Report on the class struggle

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The evolution of the class struggle, widespread attacks on the working class, and the advanced state of capitalism's decomposition

We are publishing below the report on the class struggle presented and ratified at the autumn 2003 meeting of the ICC’s Central Organ.[1] This report confirms the organisation’s analysis of the persistence of the course towards class confrontations (a course opened by the international recovery in the class struggle in 1968), despite the serious setback to the proletariat’s consciousness since the collapse of the Eastern bloc; its task in particular was to evaluate the impact of the present and long-term aggravation of the economic crisis and of capitalism’s attacks on the working class. It analyses “The large scale mobilisations of spring 2003 in France and Austria [as] a turning point in the class struggles since 1989. They are a first significant step in the recovery of workers militancy after the longest period of reflux since 1968”.

We are still a long way from an international wave of massive struggles, since on the international level the degree of workers’ militancy remains embryonic and very uneven. Nonetheless, it is important to emphasise that the obviously serious aggravation in the perspectives for capitalism’s evolution, in terms of the dismantling of the Welfare State, the increase in exploitation in all its forms, and the growth of unemployment, cannot help but encourage the development of working class consciousness. The report particularly insists on both the depth, and the slow rhythm of this recovery in the class struggle.

Since this report was written, the evolution of events has not invalidated its characterisation of the changing dynamic within the working class. Indeed, they have revealed a tendency, outlined in the report, for isolated expressions of the class struggle to break out of the limits imposed by the trades unions. The ICC’s territorial press has published accounts of such struggles towards the end of 2003, in Italian public transport and in the Post Office in Britain, which obliged the rank-and-file unionists to act to sabotage the struggle. There has also been a continued tendency – which the ICC had already identified prior to this report – towards the emergence of minorities in search of a revolutionary coherence.

The working class still has a long road ahead of it. Nevertheless, the struggles it will have to undertake will also be the crucible for a process of reflection, spurred on by the deepening crisis and encouraged by the intervention of revolutionaries, which will allow the proletariat to recover its class identity and self-confidence, develop its class solidarity and renew the ties with its historical experience.

The report on the class struggle to the 15th congress of the ICC[[2]] underlined the quasi inevitability of a still undefeated generation of the proletariat, in response to the qualitative development of the crisis and attacks, responding with a slow but significant recovery of its militancy. It identified an embryonic, but tangible, broadening and deepening of the torturous and heterogeneous process of subterranean maturation of its consciousness. It insisted on the importance of the tendency towards more massive combats for the recuperation of class identity and self confidence. And it highlighted the fact that, with the evolution of the objective contradictions of the system, the crystallisation of a sufficient class consciousness within the proletariat – in particular concerning the re-conquest of a communist perspective - becomes more and more the decisive question for the future of humanity. It pointed out the historic importance and responsibility of the emergence of a new revolutionary generation, reaffirming that this process had already begun after 1989, despite the reflux in militancy and consciousness of the class as a whole. The report thus showed up the limits of this reflux, affirming the maintenance of an historic course towards massive class confrontations, and the capacity of the working class to overcome the set backs it has suffered. At the same time, the report placed this evolution in the context of our understanding of the ability of the ruling class to understand and respond to this perspective, as well as the terrible – and growing – negative effects of worsening capitalist decomposition. It thus concluded on the enormous responsibility of revolutionary organisations, both towards the effort of the working class to move forward and towards the new emerging generation of workers and revolutionaries.

Almost immediately after the 15th congress, and in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the workers’ mobilisations in France (among the largest in that country since 1968) and in Austria (the most massive since World War II) rapidly confirmed these perspectives. In drawing a first balance sheet of these struggles, International Review no114 notes that these struggles have refuted the alleged disappearance of the working class. It asserts that the present attacks “constitute the yeast for a slow rising of the conditions for the massive struggles which will be necessary for the working class to recover its identity. Little by little, they will tear down the illusions in the possibility of reforming the system. It is the action of the masses themselves which will make possible the re-emergence of the consciousness of being an exploited class that bears within it a different historical perspective for society. This being said, the road the working class must travel in order to assert its own revolutionary perspective is no motorway: it will be terribly long and difficult, strewn with pitfalls that its enemy will innevitably put in its path.”. The perspectives drawn up by the report on class struggle to the 15th ICC Congress are confirmed not only by the international evolution of a new, searching revolutionary generation, but also by these workers’ struggles.

This report on the class struggle will essentially be an update of its predecessor, together with a closer examination of the long term significance of certain aspects of the recent proletarian combats.

