Report on the International Conference
For several years, Revolution Internationale (France), Internationalism (USA), and World Revolution (UK) have organized international meetings and conferences in order to develop political discussion on the perspectives for the class-struggle, and to encourage a greater understanding of class positions today. This year, in addition to the groups already cited, two groups new to our current attended the international conference: Accion Proletaria (Spain) and Rivoluzione Internazionale (Italy) and we also welcomed a delegate from Internacionalismo, the group in our current in Venezuela. This conference was mainly oriented toward the necessity of organizing the intervention and will to act of revolutionaries into an international framework.
Evan though our current consisted only of one or two groups in different countries (at the end of the period of reaction and at the beginning of the new period which opened up in 1968), the nature of the proletarian struggle and the class positions that we defend forced us to an international political coherence. Today, confronted with the worsening crisis and the heightening of struggles, this fundamentally unified political orientation and the years of common work have enabled us to create an international organizational framework for our current, so that we can concentrate our efforts in several countries.
In the context of political confusions prevalent at this time, and in view of the weakness of revolutionary forces, we consider that it is very important to insist on the necessity, as in any period of heightening class struggle, to work towards a regrouprment of revolutionaries. For this reason, we invited groups whose political positions are moving towards those of the current: Pour Une Intervention Communiste (France), Revolutionary Workers Group (USA), Revolutionary Perspectives(UK), to participate at our conference. The confrontation of ideas between our current and these groups has helped to develop the analyses and orientations which the different groups defend faced with the political tasks of today.
The situation today
During the long years of the post-war reconstruction period, revolutionary marxists have said over and over again that the capitalist system, (having entered into its period of decadence since World War I), only 'prospered' provisionally thanks to the many palliatives of reconstruction: statist measures, arms economies etc; and that eventually the inherent contradictions of the system are going to clearly explode into an open crisis still deeper than that of 1929. Today the crisis is no longer a secret to anybody and the reality of the system's basic sickness has swept away the exalting bourgeoisie and the erudite ‘marxologues' such as Socialism ou Barbarie who believed we had seen ‘the end of crises', the ‘superseding’ of marxism, or as Marcuse thought, the ‘embourgeoicisement’ of the proletariat. Our current has for seven years been analysing all the characteristics of the crisis which is now accelerating so rapidly; in its general trend 1974 mark a qualitative and quantitative decline in the economic situation of capitalism (in the East and in the West) and has demonstrated the ephemeral and mistaken nature of the ‘mini-boom' of 1972. Inflation, unemployment, monetary crises and trade wars, the fall of stock market values as well as the rates of growth of the advanced economies, are signs of the general crisis of over-production and of the saturation of markets which undermine the world capitalist system at its roots.
Contrary to 1929 capitalism today has tried as much as possible to alleviate the effects of the crisis by means of statist structures. In spite of the intensification of inter-imperialist rivalries (as in the continual war in Indo¬china, the confrontations in the Middle East and Cyprus) and the reinforcing of the imperialist blocs, which lead towarls war (a coarse inherent in the economic crises of decadent capitalism), generalized war will not occur as long as the combativity of the working class continues to develop. At the conference the groups in our current elaborated the perspective, defended in our writings, recognizing that the struggle of the working class will intensify as it resists the crisis and that the class struggle will again pose the historic alternative, socialism or barbarism after fifty years of reflux.
The bourgeoisie has seen a period of upheaval and deep political crises. In such a situation its aim is to adopt a 'left' mask the better to mobilize the working class behind the national interest: in Great :Britain the bourgeoisie chooses the Labour Party and 'social contract' for this task; in Germany this lot falls to the social democratic parties, and in other places the Socialist Party (SP) and Communist Party (CP) make efforts to do the same thing, as is the case now in Portugal and France and shortly will be so in Italy and Spain. One of the most dangerous weapons the capitalist class has in this crisis is its capacity to disarm the working class by means of rekindling mystifications in the ‘left’ factions of the bourgeoisie. Economically every faction of the bourgeoisie will be led to advocate statification measures, in one way or another, in order to reinforce its national capital. But politically, especially in the area where the crisis has already struck hard, it is the ‘left’ parties which the bourgeoisie needs in order to be able to appeal to 'national unity’ and for unpaid labour on Sunday. These parties have their place in the capitalist sun (whether in the government or as a loyal opposition) owing to the fact that they still can, just as the unions do, claim to be able to contain the working class and its struggle.
