18th RI Congress: Confidence in the future

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Last spring, the 18th Congress of RI took place. This plenary assembly of the ICC’s section in France was a moment very rich in fraternal and warm debates in which other sections of the ICC and invited sympathisers took part.

The work of this Congress was centred on 4 main axes:

  • the evolution of the world economic crisis
  • its perspectives for the development of class struggle
  • the present dynamic of the ICC’s contacts
  • the link between Marxism and science.

Concerning the economic crisis, the report presented by the central organ of RI and the debate that followed underlined the present impasse into which the dominant class is driven and its incapacity to hold back the scourge of debt. Despite all its mystifying speeches on the so-called economic “recovery”, the world bourgeoisie has no other solution to reliance on debt that to continue with its policy of state debt. A debate developed, and must be pursued in the ICC, on the objective limits of debt.

The congress was homogeneous on the perspectives of the economic crisis: no return to any sort of period of prosperity is henceforth possible. The bourgeoisie’s margin of manoeuvre is extremely narrow and can only lead it to impose plans of draconian austerity everywhere.

Faced with the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to find any sort of remedy to the bankruptcy of its system, which is now hitting European states like a full-force gale (Greece, Portugal, Spain, etc.), the bourgeoisie can only effect one response: attack the conditions of the exploited class still more violently, as is the case in Greece.

These massive attacks are shown through an unprecedented aggravation of unemployment with job cuts in all sectors, a drastic lowering of wages, a growing precariousness in youth employment, the deepening attacks on retirement pensions, a dismantling of the welfare state, etc.

It is in the context of the plunge of the world economy into a more profound and insurmountable crisis that the confrontation between bourgeoisie and proletariat will sharpen.

The debate on the present dynamic of the class struggle and its perspectives for the next two years put forward the difficulties confronted by the working class of the western European countries, particularly France.

The fact that today workers’ struggles are not up to confronting the violence of the attacks gave rise to a very rich debate which allowed the Congress to better discern and analyse the causes of such a gap.

As the last ICC Congress proposed, the working class, despite its enormous discontent, is showing a hesitation to engage in massive struggles. This relative disorientation is due to the massive blows that it is suffering and which, in the first place, can only strengthen its hesitations to engage in the combat for the defence of its conditions of life.

Unemployment, and its fear of job losses, constitutes a factor of paralysis which can’t be overcome immediately and necessitates the proletariat progressively rediscovering its class identity and confidence in itself.

A process of maturation is thus indispensable for the appearance of massive struggles. This maturation is already expressed by workers’ struggles which have developed recently, notably those of workers of Tekel in Turkey which are particularly significant of the class struggle at the international level (see articles on Tekel in the ICC).

The debates of the Congress equally demonstrated the fact that the bourgeoisie of the industrialised countries, and notably the French bourgeoisie, fear an upsurge of these massive struggles. In France, the dominant class cannot allow the risk of a similar social situation which exploded in Greece following the austerity plan attempting to stem the bankruptcy of the state.

The Congress also developed a discussion on the difference between the mass strike and massive struggles. It showed that even if the perspective of the outburst of massive struggles is in front of us, that doesn’t at all mean that we are entering into a historic period of the mass strike, which necessitates a certain level of the politicisation of struggles.

The debate on the social situation in France unfolded in the framework of the analysis of the ICC on the dynamic of the class struggle at the international level, put forward at our last international congress.

The discussion underlined that the proletariat in France contains a long experience of struggle anchored in its collective memory: the Paris Commune, May 68 and, more recently, the struggle of youth against the CPE, which obliged the Villepan government to draw back.

The spectre of massive struggles haunts the bourgeoisie; a bourgeoisie weakened by the successive blunders of the more and more unpopular Sarkozy. That’s the reason why the dominant class is walking on eggshells: it is trying to hide the depth of the attacks as much as possible (notably on the retired) and counts on the unions to sabotage the explosions of discontent of the working class.

The Congress debates thus showed that the continuance of the attacks on the retired in France will constitute a very important test allowing an assessment of the rapport de forces between the classes.

