What is the GCI (Internationalist Communist Group) good for?

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Since 1989 the international proletariat has undergone a long period of reflux in its class consciousness and its combativity. Its capacity to conceive itself as a class able to play the historic role of overthrowing capitalism and building a new society, has been profoundly affected by the fall of the regimes falsely called "communist" and the bourgeois campaign on the "impossibility" of an alternative to capitalist society. As a result the old refrains of Marcuse, the Frankfurt School, etc, who announced the disappearance of the proletariat and its replacement by new "revolutionary subjects" has experienced a comeback among comrades who are wondering "how to struggle" against this world full of barbarism and misery. However this situation is beginning to change under the effects of the rapid aggravation of capitalism’s contradictions, of its economic crisis in particular. The international proletariat is rediscovering its combativeness[1] and developing its consciousness; this is indicated by the emergence of minorities who are not only asking, "who is the revolutionary subject?" but also ask "what aims and means must the proletariat employ if it is to realise its revolutionary nature?".[2]

In the face of such questions, the intervention of the Groupe Communiste Internationaliste (GCI, or in English, the Internationalist Communist Group, ICG) sows enormous confusion. On the one hand they present themselves as "revolutionaries of the far left" (they condemn parliamentarism and nationalism, they denounce the left and extreme left of capital and attack private property, etc). On the other hand they give "critical" support, just as the extreme left of capital does, to some of the most reactionary positions of the bourgeoisie and viciously attack the class positions of the proletariat and its genuine communist organisations. So the trajectory of the GCI over the last twenty-five years boils down to a barely dissimulated support for openly bourgeois causes under the pretext that "proletarian mass movements" lurk behind them. The aim of this article is to denounce this pretence.

The GCI’s trajectory

The GCI was born from a split from the ICC in 1979, and since then has lost no opportunity to support every bourgeois cause:

  • at the beginning of the 1980s it indirectly took the side of the Popular Revolutionary Bloc in the war in El Salvador (and which was a confrontation between American and Russian imperialist powers by means of local pawns). The GCI denounced the leadership of the PRB as bourgeois but held that "a movement of the revolutionary masses" lay hidden behind it and that this should be supported;[3]
  • from the middle of the 1980s, in the war between bourgeois factions that opposed the Shining Path[4] and the dominant factions of the Peruvian bourgeoisie, the GCI also took the side of the Shining Path indirectly. The excuse was "support for the proletarian prisoners, the victims of the terrorism of the bourgeois state";[5]
  • at the end of the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s, confronted with the nationalist movement of Algerian Kabilia (1988) or the one that developed in Iraqi Kurdistan (1991), the GCI used the most sophisticated excuses to support these movements. They talked of the creation of "workers' councils" "by the masses". But, as they were themselves forced to admit, in Kabilia these "workers’ councils" were really inter-classist organisms in hamlets or districts set up by tribal chiefs or leaders of nationalist or oppositional parties, often called into existence by "Tribal Committees"![6]

Confronted with recent imperialist conflicts, the GCI has maintained the same direction. They have adopted a position decidedly in favour of the Iraqi insurrection (which we will come back to at the end of this article). We should also stress that in the conflict between Israel and Palestine the GCI pounced on expressions of pacifist ideology within left wing sectors of the Israeli bourgeoisie in order to present them, albeit critically, as a "first step" towards "revolutionary defeatism", no less. So they quote the following passage of a letter from an objector, who certainly took a risk in expressing his opposition to the war but who does not go beyond the nationalist terrain: "Your army which is called the 'Israeli Defence Force' is nothing other than the armed instrument of the settlers' movement. This army does not exist to bring security to Israeli citizens, it only exists to guarantee the continued theft of Palestinian land. As a Jew, the crimes committed by this force against the Palestinian people disgust me. It is my duty as a Jew and as a human being to categorically refuse to play any kind of role in this army. As the son of a people who have been the victim of pogroms and destruction, I refuse to play a role in your senseless policies. As a human being, it is my duty to refuse participation in any institution that commits crimes against humanity." (Letter quoted in the article "Nous ne sommes ni israéliens, ni palestiniens, ni juifs, ni musulmans, … nous sommes le prolétariat!" in Communisme n° 54, April 2003). In fact, whatever the author’s intentions, this letter could have been signed by the factions of Israeli capital who publicly criticise the way the war is conducted because they are aware of the growing discontent among the workers and the population against the situation of endless war. The letter calls for "the defence of the safety of Israeli citizens", which is no more than a sophisticated way of referring to the security of Israeli capital. It does not address the problem of the interests of the workers and the exploited masses but rather that of the Israeli nation. In other words it contains all the ingredients - defence of the nation and the national capital - that are the basis of imperialist war.

Worshipping anything that moves in opposition to revolutionary principles

The "contributions" of the GCI can be summed up as a cocktail of "radical" positions and those typical of third worldism and bourgeois leftism. How does the GCI manage to reconcile water and fire? Its blackmailing method goes like this: why scorn a proletarian movement just because the bourgeoisie leads it? Did not the Russian revolution of 1905 start with a demonstration led by Father Gapon?