Faced with this analysis, the PIC seems to us to under-estimate the weight of mystifications on the working class from the left when they put forward the motion that these mystifications no longer have any effect. On the contrary we believe that a more objective understanding of the situation will show that appeals for 'anti-fascism' and 'national unity' are still far from being exhausted at this time. Although the class manifests a growing combativity, one must not under-estimate the margin of maneuver for the enemy classy In countries like Spain and Portugal, where repression by the right has been so severe, the bourgeoisie can only hold on by running to the left, which will prove the more able mystifiers and executioners of workers in these countries and elsewhere.
Intervention of revolutionaries
The class struggle today arose as a resistance to deteriorating living standards produced by the crisis and imposed on the workers. That is why our current has rejected RWG’s analysis which states that ‘revendicative' struggles are totally dead end for the class. Nothing could be less true. In a period of crisis and mounting class struggle, the so-called 'revendicative’ struggles are an integral part of the whole process towards the maturation of consciousness in the working class, of its combativity and capacity for organization. Revolutionaries must analyze the development of these struggles and contribute to their generalization and to the development of a conscious¬ness that is more aware of the historic goals of the class. While rejecting Trotskyist manoeuvres, which trap the class in partial demand struggles and mystifications about decadent capitalism, revolutionaries must not at the same time reject the potential for going beyond the immediate demands which is implicit in working class struggles today.
The analysis of the crisis and its evolution determine to a large extent the perspectives which revolutionaries see for the class struggle. At the international conference, our current defended the thesis that the present deep crisis of the system will develop relatively slowly, although with sharp spasms, a jagged development in an ever deepening process. The class struggle manifests itself in a sporadic and episodic way revealing a period of maturation of consciousness through the major confrontations between the working class and the capitalist class. This analysis was not entirely shared by the other groups present at the conference. RP, basing their analysis on other economic explanations (rejecting the Luxemburgist theory), see the crisis as long and rather far away; for them, the class struggle is strictly determined by the given economic situation and as long as the catastrophic crisis is for tomorrow, an appeal for the generalization of struggles today is just voluntaristic. The PIC on the other hand, believes that we are already seeing the economic crisis reach its finale in the immediate danger of world war, (throwing out a ‘cry of alarm’ about the recent diplomatic events in the Middle East) or in class confrontations which could even today resolve the evolution of history. We have criticized these two cases of exaggeration while putting the accent on the fact that revolutionaries must be able to analyse a contingent situation within a general period without falling into an under or over-estimation which leads to agitating in a void, or remaining on the margin of reality at a time of crisis and of class struggle.
The time has not yet come for us to throw ourselves into the work of agitation and the attempts of the PIC who propose campaigns way beyond any practical capacity have not found a great echo. On the other hand, after giving the reports on activities of the different sections of our current and of other groups, the comrades of the current stated the necessity of enlarging our intervention and publication work in all countries in a more organized and systematic way. In particular by assuming collectively the responsibility for political intervention in countries where the current has not as yet an organized group and orienting itself towards the publication of newspapers in countries where it would be possible to do so.
It is useless for us to pose the question of intervention as an abstract concept: ‘for’ or ‘against’. The will to act is the basis of all revolu¬tionary groupings. The question is not one of fine words and of crying intervention at the top of one’s voice with no concern as to the actual objective situation, and neglecting the necessity even of providing the means to intervene through a revolutionary organization on an international scale. We must rather see that the scale of intervention by revolutionaries can vary according to the situation but all the cries for intervention cannot fill the void: the absence of a revolutionary organization. The question of the level of intervention is a problem of analysis and of appreciation of the moment while the question of organization is a principle of the workers' movement, the foundation stone without which any taking up of revolutionary positions remains pure verbiage. It is for this reason that we rejected the proposal by Accion Proletaria that we pose the question of intervention as a preliminary question to the necessity of organizing.
Militant work is by definition collective work; it is not individuals who assume a personal responsibility within the class but rather groups based on a body of ideas who are called to take on the tasks of revolutionaries: to help clarify and generalize the consciousness of the class. At the international conference, as in our .magazines, we have insisted on the necessity of really understanding the reasons for the throwing up of groups from within the class and the responsibilities which follow from this. After fifty years of counter-revolution and the complete break with any organic continuity in the workers’ movement, the question of organization remains one of the most difficult for new elements to assimilate.
