One Year of Workers’ Struggles in Poland

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

The workers' struggles in Poland constitute the most important movement of the world proletariat for over half a century One year after they began; the balance-sheet of these struggles is rich with lessons for the working class in all countries and for the most advanced sectors of the class, the revolutionary groups. This article will look at some of the elements that make up this balance-sheet, as well as the perspectives deriving from it. Only some of the elements, because this experience of the prole­tariat is so rich, so important, that it cannot be dealt with exhaustively in a single article. Moreover, the situation that has emerged in Poland is in many ways so new, is still evolving so quickly, that it compels revolutionaries to have an open mind, and a great deal of prudence and humility, when they come to make judgments about the future of the movement.

A balance sheet that confirms the positions of the communist left

The workers' movement has a long history. Each one of its successive experiences is a step along the road it started, out on nearly two hundred years ago. In this sense, while every new experience confronts conditions and circum­stances which haven't been seen before and which allow specific lessons to be drawn, one of the characteristics of the workers' movement is that, with every step it takes, and before it can go any further, it is compelled to rediscover methods and lessons which it had already acquired in the past.

Last century, and in the early years of this century, these lessons of the past were part of the daily life of the workers, transmitted prim­arily by the activity and propaganda of their organizations: trade unions and workers' parties. When capitalism entered into another phase, its epoch of decadence, the movement of the class had to adapt itself to new conditions. The 1905 revolution in the Russian empire was the first great experience of this new epoch of class struggle -- an epoch in which the goal of the struggle had to be the violent overthrow of capitalism and the seizure of power by the world proletariat. The 1905 movement was rich in less­ons for the struggles that were to follow, espec­ially for the revolutionary wave which lasted from 1917 to 1923. In this movement, the prol­etariat discovered two essential instruments for its struggle in the period of decadence: the mass strike and its self-organization in workers' councils.

But while the lessons of 1905 were preserved in the memories of the Russian workers in 1917; while the example of October 1917 served as a beacon to the proletariat's battles in Germany, Hungary, Italy and many other countries between 1918 and 1923, and even up to 1927 in China, the period that followed was very different. The revolutionary wave which followed WWI gave way to the longest, deepest counter-revolution in the history of the workers' movement. All the gains of the struggles of the first quarter of the twentieth century were gradually forgotten by the proletarian masses, and only a few small groups were able to conserve and defend these gains against the storms and stresses of that period. These were the groups of the communist left: the left fraction of the Communist Party of Italy, the Communist Workers' Party of Germany (KAPD), the Dutch internationalist communists, and the various nuclei that were politically connected to these currents.

The events in Poland -- the most important exper­ience of the world proletariat since the historic resurgence of its struggles at the end of the 1960s -- are a striking confirmation of the positions defended by the communist left for decades. Whether we're talking about the nature of the so-called ‘socialist' countries, the analyses of the present period of capitalism's life, the role of the unions, the characteristics of the proletarian movement in this period, or the role of revolutionaries within this movement, the workers' struggles in Poland provide a living verification of the correctness of the positions which were gradually worked out by the various left communist groups in the inter-war period, and which acquired their most complete, synthetic form in the Gauche Communiste de France (which published Internationalisme up till 1952) and in the ICC today.

1. The nature of the so-called socialist countries

Not all the currents of the communist left were able to analyze, with the same degree of speed and clarity, the nature of the society which emerged in Russia after the defeat of the post­war revolutionary wave and the degeneration of the power born out of the October 1917 revolution. For a long time, the Italian left talked about a ‘workers' state' whereas, as early as the 1920s, the German-Dutch left analyzed this society as ‘state capitalist' But what these two currents of the communist left had in common, in opposition to both Stalinism and Trotskyism, was that they both clearly stated that the regime in the USSR was counter-revolutionary, that the proletariat was exploited there as it was every­where else, that there were no ‘gains' to defend in this regime, and that any call to ‘defend the USSR' was simply a rallying-cry for participating in a new imperialist war.

Since that time, the capitalist nature of the society that now exists in Russia and the other so-called ‘socialist' countries has been per­fectly clear to all the currents of the comm­unist left. What's more, this idea is now becom­ing more and more widespread in the world working class -- so much so, that certain social democrats don't hesitate to call these countries ‘state capitalist', with the aim of damning the Stalin­ist parties and rallying the workers to the defense of the west, which is described as capitalist, but ‘democratic' and thus preferable to the eastern bloc which is both capitalist and ‘totalitarian'.

But the workers' struggles in Poland provide a decisive weapon against all mystifications about the nature of these regimes such as the ones the Stalinists and Trotskyists still peddle. They show workers everywhere that in these countries of ‘real socialism', as in all countries, society is divided into classes with irreconcilable interests: exploiters with privileges comparable to those of exploiters in the west and exploited whose poverty and oppression, rises up the more: the world economy sinks down. These struggles cast a bright light on those great proletarian ‘conquests' which the workers themselves only hear about in the lullabies of official propa­ganda. They show the true merits of the ‘planned economy' and the ‘monopoly of foreign trade' which the Trotskyists make such a song and dance about. These wonderful ‘gains' haven't prevented the Polish economy from being utterly disorganized and up to its neck in debt. Finally, these struggles, in their objectives and in their methods, prove that the proletarian struggle is the same in all countries, and this is because everywhere it faces the same enemy: capitalism.