This "argument" is based on a sophism that, as we will see, is the quicksand on which the whole "theoretical" edifice of the GCI is built. A sophism is a false affirmation that is deduced from correct premises. This is illustrated in the famous example: "Socrates is mortal, all men are mortal, all men are Socrates". It is a matter of a ridiculous assertion, just an intellectual game consisting of a chain of syllogisms.

"1905" was a real proletarian movement that set in motion huge masses. They won the street where at the beginning they were subjected to the attempts of the tsarist police to manipulate them. But this does not mean that every movement which reveals "great weaknesses" and is "led by the bourgeoisie" is proletarian. This is where the huge sophism of the gentlemen of the GCI resides! There are numerous "mass movements" that have been organised by factions of the bourgeoisie for its own benefit. These movements have led to violent confrontations, they have led to spectacular changes of government that are frequently called "revolutions". But none of this makes them proletarian movements comparable to the 1905 revolution.[7] An example of the amalgamation method of the GCI is to be seen in its analysis of the events in Bolivia in 2003. The masses were on the streets, there were attacks on banks and bourgeois institutions, blocked streets, looted supermarkets, lynchings, presidents overthrown… Here we have all the ingredients that lead the GCI to talk of "the affirmation of the proletariat" and declare that: "It has been a long time since we have heard it said openly that it is necessary to destroy bourgeois power and bourgeois parliament with all its representative democracy (including the famous Constituent Assembly) and build proletarian power to make the social revolution!" ("Quelques lignes de force dans la lutte du prolétariat en Bolivie" in Communisme n°56, October 2004).

Anyone who seriously analyses the events in Bolivia can see nothing that resembles the "destruction" of bourgeois power or the "construction of the power of the proletariat". From beginning to end the movement was dominated by bourgeois demands (nationalisation of the oil and gas industry, constituent assembly, recognition of Aymara nationality, etc) and its general aims gravitated around such "revolutionary" themes as "putting an end to the neo-liberal model", "establishing another form of government", "struggling against Yankee imperialism".[8]

The GCI is obliged to recognise this but all at once they pull out of their hat the "undeniable" argument: that this is part of the weaknesses of the movement! Following this irrefutable logic, a struggle for bourgeois demands from beginning to end, can undergo a miraculous transformation that can carry the proletariat to power in order to realise the social revolution. This "ultra-radical" version of old fairy tales enables the GCI to horribly disfigure the proletarian struggle.

Any society in crisis and decomposition, as is the situation of capitalism today, suffers increasingly strong convulsions that lead to rebellion, riots, assaults, disturbances, and repeated violations of the most basic rules of social life. But all this chaos has nothing to do with a social revolution. This is all the more so when we are talking of the proletarian revolution, that of a class that is both exploited and revolutionary, that effectively dismantles the established order, turns everything upside down but does it in a conscious and organised way with the perspective of social transformation. "When, to be sure, the representatives of our German opportunism hear of ‘revolution,’ they immediately think of bloodshed, street fighting or powder and shot, and the logical conclusion thereof is: the mass strike leads inevitably to the revolution, therefore we dare not have it. In actual fact we see in Russia that almost every mass strike in the long run leads to an encounter with the armed guardians of tsarist order, and therein the so-called political strikes exactly resemble the larger economic struggle. The revolution, however, is something other and something more than bloodshed. In contradiction to the police interpretation, which views the revolution exclusively from the standpoint of street disturbances and rioting, that is, from the standpoint of ‘disorder’ the interpretation of scientific socialism sees in the revolution above all a thorough-going internal reversal of social class relations." (Rosa Luxemburg: Mass strike, party and unions). Certainly the proletarian revolution is based on violent confrontations, bloody battles but these are means that are consciously controlled by the proletarian masses and consistent with the revolutionary goal to which it aspires. In one of its habitual exercises in sophistry, the GCI isolates and abstracts elements such as "disturbance", "disruption of public order" from the living phenomenon that is a revolution and, with impeccable logic, they deduce that any convulsion that changes bourgeois society is "revolutionary".

The blind activism of "the masses in revolt" is used by the GCI to smuggle through the idea that the latter would reject electoralism and go beyond democratic illusions. They tell us that the slogan "Kick them all out!" that was so popular with the petty bourgeoisie during the convulsions of 2001 in Argentina goes further than Russia 1917. "The slogan 'Kick them all out! Get rid of the lot of them!' is a slogan that goes way beyond the political, particularly as a critique of democracy. It makes it quite clear that the slogans raised in insurrectionary movements that were much stronger, including that of 'Bread and Peace' in Russia, October 1917, were centrist slogans"  ("A propos des luttes ouvrières en Argentine", Communisme n° 56, October 2004).

