- First, The Scoreboard:
A) Dead Parrots
1) Committee for a Revolutionary Communist Party in Australia;
2) Communist Left Discussion Circle;
3) Communist Party Advocate(s) [i];
4) International Socialist Organisation (ISO) [ii];
5) Marxist Initiative;
6) Marxist Solidarity Network [iii];
7) National Preparatory Committee of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Australia;
EIGHT) New Era Communist Party of Australia;
9) Socialist Action Group [ii];
10) Socialist Appeal;
11) Socialist Democracy;
12) Socialist Labor Party of Australia;
13) Solidarity [ii];
14) Workers’ League;
15) Workers’ Power [iv].
B) Twilight Zone
1) October Seventh Socialist Movement;
2) Permanent Revolution [iv];
3) Trotskyist Platform;
4) World Socialist Party of Australia.
C) Hail Satan!
1) Communist League;
2) Communist Party of Australia (CPA);
3) Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) (CPA-ML);
4) Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP);
5) Freedom Socialist Party (FSP);
6) Progressive Labour Party (PLP);
7) Radical Women (see FSP);
EIGHT) Resistance (see DSP);
9) Socialist Alliance (SA; see DSP);
10) Socialist Alternative (SAlt);
11) Socialist Equality Party (SEP);
12) Socialist Party (SP);
14) Spartacist League of Australia [v];
15) Workers’ Liberty (AWL).
- Now, The Devil:
[i] Communist Party Labor Tribune Advocates of the World Unite and Take Over!
“Labor Tribune promotes analysis from a Marxist perspective. Our supporters are predominantly members of the Austalian Labor Party (ALP)”; the brainchild of Marcus Strom, Labor Tribune represents one of the last gasps of the Left in the ALP, and has replaced (May 2006) the more ominously titled Communist Party Advocates.
[ii] Solidarity is dead! Long live Solidarity!
Perhaps the most exciting spotting news of recent times is the announcement by the remnants of the post-Socialist Alliance ISO, a breakaway from Socialist Alternative in Brisbane called the Socialist Action Group and another, Sydney-based breakaway from the ISO called Solidarity to merge into the one organisation, called Solidarity. This took place at a conference in Sydney on the first weekend of February 2008.
[iii] Maybe if we changed our name…
A minor split from the DSP a few years ago (July 2006), the Marxist Solidarity Network (nee Leninist Party Faction) has changed its name (but not its spots) twice: first to ‘Workers & Community First’, latterly to ‘Direct Action’. Its leading spokesperson, Jorge Jorquera, stood for the seat of Derrimuit in the 2006 Victorian state election. Unfortunately, Jorquera came last, garnering just 275 votes or 1.0% of the total. Worse yet, a member of the DSP’s arch-rivals in the CEC, Rod Doel, gained 330 votes, or 1.2% of the total.
[iv] What Do You All Think About A Sixth International Then?
One of the more entertaining stories concerning the Revolutionary Left is the saga of Workers’ Power. In July 2006, the five members of the Australian franchise dissolved, along with a small group of others, into another mob called permanentrevolution. However, “While the Australian section of Revolution [Workers’ Power yoof branch] was also thrown out of its organisation, Permanent Revolution Australia continues to support the ideals of a revolutionary youth international, and supports the iRevo tendency of Revolution in its fight to win Revolution back to political and organisational independence”. But wait! There’s more! “At the Revolution International Delegates Confere[n]ce, Prague 2006 (the highest decision making body of Revolution internationally), Revolution Australia was deemed to not be a section of Revolution anymore.”
[v] “I know you are but what am I?”
ISO, SAlt: Anti-Communists to the Core! scream the Spartacists:
Two groups in Australia who don’t claim capitalism has recently been restored in China are the International Socialists (ISO) and Socialist Alternative. These Laborite reformists consider the 1949 Chinese Revolution merely a step sideways to “state capitalism,” with the Chinese bureaucracy a new ruling class. This anti-Marxist “state capitalist” “theory” serves as a justification for their abiding hostility to the workers’ states and siding with “democratic” capitalism. Here they stand in the traditions of their British parent group, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the late Tony Cliff…
A w e s o m e.
to be followed by a list of successful and ongoing anarchist initiated projects I assume…
[Attack of the Anarchoids from Neptune! (June 1, 2008)]
Oceania / South/East Asia Directory
Watch this space!
@ grumpy cat:
Exactly. That ultra-sectarian response is similar to one I got from some dickhead yesterday while we were doing the stall. “I’m an anarchist” he yelled out as I asked him if he wanted to sign an anti-war petition, strolling past the stall with a contemptuous look on his face.
If I (as a socialist with anarchist tendencies) saw an anarchist stall somewhere, or met an anarchist anywhere doing something political, I would cling on to them for dear life, express solidarity, and try find out more about what they’re doing; their campaigns etc.. I’m not sure that all the members of SAlt would be the same, but I have commented to a number of members the importance of solidarity with the (non-Stalinist) revolutionary left, and I will continue to make those arguments.
