Public meeting in Prague

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In February 2007 the Prague infocafe "Mole's Column" organised a public meeting on the class struggle and the question of national liberation in the Middle East, with the participation of the internationalist group "Kolektivně proti kapitálu" - Collectively against Capital). An ICC delegation took part the meeting. The discussion took place in a fraternal atmosphere among revolutionaries with the same goal: to struggle for a really human society, without classes, nations, wage labour, and the alienation that is its result.

KPK and their activities

The KPK group originated in a group established in the mid-1990's within anarchist tradition, originally known as Solidarita, (after the "Organisation of revolutionary anarchists - Solidarity"; ORA-S); beginning with a more syndicalist orientation, it evolved first towards platformist anarcho-communism; after 2000 the group became interested in left communism (on the basis both of the concrete experience of workers' struggles in Moravia and elsewhere in the Czech Republic and theoretical ones). Around 2003 a minority (which preferred platformist positions) left the group to form "Anarcho-communist alternative" (Anarchokomunistická alternativa). The group changed its name to KPK in 2004.Today the group conceives itself as left communist, so it refers to a Marxist basis. Most of its texts are written in Czech. However in September 2006 KPK published an article in English on on the "French riots in autumn 2005"[1]. This text posed the central question: "What have the riots brought concerning class struggle?" - The answer was a critical one, opposed to any fascination with nihilistic violence. "(...) where was self-organisation, where were the struggles spread and centralised? (...) Attacks against schools were attacks against institutions that mean nothing for the youth, a symbol of the arrogant state. But most of the violence did not find its class target - it was targeted against suburban working class family cars, there was at least one attack against a shop assistant from a supermarket, against a bus with local people, in which was seriously burnt one passenger. (...) if the primary angry defiance does not reveal (and the process of the struggle does not willingly overcome) the limits that were immanent to it when it started, there is a serious risk that it will not become struggle for communism against barbarism, but only sample of the barbarism of capitalism.

(...) The goal is to find out the contradictions of the movement, to make criticism of its limits, to put these into context and find out to what extent they can contribute to the generalisation and radicalisation of the class struggle.

In these terms, the perspectives and chances of the autumn riots in France are weak. As the riots were a sign of capitalist crises, so they were sign of weakness of our class and limits of its activity." (emphasis in the original)  

The car industry is the focus of KPK's intervention as according to their analysis it is the key sector to the process of accumulation in the region. At the beginning of February 2007 the group intervened with a leaflet at the gates of a Skoda plant in Mlada Boleslav near Prague (24,000 people out a town of 48,000 work at the factory). They had produced a leaflet on the pay negotiations at Skoda, distributing about 2500 copies to two of the three shifts (there was no copy left for the third shift). The leaflet says that the workers are in a position of strength because the company is making large profits and there is a shortage of labour, the unions however are in the process of fixing up an unfavourable deal and so the workers should struggle outside the unions, with the concern that a big battle at Skoda could inspire other sectors to enter into struggle. 

It seems that the leafleting created a bit of a sensation, with workers very eager to take copies and some staying around for discussions. The unions responded furiously and posted all sorts of accusations against the KPK on the company website (a fine public example of the collusion between unions and bosses) accusing the KPK of being in the pay of the multinationals and also working as provocateurs for the police at the anti-globalisation riots in Prague a few years ago. This was a classic Stalinist response which shows the lack of flexibility of the union apparatus in this area of the world, and will obviously only serve to increase interest in the KPK's intervention.

The group decided to react publicly against the slanders of the unions.     

The public meeting

The presentation to the public discussion was made on behalf of the Turkish group Enternasyonalist Komünist Sol.[2]

It was a presentation on an internationalist basis, against imperialism and national liberation. It denounced not only the American and Israeli policy in Middle East, but every kind of nationalism propagated by the leftists, Hezbollah, PKK or the Turkish State. But the presentation also showed the perspective for overcoming war and barbarism. Referring to the conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdish nationalists it said: "Yet recently, there has been the beginnings of a class reaction against the war, leaders of the mainstream political parties have been heckled by people at public meetings asking why it is the children of the workers who are dying in the South-East, and not the children of the rich. Yes, the ideology of nationalism is not being explicitly challenged here, but in recognising that the working class and the bourgeoisie have different interests, people are beginning to take the first step towards challenging the hold that nationalism has over the working class. When workers begin to realise that they have common interests as workers, and not as members of some ‘national/religious/ethnic' group, it is the beginning, however small, of breaking the hold of nationalism.