These gentlemen of the GCI falsify historic facts scandalously. In fact, the slogan of October was "All power to the soviets", that is it posed the only question that could criticise democracy in acts, by overthrowing the bourgeois state and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat on its ruins. On the other hand, "Kick them all out!" contains the utopian dream of "democratic regeneration" through "direct popular participation" without "professional politicians". No break with democracy whatsoever took place in Argentina. On the contrary its chains were tightened, as is shown by a report made by the GCI itself: "At the elections, the majority vote was the so-called 'vote of anger' or 'vote of rage', a vote that is invalid, annulled. Groups of proletarians printed electoral leaflets in the form of a pamphlet with the heading 'No party. I will vote for no one. Vote of rage'" ("A propos des luttes ouvrières en Argentine", Communisme n°54, April 2003). This is supposed to constitute a break with electoralism! On the contrary, this affirms it because it acts to reinforce participation in the electoral circus by inciting people to vote even if they do not have confidence in the "current politicians". It calls on them to express their distrust of the latter but their confidence in electoral participation!

The GCI bring in through the back door, wrapping it in an activist mist, the defence of democracy that they solemnly threw out of the front door. In Argentina they also support the escraches, protest movements in front of the homes of military personnel involved in the barbaric crimes of the dirty war (1976-83). These actions, inspired by the "ultra-democrat" Kirschner, are a current manoeuvre of the Argentine state to divert attention from the increasingly cruel attacks against the living conditions of the proletariat and most of the rest of the population. A few Argentine officers are used as scapegoats to divert the anger of the discontented masses. For the GCI, far from weakening the consciousness of the proletariat, "By means of this social condemnation, the proletariat develops its strength by mobilising a large number of people (from the locality, neighbours, friends…)" (Ibid). Behind these pompous words, the reality is that these are mobilisations against repression that are typical of citizens' collectives (neighbours, friends, people from the locality) that are fated to refurbish the democratic facade of the state.[9]

Methods of "proletarian struggle" according to the GCI

The method that the GCI extols for the proletarian struggle is no more than a trade unionist and even decidedly social democratic approach. It is no different from classical leftism except for its verbal radicalism, its exaltation of violence and its tendency to label everything as "proletarian".

In a thesis on proletarian autonomy and its limits, referring to the events in Argentina in 2001, the GCI outlines what could be the quintessence of the organisation for workers' struggle and its methods of struggle. "In the process of affirming itself as a class, the proletariat endowed itself with massive structures of association such as assemblies in the locality. These were in turn preceded, made possible and created by structures that were more permanent and organised; the piqueteros that have been described above and other structures that over the years have fought against the impunity of the torturers and the assassins of the Argentinean state (Mothers of May Square, Hijos…). These include the associations of workers in struggle (occupied factories) or those of the pensioners' movement. The correlation between the different kinds of structures, the continuity between some of them and the forms of direct action employed by them, made possible this affirmation of proletarian autonomy in Argentina. It is an example that tends to spread to America and the rest of the world: pickets, escraches, organised pillaging and the organisation of the locality around an enormous cooking pot so that everyone can eat every day…" ("A propos des luttes ouvrières en Argentine", Communisme °54, April 2003).

Come off it! The local assemblies that in the 2001 revolts were generally the expression of the desperate petty bourgeoisie are turned into "massive structures for the association of workers".[10]

The best expression of the GCI's vision of "workers' associations" is its idea that the "self-organisation of the proletariat" was "preceded, made possible and created" by "permanent structures" such as the piqueteros, the associations of the occupied factories and even the Mothers of May Square!

Here too, this kind of position is in line with those of the left and the extreme left of capital. That is, if you want to struggle you have to have a prior mass organisation that divides you into sectors (union organisations, co-operatives, organisations against repression, of pensioners, of youth, of the unemployed, in localities, etc). What are the lessons that the proletarian elements should learn from passing through these structures? Quite simply that they do not in any way serve as an impetus for organisation, consciousness and the strength of the working class. On the contrary, they are instruments of the bourgeois state to disorganise, atomise, demobilise and lock workers who fall into their net, onto the terrain of the bourgeoisie. These are not the methods by which the proletariat opposes the bourgeois state but the latter's weapons against the proletariat.

This is because in decadent capitalism there can be no permanent mass organisations that simply restrict this or that aspect of capitalist exploitation and oppression. As this kind of organisation is unable to undermine the bourgeois state, it is inevitably absorbed by it. It is perforce integrated into its democratic mechanisms for totalitarian control over society and over the working class in particular. In decadent capitalism unitary organisations for the economic and political defence of the working class can only exist if there is a massive mobilisation of the workers.

In Argentina, we have seen a proliferation of "base" organisations: the piqueteros movement, self-managed enterprises, a network under the name of "economic solidarity", independent unions, people's canteens… Such organisations are usually created out of the response of the workers or the population to increasingly hopeless exploitation and misery. These responses are made outside of, and sometimes against, the unions and the official institutions. However the attempt to make them permanent, leads inevitably to their absorption by the bourgeois state, thanks in particular to the rapid intervention of aid organisations (like the NGOs of the Catholic church or off-shoots of  Peronism) and in particular to a swarm of leftist organisations (mainly Trotskyist).