I’m sad to say @ndy that you have no credibility when it comes to putting down other organisations if this blog and the anti-nazi website are the centres of your regular political activity.
If you want to be a sideline theoretician, stick to critiquing theories; making snide remarks about other organisations doesn’t help your cause.
Shit, that anarchist convention is on the same weekend as the Marxism conference and as my cousin’s wedding. How bloody annoying.
Juan Castro as far as solidarity with SAlt or even just acceptance of SAlt as a genuine socialist group goes i’d have to say fuck no… this is not out of mindless sectarianism as while i’d identify myself if asked as an anarchist i’m quite happy and willing to work with socialist groups and have many marxist friends (a significant proportion actually) and am myself a reformed marxist. i just can’t take seriously a personality cult/friendship circle mainly centralized around rich uni brats/high school students who have no idea how to fucking live and frankly come across as slumming it and playing revolution.
while i don’t know you and you may very well be an honest hard-working revolutionary who honestly wants to make a change you’ve aligned yourself with people who in my mind share the same level of credibility and deserve the same respect as the sparts.
(and i dare say many of the others who tell your crappy magazine pushing brethren to fuck off! would sympathize)
Petitions stop wars now?
Where do the signatures go?
I think we send them in every few months. The point is just to talk to people, give them a reason to stop.
So far I haven’t come across any of the personalty cult stuff you’re talking about, and I’m not really interested finding out more about that shit. Rich uni brats/high school students? I think there is one high school student, and I have no idea about the wealth of my comrades. None of those are attacks that make me think twice about the organisation to be honest.
All I know is that most of the comrades I’ve spoken to are serious about revolution, have read a shitload of stuff, know very little about union work, and are open about their strengths and weaknesses, and have a theory to explain why union work at the moment is not going to be the source of growth of the movement. I’m not sure if I totally agree with either analysis (SAlt’s focus on students or the ISO’s rejection of students), but when it comes down to it, the ISO forced the split, not the other way around.
I’m (sincerely) sure you have political issues with the group, how about you explain those?
At Juan: Where do you send them?
Hi juancastro (and others)
SAlt for me is beyond the pale (or is it pail?) because of their activities after the G20. Without an official apology / public withdrawal of their statements they are the one organisation I want nothing to do with – I can not even bring my self to talk to members I am still so angry about it all… and I’ll talk to almost anyone about anything any time.
In the meantime, let’s have some music.
I’ve gotta say, I wasn’t at the G20 rallies as I was in Alice Springs at the time… I was NOT happy to hear Mick’s denouncement of the actions taken by the Arterial Bloc. I’ve taken up the argument many times with people on the national exec and the melbourne exec… anybody who will listen basically. I think it was a bullshit decision that totally lost touch with the reality of our position as a minority of revolutionaries that need to support each other publicly.
I’ve got to say that I disagree with the politics behind the actions of the Arterial Bloc, but when push comes to shove, anarchists are our comrades, while the state will always be our enemy. Propaganda points come a distant [second] IMO.
Wow, that was a hastily written post, with no editing at all, and it shows. Sorry.
I think the signatures go to the Greens to submit in parliament.
In terms of “ultra-sectarian” responses, I’m unsure what you’re referring to, but it must be either the post itself (Trot Guide 2008 #1.0) or my very brief comment (“Oceania / South/East Asia Directory // Watch this space!”) following Dave’s virtual eye-rolling. In either case, your comment doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
In any case, I’ll assume that what you’re actually describing as being “ultra-sectarian” is my assessment of the state of the Marxist left in contemporary Australia (or at least insofar as its formal political expressions are concerned). To respond to your accusation, it would need to have some substance. Unfortunately, you provide none, instead recounting an incident involving an ‘anarchist’ which occurred when you were running a SAlt stall. Apparently, this person was rude: he yelled and had a ‘contemptuous’ look on his face. You, by contrast, would assuredly behave in a polite and respectful manner in the event you encountered an anarchist stall (say, at this year’s BDO).
Obviously, I’ve no idea who this person was. But let’s assume that they were, in fact, an anarchist. What — apart form sheer belligerence — might explain their behaviour? One possibility which occurs to me is the bad reputation SAlt has. That is, leaving aside the political differences that exist between anarchists and Trotskyists — and the violent repression of anarchism and anarchists by Trotsky himself and Bolsheviks, of one sort or another, the world over — I suggest this hostility may have something to do with the position adopted by SAlt following the G20 demonstrations in Melbourne in November, 2006. In case you were not aware of this, here’s what Mick Armstrong, the central figure and leading ideologue in SAlt, had to say about the matter (November 19, 2006):
Keep in mind that as a result of the protests, several dozen people are facing serious charges, including those of riot and affray. As I write, one person, Akin Sari (a dark-skinned “foreigner”) is sitting in jail. Also keep in mind that in 1992, Mick himself, along with a number of other Trots, faced similar charges as a result of a student demonstration. The rhetoric Mick employs now is an echo of the propaganda produced by corporate media at the time regarding those events, and the ‘anarchist crazies’ deemed responsible.
