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Time for Controversies

 

The spirit of our objective

 

“I pre-suppose, of course, a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself […] Every opinion based on scientific criticism I welcome” (Marx, Preface to the first German Edition of Capital).

 

To open one’s mind for novelties, to think independently, to be critical, those were the invitations made by Marx in the introduction of his major work, Capital. [1] Rosa Luxembourg expressed herself in the same spirit when she wrote : “Marxism is a revolutionary world outlook which must always strive for new discoveries, which completely despises rigidity in once-valid theses, and whose living force is best preserved in the intellectual clash of self-criticism and the rough and tumble of history.” [2] Similarly, Lenin asked “not [to] regard Marx’s theory as some thing completed and inviolable ; on the contrary, we arc convinced that it has only laid the foundation stone of the science which socialists must develop in all directions if they wish to keep pace with life.” [3]

Even if our critical view on society is based on historical materialism, even if our political analyses are inspired by the contributions of the Communist Left, [4] and even if we strive to elaborate its theoretical bases, we should have the permanent concern to submit all our conclusions to the “intellectual clash of self-criticism and the rough and tumble of history”, [5] thus making it an object of controversies. In other words, to elaborate a living Marxism and not a completed and untouchable dogma.

It is on this critical base that Controversies wishes to promote all initiatives that strive towards the clarification of the goals and means of the struggle for emancipation of humanity, which will pull us out of the thousands of years of domination of man by man, and all initiatives that contribute to the bundling of forces of all who recognise themselves in this aim. That is the spirit and the base of our project.

That is why Controversies is a place for debate, a Forum, defined as a space open for all who share this perspective. The participation in our project is based on the personal motivation to confront one’s ideas and bring to accomplishment the activities, that are collectively defined and which are carried out by their supporters. Currently, they consist of :
- a) organising common discussions ;
- b) the publication of the revue Controversies ;
- c) to set-up and to update an international website with the same name ;
- d) to develop different editorial projects and to publish them as books and pamphlets ;
- e) organising public controversies and interventions within social struggles ;
- f) all other commonly decided activities.

 

Our political observations

This project draws on the assessment of the following major political observations :

1) The working class has suffered a very profound historical defeat after the setback of the revolutionary attempts between 1917 and 1923. [6] This defeat has been felt terribly on all levels (like repression and degeneration of its political parties), but even more on the theoretical level through the falsification of the very fundamentals of Marxism itself. Stalinism has been represented as its quintessence and the USSR as its realisation. Up to the end of the 1960’s the flame and honour of communism was preserved in extremely difficult conditions by only a minute minority : (a) by struggling against those Stalinist falsifications, (b) by drawing the political lessons out of the defeats of the movement, (c) by passing on their precious understandings [7] and, by bridging the gap, assure the continuity of these to future generations. We have the following groups in mind : the groups of the International Left Opposition animated by Trotsky, the groups linked to the International Communist Left, as well as the multiple resistances to the Stalinist counter-revolution.

2) The work of historical materialism, namely the continuous deepening of understanding, such as it existed from the last third part of the Nineteenth Century up to 1923 has abruptly ended. As examples, we would like to refer to : Dialectics of Nature (Engels), Darwinism and Marxism (Pannekoek), Women and Socialism (Bebel), The Foundations of Christianity (Kautsky), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Engels). Such fundamental developments of the theoretical bases of Marxism in all directions have nearly vanished out of the domain of revolutionary Marxism, and in particular, the Communist Left. Indeed, the conditions of its life time (1923-1968) and its weak forces have not allowed it to go beyond a political assessment of the defeat of this first revolutionary wave. It was anyway the first priority. For nearly half a century, these groups and minorities have hardly had the occasion to treat and to elaborate the fundamentals of Marxism or to integrate the evolution of science and society. Admittedly, there are exceptions, but they can be counted on one hand. [8]

3) The actual heirs of the historic groups of the Communist Left have had the merit of reviving this political current, of developing some of its analyses, and to have carried through an intervention with this perspective. However, we repeatedly observe that they have not fulfilled their tasks on several important points :
- a) Except for some very valuable contributions, which will be treated later on, the political contributions of the Communist Left have rather been preserved than been fostered by its actual upholders.
- b) Many political questions have not been clarified and still need to be elaborated.
- c) Numerous are also the topics that have been presented as major theoretical developments, whereas reality has contradicted them or made them obsolete.
- d) Finally, the actual groups proclaiming the Communist Left, have not managed to give Marxism back its lost spurs by developing itself “in all areas of knowledge”. [9] Their contributions in this respect are almost non existent.
- e) Even worse, when some of these groups have ventured themselves on this exercise, they have reaffirmed expressions outdated by a century in a dogmatic way, or taken up theories that do not belong to Marxism.