The clearest case of the anti-working class function of these permanent organisations is the piqueteros movement. In 1996-97 there were roadblocks in various regions mounted by the unemployed who were fighting to obtain the means of subsistence. These early movements were a genuine proletarian struggle. However they could not extend because of the international reflux in the struggle both at the level of consciousness and of combativity. Although they proved to be unable to establish a balance of forces in their favour against the bourgeois state, they were gradually conceived as a means of putting pressure on it. The unemployed were progressively "organised" by the radical unionists, by extreme left groups (the Trotskyists in particular). This gave rise to the piqueteros movement, which degenerated into a real assistance movement (the state distributed sacks of provisions to many piqueteros organisations in return for their control over the workers).

But in spite of this conclusion that was reached by elements in Argentina itself[11] and is made on the basis of the interests of the working class, the GCI does all it can to contribute to the anti-proletarian myth propagated about the piqueteros movement, presenting it - unhesitatingly - as the expression of the renaissance of the proletariat in Argentina: "The affirmation of the proletariat in Argentina would not have been possible without the development of the piqueteros movement, the spearhead of proletarian association over the last five years. The pickets in Argentina, the total block on lorries, roads, motorways and its extension to other countries has shown to the whole world that the proletariat as an historic subject is not dead and that transportation is capital's Achilles heel in the present period."[12] (Communisme n° 54, April 2003)

When reality makes it difficult to go on defending its analysis, the GCI backs off once more and talks of the weaknesses of the piqueteros movement, its "institutionalisation", to avoid saying that it is integrated purely and simply into the bourgeois state. So in reference to a congress of the piqueteros associations that was held in 2000, they concede: "However a tendency that is trying to institutionalise the movement tried to take control of this congress, which was to set up a fight plan to increase the road blocks in the following months. Within this tendency there is the CTA (Argentinean workers centre); organisations that adhere to it are the important Federation for land and lodging, the CCC (Classist and Combative Current) and the Workers' Pole - Workers' Party. A medley of different political and leftist ideologies (radical populism, Trotskyism, Maoism), this tendency is trying in practice to officialise the piqueteros movement. It does so by trying to make it a valid interlocutor, with permanent representatives and clear demands to which the state can respond ("freedom for imprisoned social combatants, Planes Trabajar and an end to policies making concessions to neo-liberalism"). This leads the members of this tendency to accept a series of conditions that denature the strength of the movement and tend to liquidate it." ("A propos des luttes ouvrières en Argentine", Communisme no.54, April 2003)

But for the GCI this does not mean that the movement has lost its proletarian character. They go on to say that "the mass of piqueteros ignore these orders, break with the legality that is imposed on them and refuse to abandon their methods of struggle: the wearing of balaclavas (that the movement has held to be a basic aspect of security and defence), blocking the roads completely and even the seizure of banks and government offices continue to develop" ("A propos des luttes ouvrières en Argentine", Communisme n° 54, April 2003).

Finally, the GCI follows the same schema as does the bourgeois left: they too speak of the "institutionalisation" of mass organs and then go on to add that there is a "rank-and-file" that counter-balances the leadership and takes "initiatives" to struggle. What kind of struggle? Wearing a balaclava or the sterile radicalism that consists of "blocking the roads completely", such as the unionists advocate when they are afraid that the situation may get out of hand.

The attack on property and the "future" society according to the GCI

The proletariat’s goal is supposedly the "generalised reappropriation of the means of existence, by attacking the bourgeoisie and its state". And this goal of "generalised reappropriation" is supposed to have taken form already, once again in Argentina: "From the 18th December on, in the four corners of Argentina, the proletariat assaulted supermarkets, delivery trucks, shops, banks, factories (...) sharing out the expropriated goods among the proletarians and supplying the ‘popular’ soup-kitchens with what had been recovered" ("A propos des luttes ouvrières en Argentine", Communisme n°54, April 2003). The GCI’s "communist" programme can be summed up as follows: "the proletarians directly expropriate bourgeois property to satisfy their immediate needs".

Like the rest of the GCI’s verbal loudmouth radicalism, these words might frighten a few bourgeois half-wits. They might even impress some elements who are in revolt but are ignorant. But when we look at them more closely, they are thoroughly reactionary. The proletariat’s goal is not the "direct" distribution of existing wealth, for the simple reason that – as Marx showed against Proudhon – the roots of capitalist exploitation lie not in the way products are shared out, but in the social relationships through which production is organised.[13]