In my view, it would be hard to find a better example of ‘sectarianism’ — placing the interests of one’s own sect ahead of that of the movement as a whole. More than this, the tone of the response is not only alarmist and hysterical, but offensive.
Now you’re just being silly.
My purpose in blogging or responding to your comments hardly centres around establishing, to your satisfaction, my bona fides as a revolutionary. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Nor am I interested in entering into a dick-measuring competition. Suffice it to say that my ‘political activities’ extend beyond FDB! and blogging, and have done for some years.
With regards “putting down” other organisations, as far as I’m aware, none care, but if they do, they’re welcome, as you are, to comment. In general, however — with one or two exceptions — Trots avoid my blog like the plague. As to the production of critical theory and my ’cause’, excuse me if I prefer to reserve my own judgment.
“I’m (sincerely) sure you have political issues with the group, how about you explain those?”
yes i have issues to do with the politics of socialist alternative but it’s nothing really that ground breaking or note worthy, i don’t agree with scientific socialism … which is to say i don’t think it’s a science and don’t believe that it represents a desirable model for society. that said i’ll happily work with socialists on campaigns. my main problems with socialist alternative other than getting the distinct impression from all that i have met (and it’s a lot) that they are not serious and that they are interested more in the game than the ideals and that it’s akin to an extra curricular activity for them … is the extreme isolationist attitude about new members and sectarianism they displayed when i used to deal with them regularly (about 4 years ago). things like senior members like bloodworth running up and hurling abuse at you if you were from another group and talked to a new member; the complete refusal of SAlt members especially new members to read the opinions of outside groups but still have the stones to suggest they should read the SAlt magazine (which at last and only read sucked some major arse … i’m so glad i didn’t part with $2 for that thing); or the closed door policy of “open meetings” if you’re identified as being from another group or recruiting being pretty much only through friend’s circles or social events and not openly on the issues; or discouragement of people like a friend of mine who briefly joined from socializing with people not in SAlt … members asking a different friend of mine (not political) about socialism and when she said she knew about socialism and knew quite a few commies in the dsp/res being told by this group of SAlt members that dsp/res are not really socialists only SAlt are
so yeah i guess my main problem with SAlt is that it is a self righteous political closed minded ULTRA sectarian cultish bunch of little rich kids telling me and other poor people what will improve our lives when they have no idea what our lives are like and will be over this fashion trend before i can get so much as stable housing
that said not everyone in SAlt is necessarily bad or a moron but as a group it is indefensible
oh and as far as the iso causing the split i honestly don’t know the exact circumstances but to blame it on the iso i don’t think is entirely fair when i can’t see SAlt accepting a permanent faction inside their group actively criticizing the upper management … it’s an issue indicative of most socialist groups around OZ they hate their competition and they hate competition in their own party more
I’m not sure if you read my subsequent post, but I was and remain appalled by the decision made by Mick Armstrong and the organisation more generally to publicly denounce the Arterial Bloc.
Also, your extreme defensiveness is a bit boring. I’m honestly not here to pick a fight at all, but your persistently disparaging remarks towards every non-anarchist organisation on the left makes it difficult to maintain an open dialogue, and puts someone like myself on the back foot before we even begin to talk. Obviously you can continue to scoff at the actions of the non-anarchist left if you want, but it comes off as immature and ultra-sectarian IMO, and does little to build solidarity and inter-organisation relationships.
On that note, I’m wondering why it is that so many people are rabidly anti-SAlt, aside from personality clashes and bizarre anti-school/uni student elitism. I will bring that up next meeting I’m at, as obviously it is a concern for me as someone who feels sympathetic to both socialist and anarchist (specifically, anarcho-communism or syndicalism) movements.
BTW Having cancelled my cousin’s wedding invite, I’m hoping to make it to the final day of the anarchist convergence over the easter weekend. I would’ve gone to the whole thing but it coincides with the Marxism conference held by SAlt. Although by the sounds of it, I’m going to have to be wearing riot gear when people find out where I’m from. Maybe I’ll see you there on the sunday anyway.
Let us know how that one goes.
From what I understand, the only thing on the agenda for the anarcho thing is a convergence of existing groups to discuss federation. You may not get a lot out of it in that case. Someone else might be able to confirm what’s on.
And who is having personality clashes or is bizarrely elite?
1) Mick makes absolutely no reference to the Arterial Bloc in his statement. Instead, he refers to: anarchist crazies; ultra-violence; a hostile, contemptuous, abusive, threatening, ultra-sectarian blight of black bloc anarchists; provocateurs, riddled by police agents and fascists; the presence of considerable numbers of anarchists from overseas; at least 40 NZ anarchists of which at least 20 were known by name; people from Sweden, Germany and England, football hooligans who travel the world looking for violence…
2) Since then — over a year ago now — there has been no acknowledgment or apology from Mick or SAlt. I did, however, note Mick and SAlt’s presence at a rally in solidarity with the Urewera accused: the man is utterly shameless.
