L.L. Men - Two Texts for Defining the Communist Programme

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Nov 12 2019 16:37


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Nov 12 2019 17:51

Thanks for uploading this. Was critically reviewed by the CBG in this issue here:

Dec 5 2019 02:53

Many many thanks to schalken for uploading this book. Myself, I had it soon after publication and then lost it. Without having gone through all of it again, I might say that the author's demolition of the notion of any 'communist' content to early Bolshevik ' War "Communism" ' merits reading and comment. That's mainly on pages 178- 203.

Some quotes from this section (pardon for not using the quote function):

'The CWO seems to endow the abolition of the *phenomenal* form of money with a significance it does not have (cf. its muddleheaded thesis that money was 'abolished' in the state sector during War Communism). '

'We have already proven that the law of value was never touched during War Communism. At the same time, as the soviet government immediately began to rapidly destroy the Paris Commune principle as soon as it was formed (see the relevent section later), the nationalization movement which began in mid-1918 did not alter, in terms of real social relations and not legal categories, the separation of the producers from the means of production. '

'We do not need Marxist revolutionaries to peddle the ideology that War Communism was "proto-communist" while the NEP "restored capitalism". Bourgeois ideologues such as Carr are competent enough to propagate such ideologies'

'From this angle, though the NEP differed a great deal in details from the War Communist programme, both programmes were capitalist from A to Z. '

' As pointed out earlier, the payment of wage in kind did not change the nature of wage as variable capital. '

Dec 5 2019 08:31


I don't recall that the CWO ever reviewed this book, which would be strange, Can you check and see?

Dec 5 2019 10:06

It's quite a bit before my time, but I'll check if we have. I know that this doesn't correspond to our views nowadays (if it ever did):

The CWO seems to endow the abolition of the *phenomenal* form of money with a significance it does not have (cf. its muddleheaded thesis that money was 'abolished' in the state sector during War Communism).

See for example our pamphlet on Stalinism from the early 2000s:

Although there had been some hopes that the emergency policies (collapse of money, distribution by rationing etc) of the period of so called “war communism” were steps towards socialism (and Bukharin argued just this in his Economics of the Transition Period, a book which was warmly regarded by Lenin) fundamentally there was no question of the Bolsheviks changing the mode of production in Russia to socialism. When Lenin called for nationalisations of parts of the Russian economy in 1917 he insisted that these were "measures which do not in any way constitute the “introduction” of socialism..." Far from thinking that a top-down introduction of socialism was possible, Lenin understood that the transformation of society could only be done by the mass of the working class “when they had learned to do it for themselves”. [...] Even during “war communism” the working class were no longer in control of their own institutions. [...] For those who argue that the Russian Revolution altered the mode of production in Russia there has always been a difficulty to say when this occurred. For some the change took place during “War Communism” (1918-21) but that was precisely when small peasant ownership had it greatest extension in Russian history. The capitalists might have all run away and abandoned the factories to the proletariat (who did begin to socialise them), money may have lost its value so that rationing and barter became the usual means of exchange but it was an illusion to assume that these emergency measures which were only intended to allow the regime to survive were attempts to build socialism. Socialism can only come about where the forces of production are in a position to create material abundance. In 1918 the condition of the collapse of the Russian economy was so severe that one historian at least has likened it to the Black Death of 1347.

Dec 5 2019 11:29

So there is correspondence between us and L.L. Men in both Workers' Voice and Communist Review (our old publications, which unfortunately are not online - but plan is to have them up at some point). Some of it probably responds to the points made in these texts, and more (since it goes up to at least 1992).

Dec 8 2019 08:39


If you would check your 'account' page, I have PM'd you.

Jan 20 2020 09:41


In no particular relation to the LLM book, I wonder if you could upload 'Theories of State Capitalism' from Revolutionary Perspectives 19, which seems to be neither on libcom nor on leftcom.org . I see it referred to in quite a few CWO articles. It would be useful to see the CWO's presentation of its own position, and refutation of those it considers erroneous.

Jan 24 2020 20:52

'Theories of State Capitalism' actually comes from RP1, so is even older (but was reprinted in RP19). We'll try to dig it up.

Mar 18 2020 17:51

ZJW, sorry about the delay, but I have not forgotten about your request. If you send me a direct message with your email address, I'll send the document to you.

Jun 15 2020 08:12

Just looked again at my copy of this pamphlet and see that LLM advocates "the employment of labour time as the basis of and measure for production calculation and distribution." So he's one of them.

What I had forgotten was that a letter from me figures in it (p. 99) which leads him to write in a footnote:

"The SPGB is a 'Marxist' group which believes that the socialist revolution will occur when one fine day the majority of the workers (who it defines to be anyone, be him an accountant or a bank manager or a government minister or a secretary or a factory worker, who receives a wage - further, there are, according to the SPGB, only two classes in capitalist society: those who earn a wage and those who do not), having first under­stood intellectually, and thus demand, socialism will simply take over the existing state machinery and re-organize society on socialist lines. There is no space here, nor is there any need, to criticize these feeble-minded idealists."

and, in the main text:

"... many people claim that the Russian workers were not struggling for socialism at all, but only for the 'mundane' demands for bread and peace... These people do not, of course, deny that there was an extremely high level of working class activity in 1917, but deny that it constituted a socialist struggle. Reason? Simply because the majority of the workers did not demand the communist programme. For them, for the class consciousness of the vast majority of the working class to qualify as communist conscious­ness, it must reach the level of knowledge in Marxist theory... What these people fail to realize is that, at least for the period prior to the revolution and that of the initial phases of the transitional period ..., for the vast majority of the working class, their conception of socialism will never be couched in the terms of the communist programme."

Nothing new there, then, just the usual caricature of the SPGB position (except on the two-class theory). And since he thought that the what happened in Russia in 1917 was a "socialist revolution" his analysis of what happened after starts off on the wrong foot. And of course he is echoing Lenin's view that under capitalism the working class cannot develop beyond a trade union consciousness (only a select minority like him can).

I must see if I have still got the correspondence with him.