In other words, if it was absolutely indispensable to draw the political lessons out of the defeat of the revolutionary wave that took place at the start of the Twentieth century, today it is actually more than ever necessary to go beyond, so that they can be elaborated. But especially, to make up for the immense delay that the theoretical base of Marxism - in all domains of knowledge - has accumulated over a century. This task cannot be ignored when it concerns a whole series of key-questions, at least if we wish to measure up to the actual stakes, that is : Socialism or Barbarism, communist revolution or descent to into hell in a succession of ever more devastating crises and conflicts. [10]

4) Since the failure of the international conferences of the groups belonging to the Communist Left (1977-1980), worsened by the decline of the class struggle since 1989, the general state of this political current is characterised by a growing discrepancy between the needs posed by history and their insufficient political replies. These replies are mostly limited to the repetition of the lessons of the past. Yet, faced to the actual stakes, to the delay taken up by Marxism, and faced with the questions of the new generation, these replies are not sufficient any more. It is therefore more than urgent to update the revolutionary project by picking up again the task of elaborating the theoretical bases of Marxism, that have been left pending since the start of the Twentieth Century.

5) In contrast to the whole passed history of the workers movement, the heirs of the historic current of the Communist Left, have not achieved – in their forty years of existence – to make a common assessment (not even to classify and to specify the outlines of their disagreements), nor to create a dynamic of collective clarification, and even less of combining forces. On the contrary, a part of this milieu is characterised by endless crises, splits and incentives that turn the back to a real culture of debate within the revolutionary proletarian milieu.

 

The current priorities

The entirety of these observations imposes us to consider the following four outlines that in our view have priority in the current situation :

1) Rid Marxism of all its distortions (above all, those left behind by Stalinism), and this on the political as well as organisation level. For example, this is how Marc Chirik, a distinguished representative of the Communist Left and founder of the International Communist Current, expressed himself about the life in an organisation in the Internal Bulletin of the International League of the Left Opposition (Ligue de l’Opposition Internationale de Gauche) of 10 April 1932 : The importance of political discussion, deep differences of opinion and currents which appear, cannot escape from anyone’s attention any longer, […] Therefore this discussion should better be profitable for all comrades and for the future of the organisation, by the problems discussed, by the clarity of the given answers on point which so far remained in obscurity… For it to be so, it is necessary that the whole organisation and the executive commission in the first place respect eagerly the rules of democracy in discussion, a broad as possible, making all efforts in order not to be confused by the actions of the latter, to avoid all deviations tending to transform political discussion into matters of discipline, even when there is marked indiscipline and this until the final limits (struggle against the organisation from the outside), not to take any sanction against whoever. As much as possible, it must be precluded that it turns into a poisoning personal conflicts, or in which there are tentatives towards explaining all by the psychological character of this or that comrade. All of this, willingly or not, suffocates the discussion and throws a veil over the real differences of opinion which come to the surface.” Such political lessons concerning the organisation are precious lessons that help us to eradicate all visions and practices inherited due to the weight of the counter-revolution.

2) Actualise and develop the Marxist vision of the world, humanity and society by resuming the elaboration of themes like historical and dialectical materialism, the analysis of the succession of modes of production, the gender question, the questions concerning religion, human nature, moral and ethics, anthropogenesis. This will have to happen by the critical integration of the main contributions of science into Marxist theory, like the revolutionary movement of the Nineteenth Century was able to do so : “Marx in no way rejected bourgeois culture or science in a dreary and disdainful manner […] We cannot ever fear the results at which scientific investigation might result […] all science must be cherished for its own sake and those [said Marx] who are so fortunate to be able to dedicate themselves to scientific study, should be the first to put their knowledge to the service of humanity” [11] “Every real scientific discovery can and must be assimilated by, and integrated into, Marxism, thus broadening the scope of investigation of its method.” [12]

3) Reconsider and elaborate the fundamentals with which the minorities of the Communist Left survived during all those years of counter-revolution. We refer in particular to the theory of crises, the fundamentals of the obsolescent phase of capitalism, the conditions for the revolution and the several problems related to the period of transition towards socialism.