3) A further statement by SAlt — since removed from their site — was released on November 21, The left must take a stand against the elitist violence of the “Arterial Bloc”.
4) In June last year Mick treated us boys and grrls to ‘Is there anything radical about anarchism?’ (Socialist Alternative, No.117, June 2007). As I’ve already indicated, I wrote a lengthy reply to Mick. Last September, I even invited a SAlt member to respond. This was her reply:
A typical reaction, it seems. First, an inability to engage with the issues, followed by a ridiculously self-centred questioning of my ‘credentials’. It honestly doesn’t occur to such interlocutors that I may be engaged in political activities outside their ken. Finally, there is an obsessive pre-occupation with the construction industry, based on a spectacularly simple-minded approach to society and social change, social movement, culture and politics.
“pffft”, as they say.
5) I don’t regard what I write as being extremely defensive (or, alternatively, as being overly aggressive). Instead, I’ve gone to some lengths to reply to your commentary, both on issues to do with my own political activities, the local radical political milieu, and radical social theory generally. In short, I take you seriously. Perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps I should ignore you when you write that I am ultra-sectarian (for no apparent reason), compare me to a “dickhead”, opine that I have no credibility and should stick to being a sideline theoretician.
Honestly though, if you’d prefer I dismissed you, I will.
5) If you wish to know more about the anarchist hostility towards the contemporary legacy of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, you may wish to consider studying the origins of Bolshevism, and the repression of anarchism by the Bolshevik Party under the direction of Lenin and Trotsky. A sample:
To put it another way:
Fair enough to chuck the World Socialist Party of Australia into the Twilight Zone category, but there’s a smattering of them here and there in Australia.
Don’t know what they actually do in terms of activity, tbh, or how organised or connected to each other they are but I’ve seen them pop up in correspondence and/or the World Socialist Forum yahoogroup in recent months.
PS – spotted the link via the Leftist Trainspotter list
Yeah, the WSPA occupies the Twilight Zone. I don’t know of any recent activity, but there is a PO Box, which is definitely a start. The October Seventh mob probably belong with the other Dead Parrots, but I have some kinda vague recollection of seeing a flyer or some kinda document promoting their cause in the last year or two so… afaik, there’s still a few geriatric Stalinists hanging out at Victorian Trades Hall Council who are pinning their hopes on its resurgence. I may also be being a little unfair with regards Permanent Revolution (see also: Revo) — their website is still up and about and I’m not sure but I may have encountered a few of their members quite recently, so no disrespect.
As for Trotskyist Platform, I think it may be deceased. It’s exceedingly difficult to tell, as its occupant appears to have been just one person, that person being the former editor of the Australasian Spartacist, who defected (the cur!) in May 2005.
The other mob I haven’t discussed is the remnants of the Maoist groups of the late 60s / early 70s (that is, assembled outside of the CPA/ML). A number have gathered at lastsuperpower.net and — not surprisingly given the course of events — are very very cranky as they enter their twilight years.
THE ORGANISATIONAL PLATFORM OF THE FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIAN ANARCHISTS
Far from the Second World War having produced a stable system of great power blocs secure in their heartlands and held in frozen equilibrium by the threat of mutual nuclear annihilation, the three decades since the war have witnessed major convulsions in all the great powers, together with endless violence on the periphery of the world system.
In the East the last act of the Bolshevik Revolution is being played out: the conversion of ‘Soviet’ Russia into a gigantic authoritarian welfare state – with or without the restoration of private property. In the West the international currency and energy crises, the ‘great inflation’ and the current turn into recession clearly show the bankruptcy of the Keynesian liberal state and throughout the advanced countries the attempted synthesis of all classes and groups in the parliamentary reformist state is breaking down. If it is true that in almost all countries, labour has accepted the bourgeois state and become merely one sectional interest among others in the existing society, it is also true that it is in conflict with these other sectional interests and the field of conflict is widening.
A century after the foundation of the modern worker’s movement, anarchism’s main competitors stand condemned by history. Both party dictatorship and parliamentary reformism have had their chance and as the libertarian wing of the International Workingmen’s Association predicted, they have both failed when measured against the aim common to both wings of the classical workers movement. Moreover with them also lies a large share of the responsibility for the twentieth century holocaust. If today various micro-factions of ‘left’ labourites and ‘revolutionary’ Leninists rehearse doctrines that were already out of date in 1920, it is because they have learnt nothing from the last fifty years; nothing from Berlin, Kronstad, Budapest and Prague; nothing from Belsen, and Workuta; nothing from Stalin and Hitler.
Anarchism suffered the fate of any doctrine ahead of its time. It made the proletarian revolution its central concept at a time when the bourgeois revolution had not yet happened for the bulk of mankind. It was only the beginning of this century that saw a steady world-wide growth of anarchist and syndicalist organisations; a rise against which all factions of the so-called ‘socialist’ International closed their ranks.
The world historical significance of the Russian Revolution was that it split the revolutionary left and crippled the anarchist and syndicalist movements.