2003: A turning point

The large-scale mobilisations of the spring of 2003 in France and Austria represent a turning point in the class struggles since 1989. They are a first significant step in the recovery of workers militancy after the longest period of reflux since 1968. Of course the 1990s had already seen sporadic but important manifestations of this militancy. However, the simultaneity of the movements in France and Austria, and the fact that in their aftermath the German trade unions organised the defeat of the metal workers in the east[3] as a pre-emptive deterrent to proletarian resistance, show the evolution of the situation since the beginning of the new millennium. In reality, these events bring to light the growing impossibility for the class – despite its continuing lack of self confidence – to avoid the necessity of struggle faced with the dramatic worsening of the crisis and the increasingly massive and generalised character of the attacks.

But this change affects not only the militancy of the class, but also the mood within its ranks, the perspective within which its actions are placed. We are witnessing signs of loss of illusions not only concerning the typical mystifications of the 1990s (new technological revolution, individual enrichment via the stock exchange, the profitability of “wars for oil”), but also regarding the hopes of the post World War II generation about a better life for the coming generation and a decent pension for those who survive the horrors of wage labour.

As International Review n°114 recalls, the massive return of the proletariat in 1968 to the stage of history, and the reappearance of a revolutionary perspective, was in response, not only to the immediate level of attacks, but above all to the crumbling of the illusions in a better future which post war capitalism had appeared to offer. As opposed to what the vulgarised, mechanistic deformation of historical materialism would have us believe, such turning points in the class struggle – even if they are triggered off by an immediate worsening of material conditions, are always the result of underlying alterations in outlook towards the future. The bourgeois revolution in France exploded not with the emergence of the crisis of feudalism (which was already long standing) but when it became clear that the system of absolutism could no longer cope with that crisis. Similarly, momentum towards the first proletarian revolutionary wave began, not in August 1914, but when the illusions in a rapid military solution to the world war were dissipated.

This is why the understanding of their long term, historical significance is the main task posed by the recent struggles.

A slowly evolving social situation

Not every turning point in the class struggle is as significant, or as dramatic, as that of 1917 or 1968. These dates stand for alterations in the historic course, whereas 2003 merely marks the beginning of the end of a phase of reflux within the continuity of a course towards massive class confrontations. Between 1968 and 1989, the class struggle had already been marked by several ebbs and recoveries. In particular, the dynamic that began at the end of the 1970s rapidly culminated in the mass strike of the summer of 1980 in Poland. This altered the situation to such an extent that the bourgeoisie found itself forced into an abrupt change in its political orientation, putting the left into power the better to sabotage the class struggle from within.[4] It is also necessary to distinguish the present recovery in working-class militancy from the recovery during 1970-80.

More generally, we must be able to distinguish between situations where, so to speak, the world wakes up the next morning and it is no longer the same world, and changes that take place at first almost unnoticed by the world at large, like the almost invisible alteration between the ebb and flow of the tide. The present evolution is undoubtedly of the latter kind. In this sense, the recent mobilisations by no means signify a spectacular immediate alteration of the situation, which would require a sudden and fundamental deployment of the political forces of the bourgeoisie.

Indeed, we are still far from the presence of an international wave of massive struggles. In France, the massive nature of the spring mobilisation was essentially restricted to one sector, that of education. In Austria the mobilisations were more widespread, but basically limited to a couple of days of action mainly in the public sector. The metal workers strike in eastern Germany was not at all an expression of immediate workers militancy, but a trap laid for one of the least combative sections of the class (still traumatised by the almost overnight mass unemployment that followed German “reunification”) in order to reinforce the general message that struggle doesn’t pay. Moreover, in Germany news of the movements in France and Austria were only partly blacked out, and in the end were used to enforce this deterrent message. In other central countries of the class struggle such as Italy, Britain, Spain or the Benelux countries there have as yet been no recent, more massive mobilisations. Outbreaks of militancy, such as that of British Airways staff at Heathrow, or of the Alcatel workers in Toulouse or of the workers in Puertollano (see World Revolution n°269), remain very sporadic and isolated.

In France itself, the insufficient development, and above all the absence of a more widespread militancy meant that the extension of the movement in the education section was not immediately on the agenda.