4) Reply to the new questions posed by the development of capitalism, its new ideologies, by the rise of social struggles, and by the emergence of new politicised elements throughout the world. We have the following questions in mind : ecology, productivism, the conditions of the period of transition towards socialism and all its aspects, etc.

 

Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” [13]

Without this elaboration of the theoretical and political bases of Marxism itself, the vanguards that proclaim Marxism will never be able to measure up to the stakes concerning the future of humankind. Shortly after having expressed his famous sentence : “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement”, Lenin firmly insisted on the idea that the role of vanguard fighter can only be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory. [14] Indeed, theory and practice, or political elaboration and intervention, are two things that mutually stimulate each other. Armchair thinking is as sterile as active agitation on false bases. But these two terms are neither in a predefined relation, nor mechanically linked to the advantage of one or the other ; they are dependent on the context and the period. Today, returning to the fundamentals of Marxism is imposed by the historical stakes and the needs for intervention in the social struggles. Without this, all agitation will be futile. There is good reason why just after expressing the famous sentence Lenin underlined that : “We cannot insist enough on this idea in a period where the impulses for the most short-sighted practical actions goes hand in hand with the opportunist taste for propaganda”. Such is the major danger that currently threatens the groups of the Communist Left : to insist too much on the – truly existent – needs for interventions in social reality (“impulses for the most short-sighted practical actions”). They then forget the fundamentals and theoretical bases that stimulate this intervention and end up in the “opportunist taste for propaganda”. In today’s reality, that is to say in a context of economic crisis and permanent military conflict, the requirements for intervention in the social struggles imposes on us urgently to elaborate Marxism. The extent of this political elaboration is “Marxism in all its areas of knowledge.” [15]

Without this, the groups of the Communist Left will not be able to overcome the still immense heterogeneity of the political lessons that they have all respectively drawn out of the setback of the revolutionary wave between 1917 and 1923, nor will they be able to overcome the major political division that separate them, and even less the regular conflicts that tear them up. These four priorities constitute a prerequisite to overcome the political crisis that rages within and between these groups of the Communist Left. This political crisis is sometimes public, sometimes hidden, and it manifests itself in different degrees of severity by some and some others. But repeatedly we observe that it is truly existent and cruelly handicaps the actual groups when they have to assume their historical responsibilities.

 

The principal obstacles

Indeed, sadly one has to observe that numerous hindrances stand in the way that leads to the necessary actualisation of the revolutionary project and make its achievement even more uncertain. These hindrances are those that threaten all vanguards in periods of general rise of social struggles, as it has opened up since 1968, and which demands the political clarification and bundling of militant forces :

- 1) the incapacity to lift one’s self theoretically and practically up to the historical stakes ;
- 2) the difficulties to be understood and to act as an element amongst others in a dynamic collective of the political proletarian milieu.

The history of the Bolshevik Party gives us several examples concerning this matter. The same party that at repeated instances risked to miss the tide of history :

- 1) Initially, the Bolsheviks recommended the dissolution of the Workers Councils in 1905 because they were considered as rivals of the party (!) ;
- 2) In 1914, the direction in Russia adopted a defensive position regarding the question of imperialist war (!) ;
- 3) Up to the vote of the April Theses (1917), the Bolsheviks defended the necessity that Russia had to pass first through the national democratic stage before the proletarian revolution.
- 4) In October 1917, almost everybody in the direction of the party was opposed to the idea itself of the uprising.

The Bolshevik Party owes its ability to recover at the required moment foremost to its international openness and to the debates held with the other constituent parts of social-democracy. [16] Particularly it will not cease to work with the majority of the splits resulting from its congress in 1903 in sight of establishing collaborations, as well as the bases for political clarification and combining forces [17]

In other words, the principal dangers with which the minorities are currently confronted to are a retreat into one’s self and theoretical ossification by the imprisonment in dogmatism and monolithism : “As long as the party remains the crucible where the ideology of the class is elaborated and worked out, it has, as a rule, not only the greatest possible liberty, ideas and differences of opinion in the framework of its programmatic principles, but it has as its foundation the concern to favour and constantly keep up the nourishing of thinking by putting at the disposition the means for debate and the confrontation of ideas and tendencies in its own ranks. In this respect of the notion of the party, nothing is more foreign to it than this monstrous notion of an homogeneous, monolithic and monopolist parti The existence of tendencies and fractions is not something tolerated, a right that can be awarded, and thus be discussed. On the contrary, the existence of currents within the party – in the framework of its acquired and verified principles – is one of the manifestations of a healthy concept of the notion of the party.” [18]

 