To call a saqueo (expropriation of goods) a "direct expropriation of bourgeois property" is nothing but trickery clothed in "marxist" terminology. The saqueo does not attack property, it merely causes it to change hands. The GCI is in direct continuity with Bakunin, who considered bandits to be the "most thorough-going revolutionaries". When one group is expropriated by another, there is no "revolutionary" dynamic about it, on the contrary it is a logical reproduction of bourgeois society: the bourgeoisie expropriated the peasantry and the artisans to transform them into proletarians, and the bourgeoisie expropriate each other through the ferocious competition which is characteristic of their system. The theft of consumer goods in its various forms is part of the interplay of capitalist relations of production: the thief steals from someone else, shopkeepers cheat on a small or large scale, the capitalists both large and small swindle the consumers and their own competitors, etc. If you want to imagine a society whose watchword is "expropriate each other", then you need only look at capitalism: "The gradations between commercial profiteering, fictitious deals, adulteration of foodstuffs, cheating, official embezzlement, theft, burglary and robbery, flow into one another in such fashion that the boundary line between honourable citizenry and the penitentiary has disappeared. In this the same phenomenon is repeated as in the regular and rapid degeneration of bourgeois dignitaries when they are transplanted to an alien social soil in an overseas colonial setting. With the stripping off of conventional barriers and props for morality and law, bourgeois society itself falls victim to direct and limitless degeneration [Verlumpung], for its innermost law of life is the profoundest of immoralities, namely, the exploitation of man by man" (Rosa Luxemburg, "The struggle against corruption", in The Russian revolution, 1918).

"Attack property" as a slogan is mere empty showing-off. At best, it looks at the effects without so much as being aware of the causes. Marx has already refuted such pompous radicalism in his polemic with Proudhon: "In each historical epoch, property has developed differently and under a set of entirely different social relations. thus to define bourgeois property is nothing else than to give an exposition of all the social relations of bourgeois production. To try to give a definition of property as of an independent relation, a category apart, an abstract and eternal idea, can be nothing but an illusion of metaphysics or jurisprudence" (The poverty of philosophy, "Property or ground rent").

What should the society of the future be like according to the GCI? Very learnedly, they tell us that "the unvarying goal of the proletarian revolution is to work as little as possible and to live as well as possible; in the end, this is exactly the same goal as that of the slave when he struggled against slavery 500 or 3,000 years ago. The proletarian revolution is nothing but the historical generalisation of the struggle for the material interests of all the exploited classes since antiquity" ("Pouvoir et révolution", in Communisme n°56, October 2004).

The GCI’s daring tirade in favour of "working as little as possible", thoroughly typical of the ideal revolt of the student petty bourgeois, is incapable of going beyond a vision which reduces work to the alienating activity that it has been in all class societies, and is under capitalism in particular. It is a million miles from understanding that, in a society freed from exploitation, work will no longer be the stultifying activity it is today, but will be a factor in the fulfilment of human beings.

To proclaim that the "unvarying goal" (sic) of the "proletarian revolution" is to " to work as little as possible and to live as well as possible" merely reduces the programme of the proletarian revolution to a ludicrous statement of the obvious. Apart from a few workaholic managers, this is everybody’s "unvarying goal", beginning with Mr Bush who, despite being President of the United States, takes a nap every day, goes off for a break at the end of every week, and in general idles as much as he can, thus putting into rigorous practice the "revolutionary" programme of the GCI.

Indeed, this objective is so "unvarying" that it can be raised to the heights of a universal aspiration of the whole human race, past, present, and future, and with so democratic a principle we can put slaves, serfs, and workers all on the same level... and in doing so completely negate everything that is characteristic of communist society, which is the specific product of the historical being and becoming of the proletariat. The proletariat is the heir to all the exploited classes that have preceded it in history, but this does not mean that its nature is the same, or that it shares either the same goals or the same historical perspective. This elementary truth of historical materialism has been thrown in the bin by the GCI, and replaced with cut-price sophistry.

In the Principles of communism, Engels reminds us that "The working classes have always, according to the different stages of development of society, lived in different circumstances and had different relations to the owning and ruling classes". He demonstrates the difference between the slave and the modern proletarian, showing in particular that: "The slave counts as a thing, not as a member of society. Thus, the slave can have a better existence than the proletarian, while the proletarian belongs to a higher stage of social development and, himself, stands on a higher social level than the slave". What is the goal of the slave? "The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general". The liberation of the slave does not consist in abolishing exploitation, but in rising to a higher form of exploitation: that of the "free worker", subject to capitalist wage labour, as happened for example in the United States after the Civil War. Engels also demonstrates the difference between the serf and the proletarian: "The serf liberates himself in one of three ways: either he runs away to the city and there becomes a handicraftsman; or, instead of products and services, he gives money to his lord and thereby becomes a free tenant; or he overthrows his feudal lord and himself becomes a property owner. In short, by one route or another, he gets into the owning class and enters into competition. The proletarian liberates himself by abolishing competition, private property, and all class differences".

These differences make the proletariat the revolutionary class in today’s society, and constitute the material foundations of its historical struggle.

The GCI thinks it can wipe all this out at the stroke of a pen, to replace it with a sham "revolution" which is nothing other than the disorder and anarchy which are more and more the product of the evolution of capitalism.