Therefore, both internationally and within each country, the level of militancy is still embryonic and very heterogeneous. Its most important manifestation to date – that of the teachers in France – was first and foremost the result of a provocation by the bourgeoisie, which consisted of a violent attack on one sector, in order that the workers’ response to the pensions’ “reforms”, which concerned all workers, should be limited to that one sector.[5]

It is important to note that the class as a whole (including the searching groups, much of the proletarian milieu – essentially the groups of the communist left – and even many of our sympathisers) has proven enormously gullible in face of the large scale manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie. For the moment, the ruling class is not only well able to contain and isolate the first manifestations of workers unrest, it can also, with more or less success (more in Germany, less in France) use this still relatively weak will to struggle against the long term development of general militancy.

Most significant of all, however, is the fact that the bourgeoisie is not yet obliged to revert to the strategy of the left in opposition. In Germany, the country where the bourgeoisie has the most freedom of choice between a right or a left administration, on the occasion of the “Agenda 2010” offensive against the workers, 95% of the delegates of both SPD and the Greens came out in favour of maintaining the left government. Britain which, with Germany, was in the forefront of the world bourgeoisie during the 1970-80’s in putting the left into opposition in order to confront the struggle, is today perfectly capable of covering the social front with a left government.

In particular, as opposed to the situation around 1998, we can no longer speak of the deployment of left governments as a dominant orientation of the European bourgeoisie. Today this is not only due to decomposition, and in fact in countries like France and Austria the bourgeoisie has been able to momentarily respond to the problem of political populism. Whereas five years ago, the wave of left electoral victories was also connected to illusions about the economic situation, in the face of the present gravity of the crisis the bourgeoisie must be concerned about maintaining a certain governmental alternation, and thus playing out the card of electoral democracy. We should recall in this context that, already last year, the German bourgeoisie, while welcoming the re-election of Schröder, showed that it would also have been happy with a conservative Stoiber government.[6]

The Bankruptcy of the System

The fact that the first skirmishes in a long and difficult process towards more massive struggles took place in France and Austria may not be as fortuitous as it might appear. If the French proletariat is known for its tempestuousness, which may partly explain it having taken the lead in 1968, the same can hardly be said for the post-war Austrian working class. What these two countries have in common, however, is that the recent massive attacks were centred on the question of pensions. It is also noteworthy that the German government, which presently is probably launching the most generalised attack in Western Europe, is still preceding extremely prudently on the pensions question. As opposed to this, France and Austria are among the countries where – due to a large extent to the political weakness of the bourgeoisie, particularly the right – the most concessions to the class on the pensions question were made, so that the raising of the pension entry age and the slashing of benefits now must be felt all the more bitterly.

The aggravation of the crisis has forced the bourgeoisie to raise the retirement age. In doing so, it has sacrificed a social shock-absorber, which played a large part in making the working class accept the increasingly intolerable levels of exploitation imposed in recent decades, and in hiding the full extent of unemployment.

The bourgeoisie responded to the return of mass unemployment in the 1970s with a series of state capitalist welfare measures, which made absolutely no sense from an economic standpoint and which are today one of the main factors underlying the enormous rise in state debt. The current dismantling of the Welfare State can only provoke a profound questioning of the real perspective that capitalism offers society.

Not all capitalist attacks provoke the same defensive reactions from the working class. It is easier to struggle against wage cuts or the lengthening of the working day, than against the reduction in the relative wage as a result of the growth in labour productivity (thanks to technical improvements), which is part of the process of capital accumulation.  As Rosa Luxemburg put it: “A wage cut, leading to the reduction of the real living standard of the workers, is a visible assault of the capitalists against the workers and as a rule (...) it will be replied to as such with immediate struggle, and in the best of cases be beaten back. As opposed to this, the lowering of the relative wage apparently takes place without the least personal involvement of the capitalists, and against this the workers, within the wage system, i.e. on the terrain of commodity production, have not the slightest possibility of struggle and resistance” (Introduction to national  economy).

The rise in unemployment poses the same difficulties for the working class as the intensification of exploitation (the attack on the relative wage). When unemployment affects young people who have never worked, it does not have the same explosive effect as do redundancies. The existence of mass unemployment tends, indeed, to inhibit the immediate struggles of the working class not only because it is a constant threat for a growing number of those still in work, but also because it tends to pose questions which cannot be answered without raising the issue of radically changing society. Concerning the struggle against the relative decline in wages, Luxemburg added: “The struggle against the lowering of the relative wage therefore also signifies the struggle against the commodity character of the labour force, in other words against the capitalist production as a whole. The struggle against the fall of the relative wage is thus no longer a struggle on the terrain of commodity production, but a revolutionary, insurrectional movement against the existence of this economy, it is the socialist movement of the proletariat” (idem).