Our objective

Controversies was born to help clear the way towards the clarification and the bundling of forces upon sound theoretical, political and organisational bases. In other words, while taking into consideration the change of the historical period from the falling tide into the rising tide of class struggles, our essential objective is to pick up again what was the concern of Bilan, but which it could not completely carry out due to the then present conditions : “[…] an intense critic aimed at reestablishing the concepts of Marxism in all domains of knowledge, economy, tactics, organisation”, and this without “any dogma”, without “any interdiction or any ostracism”, “with the concern to constitute a healthy political polemic”. [19] This is more than ever indispensable in order to achieve a new “October 1917” under penalty of finding one’s self as those “old Bolsheviks” […] reiterating formulas senselessly learned by rote instead of studying the specific features of the new and living reality.” [20]

 

Our means

Of the three levels (theoretical, political and practical), that were defined by Engels to characterise the responsibilities that fall upon the working class and its vanguards : “For the first time in the history of the labour movement the struggle is being so conducted that its three sides, the theoretical, the political and the practical economical (opposition to the capitalists), form one harmonious and well-planned entity.” [21], it is above all the first two that our limited capacities allow us to assure. Indeed, we do not consider ourselves as an nth organisation that would add even more colour to the kaleidoscope of the political landscape of the Communist Left. Each and every one of us is completely free to support or to be involved in the activities of the existing political organisations (which is the case for several of us). In addition, Controversies will defend and will also participate in initiatives taken by these organisations by means of a collective agreement about the relevance of such initiatives.

 

Who are we ?

The Forum for the Internationalist Communist Left that publishes this revue Controversies is a regrouping of various people in several countries which share the assessment and the objectives described in this editorial. A part of its participants have been militants and/or are sympathisers of various organisations of the Communist Left. As such, they have elaborated numerous contributions, brochure projects and books about subjects that are in line with what is described in this editorial. Regrettably, all this material has been taken too little into account, too little discussed and/or too little published. Deeming them of great quality, Controversies will publish this material progressively. [22] Still this year, there will appear two books about the crisis and the economic questions, a pamphlet about the Obsolescence of capitalism, and a book that actualises Engels’s The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. [23] Likewise, we will continue the series of articles started in this revue about historical materialism, Darwinism and Marxism, as well as the theory of crises, and we will begin with other subjects such as : the evolution of modes of production, the gender question in the history of humanity, human nature, Marxism and psychoanalysis, morality.

 

The Controversies : a revolutionary tradition

In order to nourish the debate and elaborate the Marxist theory, it was a tradition in the organisations of the working class to publish all analyses and positions that aimed for its development. Breaking with this tradition, in forty years of existence, the actual groups of the Communist Left have nearly never published books or brochures dedicated to the defence of a non-official position !

Let us take an example, just one, not well known, but very symbolic for this absolute necessity to publish and discuss minority positions within the workers movement, as said Lenin : “only short-sighted people can consider fractional disputes and a strict differentiation between shades of opinion inopportune or superfluous.” [24]

In 1906, the leader of the Bolshevik fraction of the RSDLP – A. Bogdanov – was writing a book about Empiriomonism at that time. At its publication, it was welcomed by all, including Lenin. After a short period of reconsideration, Lenin made a virulent critic because he estimated this book to be dedicated to “almost exclusively to attacks on dialectical materialism” and that the ideas which it defended represented a “veritable campaign against the philosophy of Marxism.” [25] Lenin had written this critic alone while he was studying intensely in the libraries of London and Paris… to such an extent that his comrades were worried of his numerous absences at meetings. Once his analysis finished, Lenin returned to participate in the activity of the party and asked to have his work published and discussed. This request was immediately approved as was the tradition in the workers movement. After an intense internal and public debate, the Bolsheviks rejected the ideas of Bogdanov and adopted those of Lenin [26].

Regarding the organisational question, it is most interesting to underline the following facts : the central committee of the Bolshevik Party never used the excuse, that Lenin’s main critic of Bogdanov’s reasoning (namely that it is not Marxist, but idealistic) was not discussed internally within the Party, to not allow the publication of Lenin’s text directly externally. Nor did the central committee use the excuse, that Bogdanov’s text was welcomed and approved by the whole Party (including Lenin), to not publish Lenin’s subsequent critic. Likewise, Lenin was not discredited or the victim of disciplinary decisions for being absent at the meetings of the Party and for having worked individually for long months in his corner.