That is why, for us, the recent struggles in the public sector offer a positive perspective to the working class. On December 5th, a quarter of a million public sector workers staged a ‘non going to work day' (It is illegal for public sector workers to strike) in support of their pay claim. Here workers are recognising that they have common interests as workers, independent of whether they are Turks, or Kurds, Alevis, or Sunnis. The thing that unites them is their own class interest. Nationalism, on the other hand, can only offer more division, more ethnic/sectarian tensions, more war, and more working class mothers crying over the coffins of their sons. (...)

As soon as one starts to categorise oneself as a member of this or that nation, or ethnic group, or religious sect, or tribe, instead of as a member of the working class, one starts to walk down the road that leads to massacres, ethnic cleansing, and war. (...)

Iran too was shaken by a wave of strikes last year. While the state tries to unite the ‘people' in a struggle against the ‘Great Satan' over their ‘right' to have nuclear power, Iranian workers were struggling for their own interests against unpaid wages, and for wage increases. A strike started by Tehran bus drivers last January led to massive struggles in many sectors including mining, car manufacturing, and textiles. (...)

The interests of the working class are diametrically opposed to the national interest."

The presentation ended  by underlining the common interests of the working class all over the world.

The discussion showed a homogenous support for the internationalist framework of analysis and agreement about the key role of the proletariat. Several questions were posed about the situation in the Middle East, especially in Turkey. In this brief account we want to focus on one of the most important questions that was raised: How can class positions be strengthened in the Middle East? This question allowed a debate about the role of the working class in general and about its weight in  different parts of the world, as well about the responsibilities of revolutionaries.

Those who spoke in the discussion pointed to the struggles of the working class in Middle East. Several examples have been mentioned already in the presentation, others were given, such as workers strikes in Dubai, Egypt, Israel[3]. It was clear however that the strength of the working class lies in its international character. Unlike the bourgeoisie which is divided by the rivalry between the different national states, the proletariat by its nature is an international class. Proletarian class identity is not only strengthened by struggles in the same country, but also by experiences of the class in other areas of the world. In fact the balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is determined on a world scale; it cannot be looked at only in Middle East.

The ICC delegation insisted on the key role of the European proletariat, above all because of its long history of struggle and enormous political experience, but also because it is in Europe, that the proletariat confronts some of the most powerful, experienced, and devious fractions of the bourgeoisie. Growing poverty is pushing the working class to struggle not only in the old capitalist countries but also in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Perhaps the biggest workers' strike in 2006 was that of the textile workers in Bangladesh. But setting aside the huge number of participants and their anger, a central aspect of the development of the future struggles is the question of class consciousness. In this respect the working class in Europe with its long history of confrontation with democracy, left parties and the unions has a special responsibility. And it is up to the revolutionaries in every country to generalise the lessons of the class in other parts of the world, to strengthen consciousness about the needs of the struggle in the present period: development of class identity, search for solidarity, self-organisation, raising of broader questions about the future.   

After about 3 hours the formal public meeting was closed. Informal discussion continued, above all on the question of the working class and its struggles in the whole world.  But there were also other informal discussions about various topics, e.g.: after the world revolution, will there be a need for a lower stage of communism, a transitional period? Or: What will be the meaning of "work" in communism? It is not possible in the framework of this article to go into these huge themes, but there is no doubt whatever in our minds of their importance.[4]

The meeting with the comrades of KPK showed not only that there is a common interest between revolutionaries of different groups and from different countries, a common interest in overcoming capitalist society, but also a common method to come closer to the goal. This method consists in the capacity to debate  and clarify positions and to adjust the assessment of the situation. It is a fraternal and scientific debate, in which only the strength of the argument is considered. It is the method of the Communist Left, and especially of Bilan that tried to establish an international polemic under much more difficult condition in the 1930s, a debate on a coherent basis: "Perhaps this coherence will represent a favourable condition for the establishment of an international polemic which, taking our study as a point of departure, or studies by other communist currents, will finally arrive at provoking an exchange of views, a closely-argued polemic, an attempt to elaborate the programme of the dictatorship of the proletariat of tomorrow."[5]

Finally, this article would be incomplete if we neglected to thank the KPK comrades for their warm and fraternal welcome. This spirit of comradely confidence is a vital element in the development of unity and cooperation between revolutionaries.

ICC, 17/03/07

[1] The article is the final chapter of a pamphlet in Czech "We Bark To Be Heard: Riots in France, Autumn 2005".

[2] The ICC has already collaborated with EKS in distributing an internationalist leaflet against war and nationalism, in the Middle East particularly.

[3] See also article in World Revolution no 302 "Middle East: despite war, class struggle continues"

[4] However concerning the question of the transitional period we can  refer to the series that began in the last issue of the International Review (128) on "The problems of the period of transition" with the publication of Bilan's contribution to the question in the 1930ies. In addition, we would encourage comrades to read the book on Communism, not a nice idea but a material necessity, which the ICC has just published.

[5] Bilan no 26, p879