The 1930s revealed how, with mass unemployment, absolute pauperisation explodes. Without the prior defeat of the proletariat, the “general, absolute law of capitalist accumulation” risked becoming its opposite, the law of the revolution. With the re-emergence of mass unemployment from the 1970s on, the bourgeoisie responded with measures of state capitalist welfarism; measures which economically make no sense, and which today are one of the main causes of the unfathomable public debt. The working class has an historical memory. Despite the loss of class identity, with the deepening crisis, this memory slowly begins to be activated. Mass unemployment and the slashing of the social wage today conjure up memories of the 1930s, visions of generalised insecurity and pauperisation. The demolition of the “Welfare State” will confirm the marxists’ predictions.

When Luxemburg writes that the workers, on the terrain of commodity production, have not the slightest possibility of resistance against the lowering of the relative wage, this is neither resigned fatalism, nor “the revolution or nothing” pseudo radicalism of the later Essen tendency of the KAPD, but the recognition that this struggle cannot remain within the boundaries of the “minimum programme” (immediate economic demands) and must be entered into with the greatest possible political clarity. In the 1980s the questions of unemployment and the increase in exploitation were already posed, but often in a narrow and local manner: “saving British miners’ jobs”, for example. Today the qualitative advance of the crisis can permit questions like unemployment, poverty, exploitation, to be posed more globally and politically, as are the questions of pensions, health, the maintenance of the unemployed, working conditions, the length of a working life and the generational link. This, in a very embryonic form, is the potential revealed by the recent movements in response to the pension attacks. This long term lesson is by far the most important one, of greater significance than questions such as the pace with which the immediate militancy of the class is likely to recover. In fact, as Luxemburg explains, being directly confronted with the devastating effects of the objective mechanisms of capitalism (mass unemployment, the intensification of relative exploitation) makes it more difficult to enter the struggle. For this reason, even if the development of struggles becomes slower and more torturous, the struggles themselves become politically more significant.

Going beyond the schemas of the past

Because of the deepening crisis, capitalism can no longer rely on its ability to make major material concessions in order to improve the image of the unions, as it did in France in 1995.[7] Despite the present illusions of the workers, there are limits to the bourgeoisie’s ability to utilise nascent militancy for large scale manoeuvres: these limits are revealed by the fact that the unions are gradually being obliged to resume their role of sabotaging the struggle: “We thus find ourselves today in a classic schema of the class struggle: first the government attacks, and the trade unions preach union unity in order to start the massive movement of the workers behind the unions and under their control. Then the government opens negotiations where the unions divide amongst themselves in order to spread division and disorientation in the workers' ranks. This method, which plays on the trade unions’ division in the face of rising class struggle, has been thoroughly proven by the bourgeoisie as a means to preserve union control overall by concentrating as far as possible the loss in credibility on one or other trade union apparatus appointed in advance. This also means that the unions are once again put to the test, and that the inevitable development of the struggles to come once again poses the problem for the working class of the confrontation with its enemies in order to assert its class interests and the needs of its struggle” (International Review n°114, op. cit.).

Although today, the bourgeoisie has virtually no difficulty in the execution of its large-scale manoeuvres against the working class, the deteriorating economic situation will tend to cause increasingly frequent, though sporadic, spontaneous and isolated, confrontations between the workers and the unions.

The return to a classic schema of confrontation with union sabotage is henceforth on the agenda, and will make it easier for workers to refer to the lessons of the past.

But this should not lead us to a schematic application of the framework of the 1980s to the struggles and our intervention today. The present combats are those of a class which has still to recover even a rudimentary class identity. The other side of the coin of being unaware of belonging to a social class is not recognising the confrontation with the class enemy. And although these workers still have an elementary sense of the need for solidarity (since this is basic to the condition of the proletariat), they have still to regain a vision of what class solidarity really is.

To put through its pension “reforms” in France, the bourgeoisie had no need for the unions to sabotage the extension of the struggle. The core of its strategy was to make the teachers adopt their own specific demands at the centre of the struggle. In order to put this strategy into operation, the teachers – who had already been seriously hit by previous attacks – were subjected to another, specific attack: the proposed decentralisation of the employment of the non-teaching personnel, around which the whole mobilisation in effect polarised. The adoption of core demands which in fact ensure the struggle’s defeat is always a sign of weakness in the working class, which it must overcome if it is to take any significant steps forward. We can see an example a contrario of this necessity in the struggles in Poland in 1980, where the illusions in Western-style democracy made it possible to introduce the demand for “free trade unions” at the heart of the movement, and so open the door to its defeat and repression.

