Glasgow COP26

April 2024 Forums General discussion Glasgow COP26

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    Green fraud.

    Brazil’s indigenous peoples supposedly given land that they already owned


    New article on the CWO (ICT) site:

    See footnote (2) and the ICT-endorsed quote from Mattick snr (1934). For the SPGB does this also constitute ‘vanguardism’?

    (The above is re discussion on November 1 2021 on this thread about the CWO and vanguardism.)

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 2 weeks ago by ZJW.

    It probably does but engagement in campaigns for “immediate demands” is dubious too:

    “The party engages in the struggles for immediate demands as long as the workers themselves are directly and actually engaged in the struggle.”

    Didn’t Mattick later change his mind and come to a position closer to Pannekoek’s discussed here:

    Political Parties and the Workers


    ‘[1] It probably does but [2] engagement in campaigns for “immediate demands” is dubious too:’

    As to ‘1’, how so?

    As to ‘2’, but what are ‘immediate demands’? Do you take this to specifically mean political demands (ie reformism)? Because, unless there is some conventional usage to the contrary, to me, this could just as well refer to ‘economic demands’ (over wages, work conditions etc).

    (Anyway, even if ‘immediate demands’ are political(-reformist) ones, this has no necessary bearing on vanguardism or not … or has it? )

    … and most importantly, what is the difference between what Mattick wrote and what Pannekoek is quoted as saying? I don’t see it.


    What we are discussing (though perhaps there should be a separate thread on this) is what a minority of workers who have come to want and understand socialism should be doing.

    The SPGB has developed the position that at present this should be propagandistic. Socialists should organise themselves — in a ‘party’, if you like — to propagate socialism. That is all the party should do at the moment. It should not itself get involved in the ‘immediate demands’, not even over wages and working conditions. Of course it expresses general support for struggles against employers and its members can and should take part in them but as workers involved in the struggle not as a party. Such struggles should be run by the workers involved.

    Mattick’s position in that extract was written on behalf of an organisation which actually called itself a ‘party’ (the United Workers Party of America). One passage starts well enough

    “It does not seek to lead the workers, but tells the workers to use their own initiative. It is a propaganda organization for Communism,”

    But then adds

    “and shows by example how to fight in action.” (His emphasis).

    The passage about the party engaging in the struggle for immediate demands is in the following paragraph.

    The difference, then, with the SPGB position is that Mattick is saying that the party itself should get involved in such struggles.

    Pannekoek’s position seems to have been nearer to ours. He was certainly opposed to “Council Communists” organising in such a party as Mattick envisaged and did. In the article discussed in the Socialist Standard, Pannekoek wrote (part of which the article quoted):

    “If, in this situation, persons with the same fundamental conceptions unite for the discussion of practical steps and seek clarification through discussions and propagandize their conclusions, such groups might be called parties, but they would be parties in an entirely different sense from those of today . . . In this lies the great importance of such parties or groups based on opinions: that they bring clarity in their conflicts, discussions and propaganda. They are the organs of the self-enlightenment of the working class by means of which the workers find their way to freedom.“

    In fact that would be a good description of what we we are — “an organ of self-enlightenment of the working class.”

    The difference between Pannekoek and Mattick (in 1934) would seem to be that Pannekoek thought that a ‘party’ should be a group “based on opinion” and propagating those opinions, while Mattick thought more in terms of a group getting involved as well in day-to-day struggles (which has enabled the vanguardist CWO to claim him as one of theirs).

    Of course, the conclusion we draw and propagate differs from both of theirs. For instance, we are not opposed to workers organising in the existing trade unions nor do we dismiss the vote as useless or worse. In fact, we say that at some future point workers will need to organise themselves into a mass socialist political party with a view to wresting political control from the capitalist class as a prelude to establishing socialism. That’s the opinion we propagandise.


    Thank you ALB, that is certainly very clear.