In other words, by publishing externally to the party and by immediately submitting all the critics to the discussion, the Bolshevik Party put a real culture of debate into practice, conform to the tradition within the workers movement. A culture of debate that the Communist Left of France (GCF) will later on defend firmly against the dogmatic and monolithic wanderings of Bordiguism, as shows the quotation of the GCF given above.

Moreover, by the understanding for Lenin’s attitude and by the absence of disciplinary measures towards him, the Bolshevik fraction also materialised the rules of conduct that every organisation must follow regarding organisational matters to assure that priority is given to the debates, as they are recalled by Marc Chirik in the quotation given above.

Controversies will firmly defend the practice of freedom of criticism within the workers movement as a state of mind and in its texts. It is this same spirit and principle that Rosa Luxemburg defended passionately when she observed that the Bolshevik Party did not respect it sufficiently any more : “it is a well-known and indisputable fact that without a free and untrammeled press, without the unlimited right of association and assemblage, the rule of the broad masses of the people is entirely unthinkable.” […] “Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” [27] It is also this same principle that Lenin had defended when he urged the militants of his Party to not grant a blind confidence to the Party’s executives, but a verified confidence : “it is the duty of communist militants to verify themselves the resolutions of the higher instances of the party. Those who, in politics, believe on the word are incurable idiots.” [28]

That is why Controversies will be stringent and relentless in the defence and application of this principle of freedom of criticism. We will not wait for some people to wake up before all means are finally given to the minority positions and for the debate to express itself and for the debate to be held. Besides the almost total absence of books or brochures dedicated to the defence of a minority position in the 40 years of existence of a part of the Left Communist organisations, there has never to our knowledge been the slightest tendency or recognised internal fraction that has encouraged the debate and the political clarification in a positive way. To the contrary, every time that divergences occurred within these organisations, they have almost always ended up in departures, dismissals and splits, even though they were not very serious. The same is true with regard to the external expression of internal debates : they are extremely rare and essentially date from the period where these organisations were constituting themselves. This is profoundly significant for the false visions and false organisational practices that still rage in the revolutionary milieu.

This is in total contrast with the practice of the workers movement, and also notably with the Bolshevik Party, that in its definitely shorter period of existence (1903-1921), experienced tens of tendencies and several fractions which have almost all positively animated the life of the Party and have resolved themselves into a regained unity following the debate. Moreover, in a small period of twenty years, the Bolsheviks have published tens of brochures and books defending positions different from the official ones !

This should not surprise as, since the main struggles (and even the splits) within the workers movement have most often started with divergences regarding the functioning. These battles reveal the more profound disagreements that could not be freely assumed and confronted. That is why disagreements regarding organisational matters always hide more profound political divergences that do not take long to emerge. [29]

As a general rule, one can assess the political state of an organisation by the way it treats divergences and disagreeing comrades. And yet, when one sees the current state of a part of the Communist Left, the almost total absence of debates between its components and within them, the few external expressions of disagreements and debates, the rarity of their positive resolutions, the divisions and painful conflicts every time that divergences appear, and the ostracism that is systematically tagged upon the ‘dissidents’, one is obliged to conclude that the problem does not lie in those who carry the disagreements, but those organisations that are not able to live with divergences.

Controversies will not fail to come back on these questions that are crucial for the future of the proletarian vanguards and their capacity or their incapacity to measure up to their historical tasks.

 

Issue no 1 of Controversies

When the two founders of scientific socialism presented what they considered to be their essential theoretical contributions, they referred to “These two great discoveries, the materialistic conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production through surplus-value”. [30]

Two of our articles’ topics have been chosen mainly due to this reason. One is about Understanding the Economic Crisis, and which deals with the actual crisis, but places it within the framework of the obsolescent phase of capitalism and the laws that govern its dynamic and its contradictions. The other deals with Historical and Dialectical Materialism and tries to re-establish the essence of the Marxist method regarding its most elementary methodical concepts.

 

Karl Marx in the shadow of the Charles Darwin-year 2009

Similarly, when Engels delivered his speech at the funeral of Marx in 1883, he underlined that : “Just like Darwin discovered the law of development of nature, Marx discovered the law of development of human history.” That is why we have an article concerning this question, titled Karl Marx in the shadow of the Darwin-Year 2009.

Indeed, these three theoretically elaborating articles fit within the threefold spirit animating Controversies : first, to go back to the roots of the Marxist conception of the world and its method and rid its Stalinist legacy that crept into it during the phase of counter-revolution (1928-1968). Secondly, elaborate the bases of Marxism itself in order to break with the long interruption in this domain, an interruption from which it continues to suffer since the end of the first revolutionary wave (1917-1923). Finally, actualise and clean up the theoretical baggage of the Communist Left regarding both these points.