In terms of its effects the Third, or Communist, International was a profoundly counter- revolutionary organisation. It destroyed its revolutionary competitors – the anarchists and syndicalists – but it put nothing in their place. The Industrial Workers of the World in America, the Shop Stewards Movement in England, the Revolutionary Shop Stewards in Germany – all were destroyed, they have yet to rise again. Nor was this destruction purely organisational; by the time of the Nazi-Soviet pact, when Stalin gave Hitler several hundred foreign communist refugees for execution, the Gestapo and G.P.U. were gunning down anarchist militants all over Europe and America.
Whilst modern anarchism recognises its descent from the revolutionary libertarian wing of the first workers’ International, and its kinship with those libertarian militants who survived the onslaught of Stalinism and fascism in the twenties and thirties and the general destruction of the Second World War, it arises principally from a critical reflection on the experience of the socialist bloc and on the irrelevance of labour, socialist and communist parties in the advanced West. Of the proletarian revolutions this century – Russia 1905, 1917; Kronstadt 1921; Asturias 1934; Spain 1936; East Berlin 1953; Poznan 1953; Hungary 1956; France 1968 – all except one started independently of the socialist and communist parties, only three gained the support of such parties and the majority were suppressed by socialist and communist parties. Such treachery, covering as it does a whole historical epoch, cannot be blamed on the characteristics of this or that individual leader; it is an essential characteristic of such parties…
Some comments on your list.
Firstly it is good to see a begrudging acknowledgment of the existence of the CL.
Few in the left acknowledge the existence of the CL. Despite us being the ONLY communist grouping to stand a candidate in the 2007 and 2004 elections. The CPA has not even fielded an election candidate of any type in nearly 7 years.
As for the Twilight Zone list, I haven’t seen a cadre from any of those groups in a number of years. Certainly not in Sydney anyhow. Name names and I will see if it rings a bell.
Thanks for the lengthy quotes in the next to last post. i needed a bit of a pick me up tonight, and this really hit the spot.
I also thoroughly enjoyed your very civilised responses to the SAlt-er who appears to be a perfectly decent sort of guy… i’ve tried to deal with SAlt, and with the SEP in the past, and found myself feeling like i’d spent my time organising for something that would turn it’s back on me (and in the SEP’s case did— my expulsion letter from the SEP was positively hilarious.)
It’s left me with a kind of emptiness though … This was positively inspirational, and i have to thank you.
“Russia 1905, 1917; Kronstadt 1921; Asturias 1934; Spain 1936; East Berlin 1953; Poznan 1953; Hungary 1956; France 1968 – all except one started independently of the socialist and communist parties, only three gained the support of such parties and the majority were suppressed by socialist and communist parties. Such treachery, covering as it does a whole historical epoch, cannot be blamed on the characteristics of this or that individual leader; it is an essential characteristic of such parties…”
I’m looking forward to reading around in here some more.
keep up the fantastic work,
The last encounter I had with SAlt was several years ago now, when I attended a meeting of theirs on the subject of… anarchism. It went pretty much as you might expect.
You can read Slow Burning Fuse on the web; I thought it was ace. The text from the FAA was likely authored or co-authored by Andrew Giles-Peters, an Australian anarchist academic. He’s written quite a lot on anarchism and Marxism, and his essay on Karl Korsch is pretty interesting:
Red & Black, incidentally, has been published for the better part of 40 years, by the Bulgarian/Australian anarchist Jack Grancharoff. His story is also v interesting.
The thing about those meetings (and I made this mistake recently, when I undermined the organisation a bit!) is that they are propaganda for getting people involved in the organisation. With this in mind, the cheap and shallow critique of anarchism is understandable, though not at all laudable.
To be honest, people are so scared that I (and others) will defect that most times anarchism is brought up it seems to be dismissed in ways which are clearly rubbish. The problem is that I struggle to engage with the anarchist side of the debate because I struggle to meet anarchists.
For example I have massive problems with the post-revolutionary era in Russia, yet the argument made by Trotskyists in which the failure of the international revolution meant the inevitable failure of the Russian one seems sound to me. How does an incredibly backward country without a surplus even in food (a prerequisite for socialism according to most theorists) create any sort of socialism when being invaded by 15 other nations? I am yet to get a response to you on the question that I (and Dave) have asked a few times: what would class-conscious anarchists have done differently in 1917 and beyond?
BTW nobody in our organisation would disagree with your quote of recent history, and in fact we argue that the reason these things all failed (barring Russia, which failed a bit later) was that we WEREN’T a key player in the uprisings. I think the fact that Russia (1917) was by far the most successful of these shows the importance of having a decent socialist group involved.
I take MASSIVE umbrage with that author’s conflation of socialism and communism as if we’re all the same. Of course every uprising since 1924 has been quashed by the Communist Party! They’ve all been Stalinist! That would be like dismissing anarchism with the sell-out of the CNT in the Spanish Revolution.
