especially the workers. Surplus value is class struggle itself inside the process of capitalist production and its reproduction. Surplus value is the concept of the history of conditions of class struggle. It is in fact the base of the development of capitalist production and capitalist exploitation. Surplus value is the basis of capitalist exploitation from the point of the working class.
The success of proletarian revolution in any social formation cannot only depend on the working class. Even in social formations where capitalism coexists with feudalism, class struggle is not only a battle of the workers against capitalism. Proletarian revolution will depend on the capacity of the working class and all its organizations to rally the other dominated classes and unify them, under its leadership, against the ruling exploiting classes. To rally and unify the others classes under its leadership, of course the proletariat needs to have a democratic process in which unity is being build, not imposed. The proletariat and its most advanced detachment cannot be instigators, as you put it, nor conspirators as the RCP puts it, transformers from the old to the new. I agree with you on your last point on the question of hegemony, although there may be room for in-depth discussions to fill any void.

author by Jan Makandalpublication date Mon Jun 30, 2008 03:37Report this post to the editors

Answer 4 to question as well as Todd
Todd, I will disagree with you and Marx, in case you agree with him, that the state is a historical entity coevolving with capital. But I dont think your interpretation was at all one expressed by Marx, especially after the proletarian experience in the Paris commune. As long as there are classes, classes that exist in antagonistic relations, the state apparatus is the instrument of domination and solidarity, the guardian of maintaining domination and solidarity of the dominant classes over the dominated classes; the state apparatus is the normal form of class dictatorship.
In capitalist society, bourgeois democracy relying on voting and all its political parties is the normal expression of bourgeois dictatorship. Proletarian revolution can only be successful by destroying the capitalist state apparatus. Most revolutions have only tried to perfect it.
The political class nature of the state is determined by the mode of productions that is determinant in any social formation. [Slave State, Feudal State, Capitalist State]. Even the Slaves of Haiti understood clearly the concept of class dictatorship especially in the 2 years following the independence of Haiti.

author by Karl Blythepublication date Thu Jul 03, 2008 16:28Report this post to the editors

I agree almost entirely with what you say in "Answer 2 to questions." However, I must mention that Lenin at least was quite clear in his writings about the supposed need to develop state capitalism as the necessary stage before socialism, viewing in terms as you have said of the development of productive forces, and arguing that it was necessary and inevitable to develop state capitalism in Russia before industrial socialism could be build.

In "Answer 3 to questions" you have argued on the question of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." First, I should specify that I personally am not a proponent of the theory of "proletarian dictatorship" because I think it is a misleading term and also because it is most commonly identified with statist and especially Marxist-Leninist concepts that I profoundly disagree with. However, the rhetorical aspect aside, and dealing with question in terms proletarian revolution and working-class power, etc., I will say a couple things. Your comments about surplus value are a little confusing to me, as I have always understood these two concepts as addressing rather different questions -- surplus value is an abstract economic conception of capitalist exploitation, and it is in that sense only that, as you say, "Surplus value is class struggle itself inside the process of capitalist production and its reproduction"; proletarian dictatorship is a political conception of the proletariat's revolutionary power over and against the bourgeoisie and the counterrevolution. Beyond that, I mostly agree with your remarks the need for unity, etc., in the revolution.

Finally, on the state, I will say a couple things. I agree that the state does not only coevolve with capital, but rather in general it is an institution of class rule and reflects the existence of class antagonisms, although there are cases of class antagnism existing without the presence of a fully developed state. Your saying, by the way, that "the state apparatus is the normal form of class dictatorship" is a good case in point explaining my distrust of the so-called "proletarian dictatorship."

The state apparatus is certainly an institution of class rule, not so much by definition but by function, since the state as an institution is normally controlled by the ruling class or classes and is used to serve their class interests at the expense of the lower classes. But the state apparatus as an institution also has certain particular characteristics, which in fact to a large extent are its defining characteristics. The defining characteristics of the state are such that it always exists over and against the masses, which is part of why it is such a useful and effective institution for the ruling classes to control society. To speak of a "proletarian state" is, in my view, practically a contradiction in terms, since the state exists at the service of the ruling classes and is always opposed to the masses. The masses and the working class therefore must organize their power in other ways than the state, and really the state apparatus cannot be the instrument of "proletarian dictatorship" if we take the latter to mean the absolute power of the proletariat.

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