Answer to Workers’ Voice
In issue no 13 of Workers Voice a Statement was printed ‘severing relations’, as they put it, with our International Communist Current (ICC). This may seem odd to our readers and to revolutionary militants who share our political orientation, both because Workers Voice (WV) has evolved quite closely in discussion with our tendency over the past two years and also because the idea of ‘severing (diplomatic) relations’ among revolutionary groups is indeed bizarre.
The WV Statement reaffirms the essential class positions which are the basis for both our Current and WV. However, because of disagreement on l) the regroupment of revolutionaries today and 2) the question of the state in the future period of transition after the proletarian revolution, WV announces that they are breaking all ties with us.
Before going into their assertions in any detail, it must be said from the outset that WV has to take the full responsibility for deciding to ‘sever’ all contact discussion and even minimal communication with our groups. Our Current does not abandon discussion with groups in evolution - particularly if their basic political orientation follows along the same class lines we consider so important to defend and disseminate in the class. Ceasing all communication and ending discussion must be motivated by profound political and class lines. We do not discuss organisationally with Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists etc, because tahere is no sense in ‘discussing’ with the counter-revolution. But although our Current and WV have important political differences, it has never been our will or desire to cease discussion. We consider this a desertion of the duty of revolutionaries to clarify positions through the confrontation of ideas whenever possible.
How does WV motivate this step? On the question of regroupment of revolutionaries, WV agrees that “the issues/class lines for an international regroupment already exist”. Furthermore these class lines for regroupment are fundamentally those at the basis of our Current and WV. The problem for WV is that 1) the time isn’t right and our Current is hurrying regroupment (“.... the conditions do not yet exist in which any real meaningful regroupment on an international scale can take place”) and 2) our Current supposedly feels “that regroupment takes place only by others joining them on their terms.”
WV are rather timid defenders of regroupment - all they can offer on the positive side is the rather pale statement that they “are not against it in, principle”. But why be for it? Why not have each small revolutionary group (or at the extreme, each individual) doing its ‘own’ work in its ‘own’ corner of the globe, each one master in his own house, protecting his group from the “imperialist aggressions” of other groups? Why not have relations among comrades consist of flamboyant insults and petulant exclusions, as the situationists unfortunately popularized so well? Why has our Current consistently encouraged comrades to realize the importance of the problem of consolidating and concentrating revolutionary forces on the basis of clear programmatic agreement?
In a world where the crisis of capitalism is continuing its path towards economic chaos and deprivation for the working class; where the bourgeoisie is facing repeated and profound political crises in so many countries, using their ‘left’ mask of mystification and repression more and more; where working class resistance has expressed itself in powerful, if sporadic form all over the world; where class struggle is facing important battles in the future - revolutionary forces are extremely limited. Counter-revolution and the confusion of fifty years of darkness are taking and will take their toll on the workers’ movement. But WV seemingly thinks it has plenty of time to think about all this while essentially continuing to be what it always was, a local group, concerned with collecting international ‘contacts’ (but not with us) as long as nothing more substantial is implied. How can we avoid drawing this conclusion?
As for having to join “our” current “on our terms”, the only valid political reason to refuse to join with others is that the class positions defended are not the same (including positions on the need for organization of revolutionaries and the means to carry it out). This is the only possible interpretation for “on our own terms”. Our only “terms” in fact are solid and profound political and theoretical agreement. WV is afraid of “artificial coming together that signifies nothing” and admonishes us not to think of our limited efforts towards international unity as a party. We can only thank them for advice on something we have been defending for years. We do not consider our international current as a party even though we hope to be making a necessary contribution to the future formation of the party which will emerge as a process in our general period of the growth of class struggle and confrontation. The party or parties of the proletariat of today will be formed only when class struggle has generalized and intensified on an extensive scale. But this must not be interpreted to mean that prior to this period revolutionaries should remain isolated, in their own corner, inactive or unorganized and that what we do today has no influence on the organization and activity of tomorrow.
Without encouraging international discussion and joining our forces, if political agreement is reached, all the revolutionary programmes on paper would be just words in the air. The real issue may be that WV and our Current have quite profound differences on the necessity and means of organization of revolutionary groups today. These differences could only be clarified (if not overcome) by discussion. In any case, disagreements on the pace or timeliness of putting internationalism into organizational practice do not constitute a principal reason for an end to all contact between revolutionary groups. But escaping the issues is always easier than sticking it out.
As for the second point - the question of the period of transition - the WV Statement reads, “Revolution Internationale (RI) believes that in the period of transition a state would exist independently of the class”. Embroidering a bit on this theme, they then say that this assertion warrants a total break with us because we have become blatantly counter-revolutionary.
This point must be cleared up straight away. Neither RI nor any of the groups in our International Communist Current nor anyone in our groups has ever said or printed such a statement. Saying that the state would exist independently of the class (the workers’ councils) would be destroying the entire meaning of the proletarian dictatorship and is therefore a non-marxist and unacceptable orientation. Anyone reading the first issue of our Current’s International Review (April, 1975) where we print several articles on the period of transition, will be able to see that our theoretical analyses have never defended this position. Fear of ridicule obviously does not hinder WV and others from making unfounded accusations.