The same is true for the celebration of the Darwin-Year that throws a threefold veil on Marx and Marxism, a veil that the introduction of our series of articles proposes to tear up :

1) The oblivion of this other anniversary, namely the publication – in the same year 1859 as On the Origin of Species by Darwin – of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy by Marx, in which he exposes for the first time to the worldwide proletariat the laws of evolution of human societies in his famous Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859). There he summarises his conception of the world and the method of analysis : historical and dialectical materialism. Marx considered this publication to be decisive, since : “I hope to win a scientific victory for our party.” [31]

2) This oblivion is not innocent because what the publication of Marx did for the human societies, Darwin did for the rest of the living world, it is its counterpart, as explains Anton Pannekoek in Marxism and Darwinism [32] Indeed, whereas it is natural selection that guides the evolution of the animal world, it is the contradictory social relations established by humans in the production and reproduction of their lives that is decisive for the human societies.

3) These oblivions are all the less innocent since the publication of Marx represents the main antidote to the whole actual ideological campaign consisting of reducing anthropogenesis and human behaviour to a merely biological question, because Marx exposed “for the first time an important scientific view of social relations. It is thus my duty to the party that is will not be mutilated”. [33]]

Indeed, for Marx “man […] is a social animal” [34] and his nature, “the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations.”. [35] For him, human nature does not exist before humans. Active humans define their own nature. Human nature is the product of its own activity in the framework of its social relations that it establishes with its fellows. In fact, human nature, while having a biological element and an element based on the heritage of our ancestors, is foremost a social product, it is constructed and evolves together with the history of societies : “man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society.” [36]

All of this is all the more important to recall to mind since some in the revolutionary milieu unfortunately fall in behind the speeches held by the bourgeois ideologists in the Darwin-Year :

a) by involuntarily associating their voice to the actual campaign that keeps Karl Marx in the shadow of Charles Darwin, because they completely forget to underline this other fundamental anniversary which is the publication of his major work A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy where he exposes the laws of evolution of human societies ;

b) by making a number of concessions to the socio-biological conceptions that essentially put emphasis on the biological fundamentals of human behaviour. Whereas for Marxism they are rooted within the contradictory social relations that humans have established between themselves in the production and reproduction of their lives ;

c) by going as far as to take some of the most fashionable idealistic conceptions about anthropogenesis – such as the theory of ‘brain first’, that is “development of rational intelligence (and thus of reflected conscience)”. Conceptions that are only there to undermine one of the fundamentals of Marxism : the central role played by the social relations that are established in the material activities of humans for the production and reproduction of their lives, and thus the role of labour and the relations of humans with nature in the framework of the social relations involved in these activities ;

d) and by supporting in a praising and non-critical way some ideological conceptions of scientists that are very fashionable in a certain “left” [37]

Our article Karl Marx in the shadow of the Charles Darwin-year 2009 thus wants to be an introduction to a series of contributions which, on one side, will address the relations between Darwinism and Marxism concerning the laws that respectively guide nature and human societies, and on the other side, will try to tear apart the ideological veils thrown by the bourgeoisie upon these important questions – anthropogenesis and human nature.

 

The Marxist understanding of the economic crisis

Similarly, our feature article Understanding the economic crisis, deals with the dynamics and contradictions of capitalism, aims for the same objectives :
- a) to go back to the fundamentals itself of the Marxist analysis of capitalism and its crises ;
- b) to actualise and elaborate its own bases, notably by proposing an original analysis of the post-war boom ;
- c) renew and clean up the theoretical baggage of the Communist Left concerning these two points, because the Communist Left has regrettably not yet freed itself of the false opposition between the supporters of an explanation of the overproduction crises based on insufficient markets and those based on the tendency of the profit-rate to fall. This polarisation introduced by the right wing of social-democracy at the start of the Twentieth Century, and then amplified by Stalinism, has no reason to be, since it does not exist, neither in Marx’ texts, nor in reality. In fact, Marx rejects explicitly all mono-causal explanation of crises. He closely links as much the contradictions resulting from the relations of the repartition of social work that is newly created every year which constantly tends to limit the final demand, as well as the contradictions in the production of profit that result in its recurrent fall.