The GCI’s lunatic demagogy in support of the imperialist gangs in Iraq

We have shown that the GCI’s entire doctrine is based on nothing but outrageous sophistry. Its shameful support for the criminal and chaotic imperialist war racking Iraq makes use of two sophisms in particular.

1. The idea that imperialist war is part of capitalism’s class struggle against the proletariat

The class struggle is the motor of history. Capitalism’s fundamental antagonism is that between bourgeoisie and proletariat. But are we therefore to conclude that every conflict is part of the confrontation between bourgeoisie and proletariat? The GCI is quite happy to put forward this ludicrous dogma. "The war has become a more and more openly civil war, a social war directed against the class enemy: the proletariat" ("Haïti, le prolétariat affronte la bourgeoisie mondiale", in Communisme n°56, October 2004). "This terror is concretised in the struggle against social agitation, by permanent military occupation (Iraq, Afghanistan, ex-Yugoslavia, Chechnya, most African countries...), by the war against subversion, by prisons and detention centres, torture, etc. (...) It is becoming more and more difficult to pass off these international police operations against the proletariat as wars between governments" ("Et Aguila III n’est pas passé!", in Communisme n°56).

It would be hard to be more radical than that! But where does this ultra-radicalism take us? To losing any distinction between the class struggle, imperialist war and social agitation of every kind... Concretely, this comes down to calling for support for the Islamist fighters (currently the main occupants of torture camps like Guantanamo) on the grounds that they are supposedly the visible victims of the social war "against the proletariat", but also for the more or less informal gangs operating in Iraq, on the grounds that they are opposing the "international police operations against the proletariat".

2. The idea that the bourgeoisie has created a World State for its war against the proletariat

According to the GCI, all the fractions of the world bourgeoisie have closed ranks behind the United States to conduct police operations against the proletariat in Iraq. If we are to believe the GCI, the class struggle in the Middle East is so dangerous that it has forced the world cop to intervene. And the GCI has harsh words for the poor souls so blind that they are unable to perceive this "shining reality": "but where is the proletariat in all this shambles? What is it doing? What ideologies does it confront in its efforts to gain its autonomy from all the forces of the bourgeoisie and to strike them down? This is what the discussion should be for the small groups of proletarians who try against wind and storm, and in the disgusting and suffocating atmosphere of social peace, to hold high the flag of social revolution. And instead most, if not all of them, remain stuck in arguments over whether this or that inter-bourgeois contradiction is more fundamental than the others." ("De quelques considérations sur les évènements qui secouent actuellement l’Irak", in Communisme n°55, February 2004).

The GCI also ends up with the idea that capitalism now possesses a single world government, so rejecting the idea that marxism has always defended, that capitalism is divided into competing national states fighting it out in the international arena: "across the world, a growing number of territories are directly administered by world bodies of capitalists united in the dens of thieves and brigands that are the United Nations, the IMF, and the World Bank (...) The Capitalist World State becomes more perceptible day by day as it imposes its terrorist order" ("Haïti, le prolétariat affronte la bourgeoisie mondiale", in Communisme n°56, October 2004). Here then is the ultra-radical GCI offering us Kautsky’s old theory, against which Lenin fought so hard, that capitalism is uniting in a super-imperialism. This theory is rolled out regularly by the left and the far left of capital, the better to chain the workers to "their" national state, against "worldwide capitalism" and "non-national" bodies like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, multinational corporations, etc. And the GCI follows them in "suggesting" (which is even worse than coming out and saying so openly) that the main enemy is US imperialism, the super-imperialism which has federated under its control most of world capitalism. This is perfectly consistent with its courageous stance as armchair recruiting sergeant for the imperialist war in Iraq with its support for the bourgeois Iraqi insurrection disguised, for the occasion, as a proletarian movement: "the whole apparatus of the World State, its services, its representatives on the spot, are systematically targeted. These acts of armed resistance are far from being blind, they have a logic if only we are prepared to abandon the stereotypes and the ideological brainwashing that the bourgeoisie offers us as the only explanation for what is happening in Iraq. Behind the targets, and the daily guerrilla war against the occupying forces, we can discern the contours of a proletariat which is trying to struggle, to organise itself against all the bourgeois fractions which have decided to bring capitalist order and security to the region, even if it is still extremely difficult to judge our class’ autonomy from the bourgeois forces which are trying to control our class’ rage and anger against every kind of representative of the World State. The acts of sabotage, bomb attacks, demonstrations, occupations, strikes... are not the work of islamists or pan-Arab nationalists, this would be too easy and would only be a concession to the ruling class’ view which wants to limit our understanding to a struggle between ‘good and evil’, between the ‘good guys and the bad guys’, a bit like in a Western, in order to evacuate once again capitalism’s deadly contradiction: the proletariat" ("De quelques considérations sur les évènements qui secouent actuellement l’Irak", in Communisme n°55, February 2004).

Whose side is the GCI on?

