October 12, 2023 at 8:39 am #247552ZJWParticipant
1) If they are unread and therefore unreplied to, I don’t see the point of leaving comments under SS articles (as opposed to leaving them here, where, at least, they presumably will be seen). A recent case in point is Moo’s comment under ‘Best regards, but miles apart’. His comment — which I would have thought was worthy of debate — was posted on October 2. I suppose by that time, anyone who might have commented on his comment had already read the article and of course would not constantly look back over the following days to see if anyone had commented! Maybe even the article-writer himself didn’t check back.
2) Unrelated to the above …
I don’t know if ‘Best regards, but miles apart’ is a record of what was actually written in real correspondence; or, if it is a particularly genius piece of creative writing. It reads like the latter.
In any case, as good as it is, and it is very good indeed, there is a problem in it, not of the viewpoint advanced but of history. According to the writer: ‘ This is not a new debate, it’s as old as the history of socialist thinking, and caused the breakup of the First International. On the one (majority) side, the gradualists, reformists, Fabians and ‘minimalist’ socalists who thought you could introduce socialism by degrees, through progressive government measures. On the other side, the ‘maximalist’ socialists, also called Impossibilists, who demanded the immediate abolition of capitalism, and nothing less.’
Writers will sometimes enhance creativity with micro-dosing of hallucinogens. Did this happen here? In the universe I inhabit the split in First International was hardly so glorious as one between minimalism and maximalism. Rather — aside from the nasty personalistic factors — it was between one group advocating electoral activity (with non-maximalist goals), along with programmatic homogeneity throughout the International (‘centralism’); and another group advocating non-electoral direct action, but along with programmatic autonomy allowed throughout the branches of the International. And these latter weren’t maximalists either.
The no-maximalism is touched upon in the following passage from Alain Pengam’s chapter titled ‘Anarchist-Communism’ in ‘Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’:
‘Anarchist-communism must be distinguished from collectivism, which was both a diffuse movement (see, for example, the different components of the International Working Men’s Association, the Guesdists, and so on) and a specific anarchist current. As far as the latter was concerned, it was Proudhon who supplied its theoretical features: an open opponent of communism (which, for him, was Etienne Cabet’s “communism”), he favoured instead a society in which exchange value would flourish — a society in which workers would be directly and mutually linked to each other by money and the market. The Proudhonist collectivists of the 1860’s and 1870’s (of whom Bakunin was one), who were resolute partisans of the collective ownership of the instruments of work and, unlike Proudhon, of land, maintained an essence of this commercial structure in the form of groups of producers, organised either on a territorial basis (communes) or on an enterprise basis (co-operatives, craft groupings) and linked to each other by the circulation of value. Collectivism was thus defined — and still is — as an exchange economy where the legal ownership of the instruments of production is held by a network of “collectivities” which are sorts of workers’ jointstock companies. Most contemporary anarchists (standing, as they do, for a self-managed exchange economy) are collectivists in this nineteenth-century sense of the term, even though the term has now come to have a somewhat different meaning (state ownership, i.e. “state capitalism”, rather than ownership by any collectivity). […] THE SPLIT THAT OCCURRED IN THE IWMA WAS ESSENTIALLY OVER THE DETAILS OF COLLECTIVISM AND OVER THE WAYS OF ARRIVING AT A ‘CLASSLESS SOCIETY’ WHOSE NECESSARILY ANTI-COMMERCIAL NATURE WAS NEVER STATED (EXCEPT IN MARX’S CAPITAL), OR RATHER NEVER PLAYED ANY PART IN SHAPING THE PRACTICE OF THE ORGANISATION. Bakunin himself, a left-wing Proudhonist for whom the abolition of exchange value would have been an aberration, purely and simply identified communism with a socialistic Jacobin tendency and, moreover, generally used the term ‘authoritarian communism’ as a pleonasm to describe it. ‘
I expect that the accuracy of this view will be disputed.October 12, 2023 at 1:00 pm #247557PJShannonKeymaster
As the author of the article I can confirm that it was composed of genuine responses in a real online argument.
I had the impression that my correspondent was young and new to politics, so I didn’t want to get into too much historical detail, except to illustrate certain basic perspectives.
Moo’s comment took a different view to the one put forward, which seemed fair enough. I thought there were pros and cons either way, and that Moo didn’t particularly expect a big debate about it!October 13, 2023 at 11:56 am #247584DJPParticipant
With regards to point 1. Yes it seems like an oversight to the current web design that all comments are not listed in a single place. How easy a fix that would be I don’t know. A job for someone else.
2. Yes, the impossibilist split certainly doesn’t go back to the first international. It’s important to be accurate and to not try to re-write history making everything a reference to our current favourite views. Especially when communicating to people we presume do not have a high level of previous knowledge.October 13, 2023 at 2:19 pm #247587imposs1904Participant
“It’s important to be accurate and to not try to re-write history making everything a reference to our current favourite views.”
I didn’t read it as an attempt to rewrite history. I just put it down to a genuine mistake, and because of the nature of the piece – a reprint of correspondence – it couldn’t be rewritten after the fact.
Maybe the editorial committee could have put a note after the piece pointing out the mistake.October 13, 2023 at 2:33 pm #247588DJPParticipant
Ok, I guess “re-write” could suggest a mal intention. That’s not what I meant to suggest.
Maybe a brief history of the minimal/maximalism split would make a good short article? If not already done?October 13, 2023 at 3:33 pm #247590October 13, 2023 at 5:11 pm #247592imposs1904Participant
Never seen that before.
I think that will eventually turn up somewhere else.October 14, 2023 at 8:27 am #247606
We are going to publish a clarification in the November Socialist StandardFebruary 3, 2024 at 4:46 am #250298ZJWParticipant
‘We are going to publish a clarification in the November Socialist Standard.’
Was there? I don’t recall seeing it.February 3, 2024 at 3:40 pm #250305
It’s on page 23 of the print and PDF editions here:
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