 

The other articles in this issue

The article Tendencies and Paradoxes of the International Situation fits in this same spirit because it examines on and completes the traditional analyses proposed by the revolutionary press regarding the particular role of American policy, the weakening capacities of the great powers and the real power of the states, of the deconstruction and the impossible regulation of the political contradictions, of the development of a world “outside of the world”, and of the new configuration of opinions.

The section Echos of the Communist Left gives an actual and historic account of the life of this political current on which we base ourselves :
1) An Appeal to the Pro-Revolutionary Milieu by Internationalist Perspective) ;
2) our positive and enthusiastic Reply to this Appeal ;
3) a correspondence of Lettre internationaliste saluting our objective ;
4) Lastly, an article about NinetyYears of Kommounist that describes the appearance of a left fraction within the Bolshevik Party in 1918 and the way in which the Party assumed the internal debate. This contribution does not pronounce itself on the content of the positions adopted by one or the other member of the Bolshevik Party. This will be done later, notably regarding the following important question : can the revolution be spread by means of weapons, such as some of this fraction tended to think ?

Finally, a Note of Lecture draws attention to a book that gives an account of an attempt to construct new economic relations in the farming cooperatives in the Ukraine in 1919.

Translated from French by Theodor, 31 May 2009

 

[1Preface to the first German Edition of Capital, 1867, Marx-Engels Collected Works (MECW), Vol. 35, p. 7 and 11.

[2Beginning of the last sentence of the Anticritique by Rosa Luxemburg, http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1915/anti-critique/ch06.htm.

[3Lenin, Our Program, 1899, Collected Works (CW), Vol. 4, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1899/articles/arg2op.htm.

[4The current of the Communist Left is composed of all the political groups that were opposed – before Trotskyism was – to the degeneration of the Russian revolution, the Third International and its parties. The best known are the Italian Left and the German-Dutch Left. Elsewhere on this site some web sites are listed with some pamphlets about the history and the political contributions of this current.

[5Rosa Luxemburg, ibid

[6In October 1917 in Russia, the Workers Councils took over the leadership of the country. In September 1918, an uprising developed in Bulgaria. At the same moment, Workers Councils were formed in most parts of Germany and a revolutionary agitation spread during the months of November 1918 and February 1919. A Socialist Republic of Worker Councils was set up in Bavaria ; it stayed in place from November 1918 until April 1919. A victorious revolution also burst out in Hungary and resisted during six months to the attacks of the counter-revolution (from March until August 1919). Lastly, important social movements shook numerous countries all over the world due to the economic and social difficulties of the post-war years.

[7In particular, solving the “Russian enigma” (the nature of Stalinism defined as a caricature of state capitalism), the theory of decadence of capitalism, and the lessons concerning the transitional period from capitalism to socialism and the use of violence.

[8Such as Anthropogenesis by Anton Pannekoek (1945, in English available on this website), or Espèce humaine et croûte terrestre (The Human Kind and the Crust of the Earth) by Amadeo Bordiga (1951-1953, not translated in English at our knowledge).

[9Bilan, nr 1, see further on.

[10This assessment will be developed in the upcoming publications of Controversies, as well as on our website that carries the same name.

[11Souvenirs sur Marx et Engels, Editions sociales, p. 74 et 323 [translated from French by us].

[12Marc Chirik, quoted in Marc Laverne et la GCF, tome II [translated from French by us].

[13Lenin, What is to be done ?, quoted from chapter Dogmatism and ‘Freedom of Criticism’, d) Engels and the Importance of Theoretical Struggle, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/i.htm

[14Lenin, What is to be done ?, ibid.

[15Bilan, nr 1, see further on.

[16Amongst others, we refer to Trotsky and the groups that he animated : (a) Trotsky was the president of the Workers Councils of Saint-Petersburg when the Bolsheviks called for their dissolution ; (b) He was an internationalist when the Russian direction of the Bolshevik Party aligned itself with a defensive stance in 1914 ; (c) Long before Lenin did, he defended the central role of the working class in the Russian revolution ; (d) Lastly, Trotsky was one of the few Bolsheviks that supported Lenin’s position regarding the necessity for an uprising in October 1917. The Bolshevik Party found itself quite often to the right of the working class and certain vanguard minorities (of which Trotsky), and it is thanks to the openness and attentiveness towards these minorities that the Bolsheviks owe their capacity to recover themselves and to be able to measure up to the historical tasks. It is precisely this state of mind that is currently painfully absent.