Re meetings: I’m not naive, and I understand the purpose of such meetings, which are never intended to be genuine forums for debate. As it happens, I went with (was dragged along by) a bunch of mates, and besides the SAlt members, I think there may have been only one other person present (although there may have been none, or even two or three — I don’t remember). The critique of anarchism that was presented was the standard one, to which I have the same, routine objections.
Re meeting with anarchists: Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to meet local anarchists when the new social centre officially opens.
Re post-1917 Russia: Obviously attempts by the 15 (?) foreign armies to invade and occupy Russia in the early years of the Bolshevik government presented difficulties. Following the treaty of Brest-Litovsk (between Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other) in March 1918, in exchange for a cessation in hostilities, Russia renounced claims of control over the future Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine (while the Ottoman Empire assumed control of other territories).
The US, under Wilson, sent 8,000 troops to Siberia, in July, 1918. Part of the justification for the sending of US troops — in addition to securing armaments and other materials left along the route of the Trans-Siberia railway — was to assist the Czech Legion leave Russia. The Czech Legion, which with something like 40–60,000 men, was one of the largest concentration of foreign troops on Russian soil. According to the BBC:
“Between 1918 and 1920, 60,000 Czech soldiers, stranded by the fortunes of war, travelled over four thousand miles through enemy territory, inflicted defeat after defeat on the Red Army, took control of the longest railway line in the world, formed a free Siberian republic and ‘liberated’ a fair chunk of Russia’s gold reserves along the way.
They were just trying to get home.”
The Japanese troop presence appears to have been the largest, with something like 70,000, concentrated on the east coast (aka ‘the Siberian Intervention’ of 1918–1922).
The Polar Bear Expedition to northern Russia consisted of c.5,000 men:
“A winter of fighting Bolsheviks and wondering why they were still in combat when the war with Germany had ended led to severe morale problems among the American troops, including an alleged mutiny in March 1919 by members of one company in Archangel, and the presentation of an antiwar petition by members of another company in the same month. The troops were ready for the new American commander who arrived at Archangel in April 1919 with orders to withdraw. As soon as navigation opened in June, the American forces left northern Russia. British troops withdrew a few months later, but the anti-Bolshevik government they left behind held the city until February 1920.”
According to Wikipedia, in addition to the Czech Legion and the Japanese, the other major forces intervening in Russia consisted of:
24,000 Greeks (in Crimea);
13,000 Americans (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions);
4,000 Canadians (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions);
4,000 Serbs (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions);
4,000 Romanians (in Arkhangelsk region);
2,000 Italians (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions);
1,600 British (in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions) and;
760 French (mostly in Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions).
More later… In the meantime:
What was my point? Oh yeah…
1) The anarchist critique of Bolshevism concerns not only the nature of ‘post-revolutionary Russia’, but the nature of the revolutionary regime itself. In this context, what’s crucial to understanding this critique is the fact that repressive measures aimed at first curtailing and then crushing workers’ self-management — in particular the soviets, but other associations as well — began before the outbreak of Civil War. See Brinton for more details.
2) The failure of the revolution in Germany (1918–1919) was indeed to have a crucial impact on the Bolshevik regime. The SPD’s capitulation at the beginning of WWI, however, had already sent shockwaves through the Marxist movement. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Marxists (including Vlad the Impaler) could point to the success of German Social Democracy in establishing itself as a mass party of the working class as evidence of the correctness of their analyses… although these of course, were long-disputed. B. Traven / Ret Marut, in the early 1920s wrote:
On the relationship between Russian and German Social Democracy, ‘Kautskyism’ and ‘Leninism’, see ‘The “Renegade” Kautsky and his Disciple Lenin’ by Gilles Dauvé.
@ndy, since you are so into ideological branding I think it is only fair that you point out that Dauve is not an anarchist but a communist and, yes, a Marxist.
Dave, I am attempting to break away from the chains that bind me.
You’re not helping.
Damn, because you have a world to win! Sorry.
I dig that critique of Leninism… I’ve felt a bit uneasy with the proposed and/or actual relationship to the WC as well. Also shared his concerns with the Bolsheviks in 1917… It definitely seems to me that Lenin (via the proletariat, far to the left of Lenin not to mention the rest of the Bolsheviks) alone spared the party from heading the wrong way totally. The party’s leadership seemed to be made up almost exclusively of relatively conservative figures who were consistently overruled by Lenin and Trotsky. I’m very uncomfortable with an organisation structured in such a way that people like Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, etc. are able to reach the top.
On the other hand, I don’t think having a ‘top’ is necessarily evil. Two reasons: a) some people are better than others at analysing, making decisions, speaking, persuading, etc. and b) some decisions need to be made quickly. Having said that, I think b) applies very rarely, so until the next revolutionary situation, a) can be incorporated via the leadership having roles more like “experts” who inject/clarify ideas, analyses, perspectives etc. in meetings, rather than dictate from on high. Not that they do that, per se.