During the struggles of spring 2003 in France, it was the loss of acquisitions about the existence of the class and the nature of its solidarity which led the teachers to accept that their specific demands should come before the general question of the attack on pensions. Revolutionaries must not be afraid to recognise this weakness of the class, and adjust their intervention accordingly.

The report on the class struggle to the 15th Congress strongly insisted on the importance of the resurgence of militancy for the advance of the proletariat. But this has nothing in common with a workerist cult of militancy in itself. In the 1930s the bourgeoisie was able to divert workers’ militancy down the path of imperialist war. The importance of struggles today is that they can be the scene for the development of class consciousness. The basic issue at stake – the recovery of class identity – is an extremely modest one. But behind class identity, there is the question of class solidarity – the only alternative to the mad competitive bourgeois logic of each for himself. Behind class identity there is the possibility of reappropriating the lessons of past struggles, and reactivating the collective memory of the proletariat.

The bourgeoisie, for its part, does not allow itself to be lulled by the “modesty” of this issue. Until now, through a “left” and democratic avoidance of provocations, it has done what it can to avoid triggering off the kind of movements which would remind workers that they belong together. The lesson of 2003 is that, with the acceleration of the crisis, workers combat will nonetheless inevitably develop. It is not this militancy as such which worries the ruling class, but the risk that these conflicts generate class consciousness. The bourgeoisie is not less but more worried about this than in the past – precisely because the crisis is graver and more global. Its main concern is that, whenever struggles cannot be avoided, that they should not contribute to, but damage the development of the self confidence, solidarity and reflection of the class. During the 1980s, in face of workers’ combats, the ICC learnt to identify, in each particular case, the brake on the advancement of the movement, around which the confrontation with the left and the unions could take place. Often this was the question of extension. Concrete motions, presented to general assemblies, to go towards the other workers – this was the dynamite with which we attempted to clear the way for the advancement of the cause. The central questions of today – what is the workers’ struggle, what are its goals and methods, who are its opponents, what are the obstacles it must overcome? – appear to be the antithesis of the 1980s: more “abstract” and “backward”, less immediately realisable, a return even to the point of departure for the whole workers’ movement. It demands of our intervention more patience, a longer term vision, more profound political and theoretical capacities. In reality, the central questions of today are not more abstract, they are more global. There is nothing abstract or backward in intervening, at a workers assembly, on the question of the demands of the movement, or unmasking the way the unions prevent a real perspective of extension. The global character of these questions shows the way forward. Before 1989, the proletariat failed to sufficiently advance precisely because it posed the issues of class struggle too narrowly. And it is because it began to feel, from the mid-1990s onwards, that the proletariat – through the minorities within it – had begun to feel the need for this more global vision, that the bourgeoisie, aware of the danger that this could represent, developed the anti-globalisation movement to provide a false answer to these questions.

Moreover, the left of capital, especially the leftists, have become masters of the art of employing the effects of decomposition against workers struggles. If the economic crisis favours the posing of questions as globally as possible, decomposition has the opposite effect. During the spring 2003 movement in France, and the steel workers’ strike in Germany, we saw how the union activists, in the name of “extension” or “solidarity” cultivated the mentality of minorities of workers attempting to impose the struggle on other workers, and blaming them for the defeat of the movement when they refuse to be dragged into action.

In 1921, during the March Action in Germany, the tragic scenes of the unemployed trying to prevent workers from entering the factories was an expression of desperation in face of the retreat of the revolutionary wave. The recent calls of French leftists to block the public transport taking employees to work, or to prevent pupils from going to their exams; the spectacle of west German unionists wanting to prevent east German steel workers – who no longer wanted a long strike for a 35 hour week – going back to work, are dangerous attacks against the very idea of the working class and its solidarity. They are all the more dangerous because they feed on the impatience, immediatism and mindless activism which decomposition breeds. We are warned: if the coming struggles are a potential crucible of consciousness, the bourgeoisie is out to convert them into graveyards of proletarian reflection.

Here we see tasks worthy of communist intervention: To “patiently explain” (Lenin) why solidarity cannot be imposed, but requires mutual confidence between the different parts of the class. To explain why the left, in the name of workers’ unity, are out to destroy workers’ unity.