    Now, no pertinence to your clarification of the SPGB’s practice and position as against that of others, purely regarding the history of the Mattick group being called a ‘party’, the Roth book (online here: ) has come to mind, and looking in it:

    ‘The colleagues from the Proletarian Party [ie a ‘left split’ from Keracher’s party that joined the Mattick people -ZJW] wanted an identifiable organisation: thus the United Workers Party (UWP) was formed. […] Mattick was agnostic about the name, taking his lead from Canne Meijer and the Dutch colleagues who already referred to themselves as a ‘Group of Council Communists’ in order to avoid the party-designation. This same collection of people were variously referred to as the Workers League, the left wing of the Proletarian Party, and the United Workers Party, depending on exactly when the commentator had been informed of the latest developments.’


    ‘By the end of 1935, the group no longer referred to itself as the United Workers Party, preferring instead the nomenclature adopted by the Dutch colleagues, Groups of Council Communists. The UWP had never been a political party as commonly understood and its name had caused many ‘needless misunderstandings’.75.’

    Footnote 75 reads ‘‘Please Notice’, ICC, January 1936, p. 9’. And that ‘Please Notice’ can be seen in that issue of International Council Correspondence which is here on the Pannekoek Archive site: .


    It seems, then, that the CWO are being a bit disingenuous in quoting what was possibly the only passage in which Mattick expressed a view similar to their conception of a vanguard party.

    Actually, in practice the CWO are doing the same sort of thing as us — a “group of opinion” propagandising for socialism (as we both understand it) but in their case tied to the dangerous idea that a vanguard party is needed to lead workers there because under capitalism workers as a class are not capable of advancing beyond trade union consciousness.

    Ironically, when it comes to participating in the day to day struggle, because they take up an anti-trade union position, their members are probably less active in it than ours.


    The SPGB can accuse the CWO and by implication the ICT of being ‘vanguardists’ all you like, but the fact is it’s the SPGB-WSM that believes that the party should take over the state, not the CWO-ICT. For us, the working class is the decision-maker.

    In 1952, the political programme of the Internationalist Communist Party (on which the theoretical work of the ICT is based) stated: “At no time and for no reason does the proletariat abandon its combative role. It does not delegate to others its historical mission, and it does not give power away to anyone, not even to its political party.”

    We believe that socialists (or communists, we don’t mind, like the SPGB we understand these terms as synonyms) should organise together to propagate socialist ideas among the working class, and to try to intervene where we can in the workers’ initiatives that can develop towards a confrontation with capitalism. This, we think, means that said socialists (which includes the SPGB in so far as they do that) constitutes a political vanguard, in line with the passage in the Manifesto, Ch2, that says:

    “The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”

    While we are no longer in a position where there are ‘other proletarian parties’ that communists can intervene in, the general thrust is still pertinent: the communists are those who (more or less clearly, and we only have, at the moment, fragments of the solution to capitalism) see ‘the line of march’, and who push for the working class’s struggles to reach a point of rupture with capitalism. That for us constitutes being a ‘vanguard’ – ‘the most advanced and resolute section’ of the working class. We (socialists, not we the ICT) have come to a realisation that capitalism offers no future and that the working class is the force that can bring about a better world. Not all workers have. If you accuse us of ‘vanguardism’ then you must also accuse yourselves, for you too have come to a realisation that capitalism offers no future and that the working class is the force that can bring about a better world, in advance of other workers.

    If you mean, we want to take over the state, that is not true; it is yourselves who have that conception. So, the ICT is less ‘vanguardist’ than the WSM.

    As to intervention, I’m sure even with your inactive members the SPGB has more members than the CWO, so in that sense you’re probably more active, the ICT has intervened to the best of its ability in all the working class struggles going on, even though they’re mostly trapped in the union form, and where we have not been able to intervene ourselves we’ve written about these struggles both in the UK and around the world.

    If anyone wants to understand the actual politics of the ICT, rather than bad-faith readings of them, I’d recommend starting here:


    I think we are talking at cross purposes here. I was not using the word “vanguard party” in the sense of a party that will lead an insurrection and then take over and run the state supposedly for the workers. I was using it in the sense of a party that seeks to lead the workers, which the CWO has many times confirmed is its position. In the quotes given earlier on this thread (see #223935) the word used is “guide” (maybe it’s the sane word in Italian?). Combined with the denial that a majority of workers can come to understand and want socialism while capitalism lasts, the CWO is committed to the view that a party is needed to lead/guide the working class in an insurrection against the state.