The question of the unfolding of the period of transition is under discussion in all our groups and as our Review shows, we have by no means reached unanimity on this point. We do not feel that all these questions can be settled immediately and for all time by us or anyone, else before the full experience of the class has come into play. That WV could take such a drastic step as breaking all contact with us and denouncing us as counter-revolutionary on the basis of their garbled heresay version of what the blind man read and told the deaf man, is a measure of the weakness and lack of seriousness of revolutionary elements today facing such a difficult and complex problem as the period of transition.
If we are to deal with the question of the state in the period of transition, we must separate the marxist conception from that of anarchism. Contrary to anarchism’s ignorance of the economic laws of capitalism, and the evolution of history, marxists have affirmed that between capitalist society and full communism a period of transition will exist during which the struggle of the proletariat continues, against the vestiges of the law of value, to insure the definitive suppression of the bourgeoisie and to integrate the remaining non-exploitative strata and classes into new relation of production to carry forward the process of social transformation through the political domination of the proletariat. This process will end with the realization of a classless society but during the period of transition (that is, until this point is reached,) society will still be divided into classes. Out of this still divided society a state will inevitably appear. Unlike the anarchist idea that the state is the embodiment of all evil in itself and that it can be done away with by willing it to disappear, marxists assert that the state is an expression of social relations and can only be eliminated through the conscious transformation of the material basis of these social relations and divisions - through the realization of the working class programme.
Once the inevitability of the state in the period of transition is recognized, the question then becomes: how to deal with the state of the transitional period in the context of the proletarian dictatorship? Within the marxist current, the Bolsheviks offered a ‘solution’ to this question - the complete identification of the proletariat with the state; the creation of a ‘workers’ state, and the identification of the class with the party, the creation of a party bureaucracy to whom the state is ‘entrusted’. The historical experience of the Russian Revolution must lead us to reject this ‘solution’ to the problem of the state after the revolution.
Drawing on the lessons of the historical experience of the proletariat we hold that first of all, the state cannot be turned over to a party; the role of the party is not to take power in the name of the class; to substitute itself for the whole class. Secondly, it is the existence of classes in the transition period which defines the necessity of a state and not any needs of the workers to create a state. If the world were to be composed only of the proletariat after the revolution, there would be no state; there would be the “administration of things” but not the “government of men”. The question is therefore: if the state arises out of the existence of a society still divided into classes, does the proletariat identify its historical class goals of social transformation with the state apparatus?
The proletariat must not let the state exist independently of itself -in fact, the state must be dominated by the interests of the proletariat, as far as possible. But the state is not the instrument of social transformation - the communist programme can only be preserved and carried forward by the specific international organs of the proletariat alone. In other terms: must the workers recognize an authority of the state over their decisions if they consider that it is not in their class interests? If the answer is yes, because the state is a ‘workers’ state, then Trotsky was correct to militarize labour and forbid strikes against the ‘workers’ government because they would be reactionary and unacceptable. If the state is the full and complete instrument for the realization of the communist programme, why were the Bolsheviks wrong to want to control and dominate the state against the workers if necessary?
For many of our comrades it seems important to stress the fact that the working class must maintain its own class organizations - regardless of what state forms may or may not be necessary; it is important that the workers guard against being blurred by non-integrated strata and resist any efforts to have them recognize any superior state authority over their decisions. Unlike WV we do not say, the state is the class and the class is the state, but rather that this semi-state, the scourge inherited from class society must be used by the proletariat but never identified with it nor allowed to dominate it.
For many of our comrades, completely identifying the state with the class is paving the way to Kronstadt. This question seems to escape WV completely and they end up in a false debate. We do not hold that the state must be independent from the working class but rather that the workers, while exercising their domination through the state, must maintain their international organization. The working class is the only class in the post-revolutionary society to organize itself as a class: the proletarian dictatorship. Individuals from other social strata will be represented in the state individually through a form of territorial soviets. The state must not have ultimate authority over the class no matter what the contingent situation (even though the state has final authority over all other sectors of the population) nor should the state be mystified into a ‘workers’ state’.
We do not pretend to have solved all the problems nor found the answer to these difficult questions but we reject the idea of prematurely cutting off debate with the absurd accusation of being counterrevolutionary - the judgment of history handed down by WV.
What is the class to conclude from the spectacle of two groups who share class positions - our Current and WV – ‘severing relations’ on issues which at best do not warrant an end to all contact and discussion and at worst are a hodge-podge of suppositions and false accusations?
The last thing the workers’ movement needs is confusionism and these kinds of tactics. We hope WV will reconsider their hasty and unfounded decision. The positions and work of WV have been a positive contribution to the movement but if WV is to be the carrier of confusion and unfounded hostility, it is better for the workers’ struggle that they disappear as quickly as possible. If WV can no longer bear to discuss the issues in a principled manner or open their minds, if their hostility continues to serve as a smokescreen to hide their localism and small group patriotism, it would be better for the group to disappear and make way for expressions of the working class who are capable of evolving.
For the International Communist Current
* For a further treatment of this question, see ‘Sectarianism Unlimited’ in World Revolution No 3.