The original split from the ICC, from which the GCI emerged, was based on a whole series of disagreements that appeared in the ICC’s section in Belgium in 1978-79 on the explanation of the economic crisis, the role of the party and its relationship with the class, the nature of terrorism, the weight of the proletarian struggle in the periphery of capitalism, etc. Those who were in disagreement with the ICC, and who disagreed equally amongst themselves, regrouped in a Tendency and left our organisation to give birth to the GCI without having established clearly what were the disagreements that justified the split. The GCI was thus not formed on a clear set of alternative positions to those of the ICC, but on a mix of inadequately developed divergences, and above all on the basis of disappointed personal ambition and resentments.[14] As a result, discord between the leaders of the new group quickly gave rise to two new splits,[15] leaving at the head of the GCI the element with the most decided leanings towards leftism, and who since then has not stopped giving support to every kind of bourgeois cause.

A group like the GCI is not typically leftist, in the same way as the Trotskyists or the Maoists, since unlike the latter its programme does not give open support to the bourgeois state. Indeed, it denounces these currents in the most radical terms. Nonetheless, as we have shown in this article, behind the verbal radicalism of its denunciation of the political forces and institutions of the bourgeoisie, the result of all its slogans and analyses is to channel any revulsion against the present system into the dead-ends of anarchism and leftism, rather than proposing a theoretical and political armament to those who are trying to pose the question in terms of a political perspective.[16] And this is especially true for all those who, as they try to find a way out of anarchism, are seduced by the GCI’s version of "marxism", and so abandon the process of clarification that they have begun.

But this is not the end of the GCI’s "contribution". Their virulent attacks do not spare real revolutionaries, and our own organisation in particular. With the same sophistry that we have already highlighted, and without a shred of serious argument, they describe us in passing as "social-democrats", "pacifists", "Kautskyists", and "police auxiliaries".[17] In doing so, they make their own little contribution to the general effort of the bourgeoisie to discredit any struggle with a truly revolutionary perspective. And to conclude, we will just remind our readers that the GCI’s radicalism, in the service of a cause which is certainly not that of the proletariat, has gone so far as to call for the murder of the ICC’s militants in Mexico.[18] The GCI’s call has since been relayed, this time against our militants in Spain, by a group close to the GCI, the ARDE.[19]

While the GCI’s political programme is not part of the bourgeoisie’s political apparatus, this does not mean that it belongs to the proletarian camp, since its purpose in life is to attack and destroy the latter. In this sense, it is a representative of what the ICC has characterised as political parasitism. And we cannot conclude this article any better than by quoting the "Theses on parasitism" (International Review n°94), which are particularly appropriate to the situation we have just examined: "the notion of political parasitism is not at all an 'ICC invention'. It was the IWA which was the first to be confronted with this threat against the proletarian movement, which it identified and fought. It was the IWA, beginning with Marx and Engels, who already characterised the parasites as politicised elements who, while claiming to adhere to the programme and organisations of the proletariat, concentrated their efforts on the combat not against the ruling class but against the organisations of the revolutionary class. The essence of their activity was to denigrate and manoeuvre against the communist camp, even if they claimed to belong to it and to serve it" (point 9).

 C. Mir, 6th November, 2005



[1]. See International Review n° 119 "Resolution on the class struggle".

[2]. An assessment of the maturation of minorities within the international proletariat and of our activity in relation to them can be found in the balance sheet of the ICC's16th Congress, published in the International Review n°122.

[3]. See "Lutte de classe au Salvador", Communisme no.12, February 1981. The basic argument is hardly any different from that of the Trotskyists. The latter too justify their support for bourgeois struggles by talking of "revolutionary mass movements" hidden behind the "facade" of "bourgeois leaders".

[4] Sendero Luminoso, a Peruvian guerrilla organisation of the Maoist variety, which aimed to conquer the towns by encircling them from the countryside, where they recruited their guerrilla fighters. In fact it was the population, of the countryside in particular, who paid the price of the regime of terror inflicted on them by the two bourgeois camps, both the government and the Shining Path.

[5] See "Solidarité internationale avec le prolétariat et ses prisonniers au Pérou" in Communisme n° 25, November 1986 and "L'éternel pacifisme euroraciste de la social-démocratie (le CCI dans sa version mexicaine)" in Communisme n° 43, May 1996. In its publications, the GCI tries to justify its defence of political prisoners in Peru: "Situating yourself clearly on the side of the proletariat by confronting and denouncing the terrorism of the state has nothing to do with critical support for this or that formal organisation". Apart from the subterfuge involved in referring to the "formal organisation" (an unimportant covering) of a bourgeois force that has the means to realise its actions, this is an argument that has been used a thousand times by the "anti-fascists". In struggles between bourgeois factions, the one in opposition or clandestinity tends to use elements of proletarian origin as cannon fodder. When they fall into the hands of the rival faction, these elements are cruelly tortured by the police. However this is no reason to defend the cause in whose service they were recruited, which is foreign to the proletariat, under the pretext of "solidarity" with political prisoners. In imperialist wars the soldiers serve as cannon fodder for similar gangs. This does not mean that the struggle against the war consists in supporting one of the gangs in the name of "defending the soldiers". It rather consists in defending proletarian internationalism against each and every gang.

