- Capitalism and Alternatives -

An explanation of the commune thing

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on November 24, 1999 at 13:26:23:

In Reply to: They miss the point posted by Marcos on November 24, 1999 at 00:48:06:

: I gained much from reading this post comrade and am left with a notion that the liberals such as SDF and Nikhil miss the point.

SDF: Sectarian Marxists, on the other hand, have no clue that their "revolutionary" movement has turned into a book club because they spent their time wallowing in nostalgia for the Russian Revolution and on the endless defense of (name your favorite Russian). 1917 came, it went, and any future revolution will occur under different circumstances. But who wants to admit that?

The principle that is supposed to smooth over all of that, to make the strategic blunders of sectarian Marxists acceptable, of course, is the "capitalism creates its own gravediggers" principle, the principle by which the proletarian movement is supposed to occur naturally as a result of capitalist exploitation. It's all fair and well to say that the revolution will be conducted by those who are pissed off by the existing order, but there's a difference between the mere expression of working-class reaction to capitalist exploitation, and the creation of an actual working-class movement, a difference which no amount of "theory" will efface. But sectarian Marxists would rather question my political aims when I point out that there really isn't any active Marxist movement in the US today, i.e. that I have "written off the working class". Current strategy hasn't worked; shall we deem it heresy to consider the problem?

Sectarian Marxists are also obsessed with ideological purity, e.g. "liberals such as SDF". I guess they think this sort of name-calling and partisan intrigue will "unite" the working classes, just as it obviously hasn't done so in the US, just as it obviously didn't do so after the Third International. And as Julius Braunthal shows in HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL (a work which readers of McSpotlight will see more of), Marx was himself opposed to using ideological fine points in order to create sectarian division:

One of the basic ideas, and one on which Marx founded his hopes for the triumph of Socialism, was the idea of workers' solidarity, of their unbreakable unity and single-mindedness in their struggle for liberation. 'The Communists," he declared in the Communist Manifesto, 'do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties... they do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement.' And when he drafted the Statutes of the First Internaional sixteen years later, he made them reflect these basic ideas. He carefully avoided laying down any principles which might have offended any of the workers' movements represented in the International. Neither the basic declaration of teh Rules of the First International, nor Marx's Inaugural Address, contain, for example, the demand for nationalization of the means of production as the economic basis for a Socialist order of society -- because such a demand would have been unacceptable to the Proudhon group. In drafting the Statutes Marx took pains, as he wrote to Engels, to formulate 'our ideas' in such a way that they woudld appear 'acceptable to the workers' movement with the outlook it has doeay'. Even in the programme which he drafted for the International's firt congress in Geneva in 1886, he avoided touching on the question of property; this was raised for the first time by CÚsar de Paepe at the Brussels Congress in 1868. Marx believed that workers' solidarity, the sticking together of all workers' tendencies, and the organic unity of the International were more important than all the theoretical disputes and tendencies which existed inside it.
from History of the International vol. 2, p. 178.

Thus Marx the strategist distinguished himself from the sectarian Marxists of today.

So what does any of this have to do with communes? My own inclination is to believe that the coming revolution may perhaps take the form of a communal movement, a movement to decentralize economic life a la the Green Party, simply because the technological requirements of the future will require a degree of energy conservation and local energy production that capitalist society has been unwilling to consider.

As resource shortages and ecological disasters multiply due to the conflict between the daily operation of capitalism and the carrying capacity of the planet, we may wish to rethink the commune as a model of proletarian organization. And, as I've said before, I could give a flying fuck about the property laws, the unions could start communes on corporate property and that would be best. So present-day communes are petit-bourgeois -- they might still be useful in a future where material conditions will be significantly different than they are today. Is it possible that, in the coming era of expensive oil, the communes will provide a useful material source of resistance to further corporate expropriation in the last dying attempts of the New World Order to prop up the rate of profit? (Of course, if we were to make use of communes, we'd probably want to work to join their movement with the working-class struggle...) If you all want to read about the vision of socialism as a co-operative of co-operatives, I can recommend David McNally's Against the Market.

: That our socialist future is an intentional community - but that it is all inclusive of those who support revolution and is not elitist or seperatist.

SDF: Oh, but it excludes "liberals such as SDF," as well as Marxists who participate in elections, communes, or any other such sissiness, so it is indeed exclusive. Revolution on my book club's terms only. Sectarianism today for impotence tomorrow.

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