It’s a tough balance. I feel the left Marxist position is vindicated somewhat by the decision by Russian anarchists during the RR to adopt a more centralised structure (the platform stuff). Is there somewhat of an overlap between platformist anarcho-communism and left Marxism? I find myself (and my idea of practical AND principled revolutionary practice) somewhere in that ideological space…
Slightly off-topic, but if you haven’t seen it I thought you might find this “Interview with Howard Zinn on Anarchism” of some interest.
Thanks for the link. Pretty straight-forward, as Zinn usually is. Never heard of Transcendentalism before…
Even I’ve heard of Transcendentalism, Andy!
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve heard of it.
I disagree with you regarding the positive direction in which Lenin led the Bolsheviks. From my perspective, Lenin — like any good politician — simply had an ability to see which way the wind was blowing, and responded accordingly. Hence The Fantabulous Contraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel, aka the April Theses, aka ‘The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution’. (Comrade Trotsky, incidentally, on the subject of the Soviets of 1905, supposedly remarked that these were the organisations of anarchy.) The emergence of figures like Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev within the Bolshevik Party/State may be troublesome, but it’s hardly inexplicable: all were long-term Party members, followers and close comrades of Lenin, capable, obedient and ruthless.
Regarding whether or not to go topless, I think the answer is ‘yes’. But this is also really, I think, a question regarding the need for hierarchy. Within the orthodox Marxist tradition, I think Engels may have made the clearest statement regarding the need for various forms of hierarchy in ‘On Authority’ (1872). His essential argument is that the economic conditions necessary to industrial production mandates that there be ‘authority’ (the three examples he employs are the cotton mill, railway and a ship at sea). He concludes that “Wanting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel”; some critics of mass technics would agree, but that’s another question.
On my reading, Engels confuses power with authority. Thus he defines ‘authority’ as being “the imposition of the will of another upon ours”, which is an exercise in power, not authority. ‘Authority’ asserts the right to command; ‘power’ is the ability to compel compliance. ‘Authority’ is not necessarily obtained through the ability to employ power, it may in fact be freely and voluntarily submitted to. Further, while a particular individual or group may assert its authority in specific realms, to do so doesn’t require the assertion of such in all, many, most or even some areas. The most obvious example of this is in the area of technical expertise, which expresses an underlying inequality between two parties with regards a common concern.
Following on from this problematic definition is Engels’ eliding the distinction between ‘political’ authority and ‘authority’ as an economic and social principle (of the kind which, it might be guessed, his unknown Socialist critics may have been referring to in their apparent denunciation of ‘authoritarianism’). In any case, the trump card, for Engels, is ‘revolution’:
In this statement, I think Engels is again confusing resistance to bourgeois authority and power with the establishment of new forms of power. He also manages to avoid the essential point of a social ‘revolution’, which consists not of people shooting, bayoneting and bombarding one another, but the transformation of social relations, including but not limited to overturning the rule of factory owners such as himself.
Btw, the ‘Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists’ was developed following the Revolution, in 1926, not during it. The Nestor Makhno Archive contains both the Platform and the subsequent debate which immediately followed its publication, and which involved a number of key anarchist thinkers at the time.
Regarding the relationship between proponents of the Platform and ‘left Marxism’ (Left Communism is another matter), I dunno, but there’s a small number of contemporary anarchist groups which are Platformist — WSM in Ireland, FdCA in Italy, ZACF in southern Africa, et al — links to which are also on the Makhno site.
Finally, some of Knabb’s thoughts on such matters:
And here we see the “overlap”. Leninists argue that the ‘success’ of revolution was due to the steeled intervention of the party and the brilliance of its Leadership – especially Vlad’s actions. Anarchists argue the ‘failure’ of the revolution was due to the diabolical interference of the ruthless party, especially that vile cur Lenin. Perhaps the Leninists might argue that the success of the revolution was assured by the party’s rigorous application of Marxism. Whilst anarchists might argue that it was Marxism’s statist and deterministic paradigm that allowed the Bolsheviks to seize control.
In other words both assign the fate of the revolution to the presence of the subjective factor of self-styled revolutionaries. This battle is then played out again and again across cyber space and in meeting rooms.
Both miss the point: the self-activity of the multitude.
“Overlap” — is that a ref to some other post or comment?
“Leninists argue that the ’success’ of revolution was due to the steeled intervention of the party and the brilliance of its Leadership – especially Vlad’s actions.”
Pretty much, with some minor criticism. I’m not aware of too many Leninist critiques of Lenin as Leader of the Revolution; if they do exist (and they likely do) I don’t imagine they’re substantial. If they were, it would likely create a desire to abandon Leninism.
“Anarchists argue the ‘failure’ of the revolution was due to the diabolical interference of the ruthless party, especially that vile cur Lenin. Perhaps the Leninists might argue that the success of the revolution was assured by the party’s rigorous application of Marxism. Whilst anarchists might argue that it was Marxism’s statist and deterministic paradigm that allowed the Bolsheviks to seize control.”