The basis of our confidence in the proletariat

All the components of the proletarian political milieu agree on the importance of the crisis for the development of workers militancy. But the ICC is the only current presently existing that understands how the crisis stimulates the class consciousness of the broad masses. The other groups restrict the role of the crisis to the purely physical compulsion to struggle which it exercises. For the councilists, the crisis more or less forces the class to make the revolution. For the Bordigists the awakening of class instinct carries the party as the bearer of class consciousness to power. For the IBRP, revolutionary consciousness is introduced from outside by the party. Along the searching groups, the autonomists (who take from Marxism the idea that the proletariat must be autonomous from other classes) and the operaists believe that the revolution is the product of a workers’ revolt, and of the individual desire for a better life.

These incorrect approaches have been reinforced by the incapacity of these currents to understanding that the failure of the proletariat to respond to the 1929 crisis was due to the prior defeat of the revolutionary wave begun in Russia in 1917. One of the consequences of this inability is the continuing theorisation of imperialist war rather than the crisis as creating the most favourable conditions for revolution (see our article on the alternative of “War or Revolution” in International Review n°30).

As opposed to these visions, Marxism poses the question as follows: “It is an acknowledged fact that the scientific explanation of socialism bases itself on three results of capitalist development: above all on the growing anarchy of the capitalist economy, making its demise an unavoidable consequence, secondly on the progressive socialisation of the process of production, creating the positive germs of the future social order, and thirdly on the growing power and class knowledge of the proletariat, constituting the active factor of the upcoming upheaval”.[8]

Underlying the link between these three aspects, and the role of the crisis therein, Luxemburg writes: “Social Democracy deducts its final goal neither from the victorious violence of a minority, nor from the numerical superiority of the majority, but from economic necessity and from the understanding of this necessity, leading to the overthrowing of capitalism by the popular masses, and which expresses itself above all in capitalist anarchy”.[9]

Whereas reformism (and nowadays the left of capital) promises improvements through the intervention of the state, through laws protecting the workers, the crisis helps to reveal that “the wage system is not a legal relationship, but a purely economic one” (idem).

It is through the attacks it suffers that the class as a whole begins to understand the real nature of capitalism. This, Marxist point of view, does not at all deny the role of revolutionaries and of theory in this process. In Marxist theory the workers will find the confirmation and explanation of what they are themselves experiencing.

[1]. This text was written for internal debate within the organisation, and is therefore likely to contain certain formulations which are insufficiently explicit for our readers. We think nonetheless that these defects will not be a barrier to our readers grasping the essential points of the analysis contained in the report.

[2]. We were unable, due to lack of space, to publish this report in our press. However, International Review n°113 contains the resolution on the class struggle adopted at the congress, which puts forward the main lines of the report.

3. The IG Metal union pushed the steelworkers in the Eastern Länder into striking for the implementation of the 35-hour week planned to come into force in 2009. Not only is the 35-hour week an attack on the working class because of the flexible working practices that come with it, the whole mobilisation of the unions was designed to divert attention from the need to respond to the austerity measures contained in the “2010 Agenda”.

[4]. This card of the left in opposition was used by the ruling class at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. It takes the form of a systematic division of labour between the different sectors of the bourgeoisie. The right in government has the job of “speaking the truth” and imposing brutal attacks on the working class, while the left– in other words the fractions of the bourgeoisie which, thanks to their history and their language, have the specific task of controlling the working class – has the job in opposition of stifling the development of the workers’ struggles and consciousness provoked by these attacks. More elements can be found in International Review n°26.

[5]. For a more detailed analysis of this movement see our article “Class Struggles in France, Spring 2003: The Massive Attacks of Capital Demand a Mass Response From the Working Class” in International Review n°114.

[6]. There is another reason for the presence of the right in power, which is the need to counter the rise of political populism (whose development is closely linked to that of decomposition) and whose representative parties are generally maladapted to the management of the national capital.

[7]. In December 1995, the unions were at the forefront of a manoeuvre of the entire bourgeoisie against the working class. The unions had no difficulty in bringing out masses of workers against the Juppé Plan – a massive attack against the social security system – and another aimed more especially at the railway workers, whose violence gave it the character of a veritable provocation. The economic situation was not then so serious as to force the bourgeoisie to maintain its attack on the rail workers’ pensions : the measure could thus be withdrawn, and presented as a great victory for the workers mobilised in the unions. In reality, the Juppé Plan went through, but the greatest defeat lay in the fact that the bourgeoisie was able to renew the unions’ credibility, and to pass off a defeat as a victory. For more details, see the articles in International Review n°84-85.

[8]. Luxemburg: Social Reform or Revolution (“Anti-Bernstein”)

[9]. Luxemburg, ibid.