[6]. A quotation from a newspaper reproduced by the GCI: "By tracing the blood lines that constitute the Arch, it is possible to regroup the hamlets belonging to the same line but dispersed over different municipalities and administrative zones". The programme for the Co-ordination of the KabilyianArch (2,000 delegates) is national and democratic although spiced up with a few demands to attract workers: "In the midst of the confusion they demand the immediate withdrawal of the police, that the state take charge of the victims of repression, that the charges against the demonstrators be dropped, the recognition of Tamazight as the official language, as well as freedom and justice, the adoption of an emergency plan for Kabilia and an indemnity payment to all the unemployed ." ("Prolétaires de tous les pays, La lutte des classes en Algérie est la nôtre!" Communisme n°52).

[7] See the series of articles on this movement of our class beginning in International Review n°120.

[8] As was to be shown by the electoral victory of the new president Evo Morales, who enlarged the ranks of the "Latin left" (Castro, Lula, Chavez).  These left-wing presidents in Latin America not only continue the attacks against the working class like any right-wing government but are also able to "sell" it illusions.

[9] This is corroborated by the affirmation of the GCI in an article on "proletarian autonomy in Argentina" which says that the organisations of the May Mothers contributed to the self-organisation of the proletariat!

 

[10] See our article in International Review n° 109 on the social revolt of 2001 in Argentina.

[11]. See the article "The mystification of the piqueteros" written by an Argentine group, the NCI, that we published in International Review n° 119.

[12]. The affirmation that "transportation is capital's Achilles heel" is no more than an ingenious sociological analysis that serves to hide the GCI's wish to trap the proletariat in a syndicalist vision of the struggle. In capitalism's ascendant period (19th century), the proletariat's strength, organised in its unions, lay in its capacity to paralyse a part of capitalist production. Such conditions no longer exist today as decadent capitalism is characterised by a firm solidarity of the whole capitalist class, behind the state, against the proletariat. Economic pressure on a particular capitalist or even on a group of them can have no more than a very limited effect. This is why this kind of struggle, impregnated with the unionist methods of the 19th century today plays a role for the capitalist class. But this in no way means that the workers are no longer able to constitute a force against capital. Using different methods of struggle, they still can do so, as the history of this century has shown. This means uniting by developing a firm solidarity between all sectors of the proletariat, breaking down divisions, be they sectoral, of the work place, regional, ethnic or national. It means organising as an autonomous class in society for the defence of its own demands against capitalist exploitation and consciously taking on the confrontation with the capitalist state. It is only in this way that the proletariat can really develop its strength and can build a balance of forces against the state.

[13] . In ancient Rome, the slogan of the proletarians that was popularised by the Christians was the sharing out of wealth. But they posed the problem in this way, because they played no part in the production of wealth which was entirely the fruit of slave labour: "the Roman proletarians did not live by working, but from the alms which the government doled out. So the demand of the Christians for collective property did not relate to the means of production, but the means of consumption. They did not demand that the land, the workshops and the instruments of work should become collective property, but only that everything should be divided up among them, houses, clothing, food and finished products most necessary to life. The Christian communists took good care not to enquire into the origin of these riches. The work of production always fell upon the slaves" (Rosa Luxemburg, Socialism and the churches, 1905)

[14] The prime reason for the split was thus not the divergences we have mentioned – which were real enough – but the inability to defend them responsibly. Disagreement is normal enough in a revolutionary organisation, and if they are debated with rigour and patience they are a source of strength and clarification. But the main protagonists of the Tendency at the time adopted a whole series of anti-organisational attitudes and behaviour (personal ambition, beefing about the elected central organs, slandering comrades, resentments, etc...), which were in part the fruit of leftist conceptions that they had not entirely overcome, and this got in the way of the discussion. For more information, see the text published in International Review n°109 on "The question of organisational functioning in the ICC".

[15]. Which gave rise to two new groups, "Mouvement communiste" and the "Fraction communiste internationale"; the latter’s existence proved ephemeral.

[16]. The ICC has already criticised the GCI’s anarchist version of historical materialism in the series "Understanding capitalism’s decadence", in International Review n°48-50.

[17]. See, in particular, the GCI’s article "Une fois de plus... le CCI du côté des flics contre les révolutionnaires!" in Communisme n°26, February 1988, and our reply "Les délires paranoïaques de l’anarcho-bordiguisme punk", in Révolution Internationale n°168, May 1988.

[18]. See our article "The parasites of the GCI call for the death of our comrades in Mexico", published in all the ICC’s territorial press and notably in World Revolution n°200, December 1996/January 1997 The call in question can be found in the GCI’s article "L’éternel pacifisme euroraciste de la social-démocratie (le CCI dans sa version mexicaine)" in Communisme n°43, May 1996.

[19]. See "Solidarity with our threatened militants",  published in the ICC’s territorial press and notably in World Revolution n°282, March 2005.