A revolutionary group is based fundamentally on class positions and the only justification for groups working separately would be through a divergence of principles, Far from idealizing or wanting to perpetuate the present dispersion of efforts, revolutionaries in our period of rising class struggle must be able to distinguish secondary questions of interpretation from an analysis of questions of principle - and try with all their strength make an effort to regroup around positions of principle while surmounting any tendencies which defend ‘their own little boutique of ideas’ and 'freedom' to remain isolated.
Since the debates in the First International, it has been understood in the marxist movement that revolutionary organizations must tend towards a centralization of efforts. Faced with the Bakuninists and with the false theories of petit-bourgeois federalism, marxists have defended the necessity of the international centralization of militant work. All we have done so far today is to have re-opened the debate while breaking from deviations about centralization such as those of Leninism (democratic centralism) and Bordigism (organic centralism). We insist on the necessity for a coherent organizational framework for revolutionary work against the diverse theories about ‘anti-group’ groups, against ‘libertarian’ and other anarchist formulations in vogue at the moment. RWG was rather sceptical about the effort to organize an international current; this group, aside from the secondary divergences which separate us, seems to be traumatised by the aberrations of the counter-revolution (especially Trotskyism) on the question of organization. While wanting to set up a counter weight against the counter-revolution some militants risk falling into an idealization of the present fragmentation and confusion in the revolutionary milieu and are never able to overcome the errors and the organizational fetishism of the past in a positive way.
If we look at the development of the proletarian movement in history, it can be said that the formation of the working class party follows periods of rising class struggle. Today in our epoch when the class struggle is developing through resistance to the economic crisis, the formation of the nuclei of the future party follows a path of slow maturation. The effort of our current to constitute itself as a pole of regroupment around class positions is a part of that process towards the formation of the party at a time of intense and generalized struggles. We do not claim to be a ‘party’, and we guard against over-estimating the weight of our efforts at organization at the present time. However, the party of tomorrow will not arise one beautiful day from nothing; on the contrary, experience shows us that political coherence serves as a pole of regroupment essential for the revolutionary elements of the proletariat in a time of decisive uprisings.
The regroupment of revolutionaries takes place around class lines and basic revolutionary perspectives; secondary political questions should not hamper a general process towards a concentration of forces faced with the demands of the situation at this time and in time to come. Those who are for regroupment ‘in theory’ and in words but leave its practical realization for some time in the future - (while raising secondary questions to the same level as class lines in order to justify their reticence and confusions) - only retard this process and put obstacles in the way of the development of consciousness. We think it is essential that today we take the first steps towards a larger international organization of revolutionaries, to translate our internationalism into organizational terms in order to strengthen our work. This is what the conference made its principal task. The international conference this year distinguishes itself from the others to the extent that we wanted to make ourselves more conscious of the necessary means to assure the continuity of work. The preceding conferences served as a base for the discussion on organization and the situation at the present time while strengthening political ties and the fundamental theories of our current.
We were not able to tackle the question of the period of transition, which is now being discussed in the current, through lack of time. But we thought it important to publish here the documents prepared for the conference on this subject. The reader can take it that this theoretical question is far from being settled either in the current or in the workers' movement in general. However, this debate, though incomplete, is of great interest for revolution¬aries who are trying to work out the basic lines for the orientation of the movement of tomorrow.
The conference ended its work with the formation of the International Communist Current (which comprises to Revolution Internationale, World Revolution, Internationalism, Internacionalismo, Accion Proletaria and Rivoluzione Internazionale); and through the decision to publish an international magazine in English, French and Spanish the positions of our current will be better diffused and developed.
for the International Communist Current
The texts we have published here are some of the documents presented at the international conference. The first three are reports prepared for the con¬ference, the others are contributions written for discussion. We did not have time to present the report, nor even to discuss the period of transition at the conference but we decided to publish these texts immediately in order to con¬tinue the open debate on this subject. Our current has not reached a homogene¬ous position on this complex question, and, in any case, we believe, contrary to other groups(such as Revolutionary Perspectives), that it is not up to revolutionaries to create class lines when the experience of the class itself has not yet settled them.
Even though certain revolutionary elements reveal themselves as being incapable of taking up their tasks at this time, they already are on the way to rushing into making absolute pronouncements on a question as complex as that of the period of transition. We think it is preferable to publish these texts so as to contribute to clarification, without claiming to resolve all the problems. We have also published a contribution from Revolutionary Perspectives on the period of transition - extracts chosen by them from a longer text - which shows their divergences with some of our comrades on this subject.