    True. after that it will dissolve itself (I think) and let the workers take over. In any event, it won’t form a government.

    Our position is that the workers’ socialist party should be a mass, democratically-organised party, the socialist-minded workers self-organised to win control of political power. This achieved, there is no need for the party to continue. There can be no question of their being that anarchist bugbear if an “SPGB government”. The party can either be dissolved or merged into the democratic structure of socialist society. That’s up to those around at the time. As you say, “For us, the working class is the decision-maker. Yes, that’s right. We agree. It’s enshrined in clause 5 of our declaration of principles — that the emancipation of the working class “must be the work of the working class itself”

    We agree too that socialists are workers who “have come to a realisation that capitalism offers no future and that the working class is the force that can bring about a better world, in advance of other workers.

    The question is what should be the role of a minority of socialists. Seek to guide non-socialist workers or seek to enlighten them about why capitalism can never work in their interest and that socialism is the only way out? I know, from previous public debates that our two organisations have had over the years, that the CWO denies that a socialist majority can emerge under capitalism (but only in the course of an insurrection in which a majority of workers start off as non-socialist).


    The word “or” is very instructive.

    Socialists should be a reference point for the working class. We seek to enlighten workers as to what socialism and capitalism are, and how they have no ultimate interest in defending the one against the possibility of the other, and how it is the working class that will create the future socialist society (and if it isn’t it won’t happen, it’s not like there is another route to this. What is this if not being a ‘guide’ to non-socialist workers? We seek to point out the common interests of the proletariat no matter what national specificities (indeed, the common interests of all humanity in overthrowing capitalism) and we try always to represent the interests of the whole working class rather than this or that section.

    The vanguard is socialists. If you are opposed to socialists trying to generalise class consciousness, you are anti-vanguardist. If you instead try to be part of the process of the working class coming to consciousness then you are part of the vanguard whether you like the term or not.

    Whatever your position on what the party ‘should’ be, the capitalists control the education and media systems. The means of the propagation of ideas lie in the hands of the ruling class, a class that also puts forward the ideas that bolster its own class rule.

    There can never be a ‘mass revolutionary party’ outside of revolutionary times. To insist there ‘should’ be is just idealism. If things were different, things would be different. But they aren’t.

    The revolution will be made by the working class, or it will not be made. But the working class cannot do that without a minority of workers trying to get the rest of the working class to see ‘the line of march’, the ‘interests of the movement as a whole’.


    ” There can never be a ‘mass revolutionary party’ outside of revolutionary times.”

    That depends on what you mean by “revolutionary times”.

    It’s a bit of an a chicken and egg problem. Are they created by the growth of a mass, revolutionary movement (or party)? — in which case it would be true by definition. Or are they created by some external circumstances such as the collapse of capitalist political rule due to defeat in a war (as in Russia in 1917 and Germany in 1919, your model for revolution) or to some other catastrophe?

    We say that it is possible for a majority socialist movement to emerge under capitalism and that thus movement can, and among other things should, use the ballot box to win control of political power to dispossess the capitalist class. You say that this is impossible as, due to their brainwashing of the workers, pro-capitalists will always win elections.

    I don’t see why this rules out workers contesting elections in your “revolutionary situation” (Rosa Luxemburg didn’t think so). There would be nothing to lose from doing this. The workers might even win. After all, they are the immense majority. If they lose, then that would show that the times weren’t revolutionary.

    Your advice that a socialist minority should “guide” workers to a revolution when most of them are not yet socialist would be very risky and would in all probability lead to a bloodbath. I would have thought that that was the lesson of the German revolution.

    To tell the truth, envisaging an armed insurrection and civil war in modern capitalist political conditions is completely unrealistic and counter-productive in convincing workers.


    I have never seen a Leninist party that is not vanguardist. At the present moment workers do not need an armed revolution any more, it was done on the third world countries and all of them failed, and only a minority supported them. If workers are able to place in power right wings and left wings pro capitalist leaders, they can also place themselves and send to the trash can all the leaders and all vanguardists

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