[17“[…] the Social-Democratic movement is in its very essence an international movement. […] an incipient movement in a young country can be successful only if it makes use of the experiences of other countries. In order to make use of these experiences it is not enough merely to be acquainted with them, or simply to copy out the latest resolutions. What is required is the ability to treat these experiences critically and to test them independently. He who realises how enormously the modern working-class movement has grown and branched out will understand what a reserve of theoretical forces and political (as well as revolutionary) experience is required to carry out this task.” (Lenin, What is to be done, ibid).

[18Marc Chirik, Internationalisme, nr 38, 1948, Sur la nature et la fonction du parti politique du prolétariat (On the nature and function of the political party of the proletariat [translated by us from French]).

[19“ Our fraction, by starting the publication of this bulletin, does not think to present definitive solutions to the terrible problems which are posed to the proletariat of all countries. […] we do not want to refer to our political predecessors to plead for adherence to the solutions we recommend for the present situation. On the contrary, we invite revolutionaries to put the positions it defend today to the verification of the events just like the political positions contained in our basic documents. […] October 1917 has been possible because in Russia there was a party prepared by long date, which had, through an uninterrupted series of political struggles, examined all questions posed to the Russian en world proletariat after the defeat of 1905. It was from this defeat that the officers capable of leading the battles of 1917 came forward. These officers were formed in the heath of an intense critic aimed at reestablishing the notions of Marxism in all domains of knowledge, of economy, tactics, organisation : no dogma could stop the work of the Bolsheviks and it is precisely because of this that they could accomplish their mission. […] Those who oppose themselves to this indispensable work of historical analyses with the cliché of the immediate mobilisation of the workers, can only sow confusion, prevent the real resurgence of the proletarian struggles. And this knowledge cannot bear any prohibition nor any ostracism. Our fraction would have preferred it when this work would have been undertaken by an international organism, convinced as it is about the necessity of the political confrontation between the groups which are capable to represent the proletarian class of several countries. We would also be very happy to put this bulletin before an international initiative guaranteed by the application of serious methods and by the concern to establish a healthy political polemic.” [[Introduction to Bilan, nr 1 : Theoretical bulletin of the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left, 1933).

[20Lenin, Letters on Tactics, 8-13 avril 1917, CW, Vol. 24, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/x01.htm.)

[21Friedrich Engels, Preface Addendum of 1874 to The Peasant War in Germany, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/peasant-war-germany/ch0b.htm.

[22It is already the case for a part of this issue.

[23This book is from an external author, but Controversies has very actively contributed to its upcoming publication.

[24Lenin, What is to be done ?, chapter Dogmatism and ‘liberty of critic’, d) Engels and the importance of theoretical struggle.

[25Preface to the first edition of Materialism and empiriocriticism (1908) that contains Lenin’s answer to Bogdanov and where Bogdanov’s mystical and idealistic visions of Marxism are denounced, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1908/mec/pref01.htm.

[26This critic by Lenin Cette became itself object of an interesting controversy started by Anton Pannekoek in his work Lenin as philosopher.

[27Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, Chapters The Question of Suffrage (http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch05.htm) and The Problem of Dictatorship (http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch06.htm).

[28Quoted by the GCF, Internationalisme, nr 25, Marc Chirik, August 1947.

[29The bursting apart of the RSDLP during and after its congress in 1903 ; the struggle of the Italian Communist Left against the ‘Bolshevikisation’ of the communist parties (the organisation based on factory cells and not anymore the territorial sections) ; Trotsky’s struggle concerning the internal regime of the Bolshevik Party, a struggle that precedes the political divergencies to speak properly, etc.

[30End of the first chapter of the Anti-Dühring, 1877, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/introduction.htm.

[31Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer of 1Fevruary 1859, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/letters/59_02_01.htm.

[32This is another work that fully deserves to be associated to this bundle of anniversaries because it was published a hundred years ago, in 1909.

[33Letter to Ferdinand Lassalle of 12 November 1858 on A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, that he considered to be “the result of a fifteen year long study, thus the better part of my life.” [translated by us from German, Marx-Engels, Werke, Bd. 29, p. 566.

[34Karl Marx, General Introduction to Outline of the Critique of Political Economy (Grundrisse), 1857 ; the English translation (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm) gives “gregarious animal”, although Marx wrote “geselliges Tier”.

[35Sixth Thesis on Feuerbach, 1845, MECW, Vol. 5, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/index.htm.

[36Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1844, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.

[37All these aspects will be developed in the course of upcoming articles, but the reader will already be able to read more about this subject on our website www.leftcommunism.org in our presentation and discussion of the article Marxism and ethics published in nr127-128 of the International Review of the International Communist Current.