Maybe. In most of the anarchist literature I’ve read on the subject, most of which is fairly dated (I’m unaware of any recent substantial anarchist accounts of the Russian Revolution), the writers almost invariably make a distinction between two revolutions: one popular, the other elite (‘The Bolshevik Revolution’). In which context, it’s certainly the case that anarchists argue that the Bolsheviks played a counter-revolutionary role. That is, the party aimed to, and succeeded in establishing, a one-party dictatorship in Russia (and neighbouring territories including, of course, Ukraine). Beyond this, anarchist analyses generally identify Bolshevik success as depending upon its program and philosophy, then-recent Russian history, and other factors relating to the nature of Russian society at the time. To what extent Lenin was a ‘good Marxist’ is disputed, but most anarchists sources I’ve read proclaim him to have been very capable of ushering in the tyranny Bakunin had denounced some years earlier as the logical consequence of the application of Marxist theory (perhaps the strongest or alternatively most vociferous proponent of this thesis is Gregory Maximoff in The Guillotine @ Work).
“In other words both assign the fate of the revolution to the presence of the subjective factor of self-styled revolutionaries. This battle is then played out again and again across cyber space and in meeting rooms.
Both miss the point: the self-activity of the multitude.”
Not surprisingly perhaps, I disagree. Well, kinda sorta. Certainly, most anarchist writings on the subject that I’m aware of agree that the ‘self-styled revolutionaries’ played an important role in determining the course of events. In which context, it’s important to understand that ‘self-styled revolutionaries’ actually consisted of a rather large segment of the population, or at least that segment of the population inhabiting the major cities.
By the time of WWI, the Russian Army was multitudinous:
The above facts indicate, I suggest, that Russian society was on the point of collapse in 1917. Further, that, coupled with many decades of political agitation, ‘self-styled revolutionaries’ had in fact a mass audience. Consequently:
In reality, Russia was in tumult: the masses were, quite literally, revolting. The literature produced by Russian anarchists — a sample of which is reproduced in Paul Avrich’s The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution (Thames & Hudson, 1973) — acknowledges this fact, and encourages it, sometimes in sober language, at other times in the most lurid (and captivating) of terms. Maybe I’ll reproduce some of the texts here. In any event, the point is that, rather than “assign[ing] the fate of the revolution to the presence of the subjective factor of self-styled revolutionaries”, anarchists both now but, of vastly more importance, then, assigned the ‘fate’ of the revolution precisely where it belonged: in the hands of the Russian masses. And in terms of documenting “the self-activity of the multitude”, the Russian anarchists — that is, those who weren’t butchered or imprisoned by the Bolsheviks — and numerous other anarchists since that time, have probably done more than anyone else to preserve this history.
IMO the fuckups seem to begin when Bolsheviks become a government in their own right, and not simply an organisation committed to bringing down the state by harnessing and focussing the masses.
This is where questions of leadership, the ‘injection’ of revolutionary consciousness, etc. really come to a point…
I feel that there IS a need for a clear, well-organised (in some form) party to work out what needs to be done during the build up to the revolution, but that afterwards it should essentially become a group that is just one part of the radically democratic forums created/strengthened during the revolution.
One thing about calling the October revolution a coup, taking power in this way was always a key part of the Bolsheviks’ platform, and so when they achieved a majority vote, they did it. They merely fulfilled their ‘election promise’ if you will. Also, I see no real problem with acting to break the system of dual power that existed to that point.
What was the real problem was the subsequent decision to transform the party into a technocratic ruling party.
Hi comrades. Shit it has been a long time since I have got involved in argument about Russia. Almost 8 years! Damn I am old… and I have to run off to the Goldie for dinner with the folks so I will be quick.
I guess my argument is the one that we seemed to be always having @ndy: what form should emancipatory politics take today. I see both Leninist and anarchist (a broad term, so here I mean the more pro-federation platformist-esque anarcho-commie types) suggestions as focusing on either the need for some kind of ideological cohered group to either win leadership, or at least the win ‘the battle of ideas’ (as a comrade from ADA put it recently at the anarchist federation conference).
I am being drawn in three different/related directions
1) Negri: the possibility for autonomous self-rule of the multitude already exists. Meaningful activity is the formation of spaces that join together diverse rebellions in the creation of non-representative, non-state democracy (exodus). At some point this hits a ‘moment’ where the accumulation of communisms erupts in the creation of communism proper.
2) Badiou: The need for politics without a party. Politics is driven by the specific struggles of a specific situation – which is premised on an the possibility of an event: again something happens that transforms us and the social context, we remain faithful to these imperatives. Political organisation (or the l’organisation politique) exists to reflect on these processes
3) Zapatistas: We form organisations. They aim to engage in building collective autonomy, and a politics of the ‘word’. This is the creating spaces of communication and alliances where different heterogeneous struggles can communicate. This is ‘the revolution so we can make a revolution’: the struggle necessary to compose a political subject.
rebel love (I am going to the beach!)
This is not exactly beach weather that we are enjoying, Dave. What are you really up to?
It is in Qld.
Pingback: SP v SB | slackbastard