The discussion also allowed us to better discern the present impact of the corralling of the working class by the unions. Although the workers are not yet near to getting out of the union grip and the union ideology in order to take their struggles in hand themselves, the debate brought out the existence, in the workers’ ranks, of few illusions on the role and effectiveness of the struggles advocated by the unions.

If, despite this disillusionment, the working class is not yet ready today to mobilise itself outside and against the unions, it’s essentially because of the difficulty of again finding confidence in its own strength.

The working class more and more feels the need to fight against the attacks of the government and the bosses, but doesn’t know how to struggle without going through the unions. This difficulty is linked to the strength of democratic ideology which weighs very heavily on the consciousness of the exploited class. The workers can’t conceive of massively mobilising themselves outside of the “legal” framework of the democratic state. The union question thus constitutes a major stake in the future dynamic towards massive class confrontations.

The work of the Congress also looked at the present dynamic of our milieu of contacts in France.

On the numbers of new contacts, we noted a certain gap between the countries of Western Europe and the zones of the periphery (Latin America notably).

The Congress wasn’t totally homogenous on drawing out an analysis on the causes of this and put this as an objective on the agendas of all the sections of the ICC.

In particular, an analysis was advanced that merits deeper reflection. Western Europe has been the theatre of two world wars and of the deepest counter-revolution in history with the bloody crushing of the revolution in Germany at the beginning of the 1920s. These tragic events provoked a profound trauma the after-effects of which still mark the proletariat of Western Europe today and this could explain the very strong weight of democratic illusions in this part of the world and, similarly, the distrust towards groups claiming links with the October revolution in Russia 1917. It’s also on this part of the planet that the anti-communist campaigns following the collapse of the eastern bloc and the Stalinist regimes had the greatest impact. Revolutionary organisations belonging to the Left Communist current thus aroused a certain mistrust.

Nevertheless, with the bankruptcy of capitalism becoming more and more evident, a growing number of elements looking for a historical perspective tend to turn towards such groups as the ICC. Thus in France, as in all the countries of Europe, we’ve noted a growth in the numbers of our contacts and sympathisers. And above all, we’ve seen a will to discuss and debate, to confront and clarify divergences in a fraternal and mutually confident ambience, including in our relations with groups and internationalist elements belonging to the anarchist currents (such as the CNT-AIT).

The Congresses’ work also developed a discussion on an orientation text prepared by the ICC’s central organ: “Marxism and Science”.

Following discussions we had around the Darwin anniversary, the ICC felt the need to take up the approach of the workers’ movement relating to the link between Marxism and the sciences.

Inasmuch as Marxism is, before everything, a scientific method of the analysis of social reality, the ICC has to develop its interest in the fundamentals of all scientific method.

Marxism is always interested in science, in its discoveries which are an integral part of the development of the productive forces of society.

The proletariat will only be able to construct a future communist society with the development of scientific research.

Obviously Marxists are not scientific specialists, and the debate at the Congress bore essentially on method. A certain number of divergences appeared, notably around the question of “what is a science?”. Similarly, there’s no official position, no homogeneity amongst us regarding the contributions of Freud to science. The discussion also shone some light on the particular interest that Marxists should bring to the science of man so as to understand better what “human nature” is.

These debates must be pursued within the ICC and towards the exterior.

To conclude, all the delegations of the ICC and the comrades invited to the Congress saluted its work, the richness of discussion and the fraternal climate in which they took place.

This fraternity was manifested not only in the debates themselves, but also through the organisation of a convivial soiree during which all the participants shared a moment of festive relaxation where solidarity and human warmth came together.

This mutual confidence and solidarity must continue to serve as a beacon to us in order to pursue our activity and combat for the unification of humanity and the construction of a new society without want, war and exploitation.

We know that the road is long and strewn with pitfalls, but our conviction of the impasse of capitalism and the confidence in our class which is the bearer of communism is unbreakable. It is this confidence in a future that bears the coming combats of the working class which constitutes the principal strength of the ICC.

Sofiane, 20th August 2010