The blows delivered by the Polish workers against these mystifications about the real nature of the ‘socialist' countries are extremely important to the struggle of the world proletariat, even if the ‘socialist' image of these countries had already been rather tarnished for some time. The whole mystification about ‘socialist' Russia was at the centre of capitalism's counter-revolut­ionary offensive before and after World War II with the aim either of derailing workers' struggles into the ‘defense of the socialist father land', or of making the workers feel disgusted with any idea of a revolutionary struggle.

The revolutionary movement of tomorrow, the signs of which are already appearing today, will have to be quite clear about the fact that its enemy is the same everywhere, that there are no ‘workers' bastions' in the world today, not even degenerated ones. The struggles in Poland have already been a great step in this direction.

2. The present period in capitalism's life

Following on from the Communist International, the communist left[1], which emerged from the CI during the 1920s, based its positions on the analysis that the period opened up by World War I was the decadent epoch of capitalism. This was the period in which the system could only survive through a hellish cycle of crisis, war, recon­struction, new crisis, and so on.

After all the illusions about capitalism at last freeing itself from crises, which the Nobel Prize winners in economics were able to sell in the post-war reconstruction period, the crisis which has been hitting all countries for over ten years now is a confirmation of this class­ical marxist position. However, the ideologues of the left have always maintained -- not without some echo in certain sectors of the proletariat -- that the statification of the economy can be a remedy for this sickness. One of the great lessons of the workers' struggle in Poland, responding as they do to a chaos-ridden economy, is that this ‘remedy' is no remedy at all, and that it can even make things worse. The bank­ruptcy of the western model of capitalism: isn't due to the evil games of the ‘big monopolies' and the ‘multinationals'. The bankruptcy of the completely statified capitalisms proves that it isn't this or that form of capitalism which is rotten and decaying. It's the whole capit­alist mode of production which is rotten, and that's why it must give way to another mode of production.

3. The nature of the trade unions

One of the most important lessons of the struggles in Poland concerns the role and nature of the trade unions, something that was understood long ago by the German and Dutch left.

These struggles have shown that the proleta­riat doesn't need unions to embark upon massive, determined struggles. In August 1980 every worker in Poland was aware that the existing unions were simply the servile auxiliary of the ruling party and the police. Thus the proletariat in Poland went into action outside and against the unions, creating its own organs of struggle, the MKS -- strike committees based on general assemblies and their elected, revocable delegates. These organs were created in the struggle itself, not prior to it.

Since August 1980, all the activities of Solida­rity have demonstrated that even when they're ‘free', ‘independent', and enjoy the confidence of the workers, the trade unions are the enemies of the class struggle. The experience the Polish workers are currently going through is full of lessons for the world proletariat. It offers living proof that, everywhere in the world, the class struggle comes up against the unions, and this isn't simply because the unions are bureaucratized or because their leaders have sold out. Every day the events in Poland give the lie to the idea that the class struggle can restore a proletarian life to the existing unions, or that workers can create new unions which will avoid the faults of the old ones. Hardly had the new unions in Poland been created, with the main leaders of the August strike at their head, than they began to play the same role as the old unions and as unions everywhere in the world: sabotaging struggles, demobilizing and discoura­ging the workers, diverting their discontent into the dead-ends of ‘self-management' and the defense of the national economy. And this isn't because of ‘bad leaders' or a ‘lack of democracy' it's the basic structure of unionism -- i.e a permanent organization based on the defense of the workers' immediate interests -- that can't be maintained for the working class in decadent capitalism, in the epoch where reforms are no longer possible, where the state tends to incor­porate the whole of civil society, such a struc­ture can only be sucked up by the state and turned into an instrument for defending the national economy. And such a structure will provide itself with leaders and mechanisms which correspond to its function. The best working class militant will become yet another union goon if he accepts a place in such a structure. The greatest formal democracy, such as exists in principle in Solidarity, won't prevent someone like Walesa from negotiating directly with the authorities over the best way to sabotage struggles, or from spending his time playing the role of ‘mobile fireman' rushing from one part of the country to the next in order to deal with the smallest spark of social revolt.

The balance-sheet of a year of struggles in Poland is clear. Never was the proletariat stronger than when there were no unions, when it was the assemblies of workers in struggle which had the responsibility for running the struggle, for electing, controlling, and, when necessary, revoking the delegates elected onto the movement's centralizing organs.

Since that time, the creation and development of Solidarity has permitted the following situation: a deterioration of living standards far worse than that which provoked the strikes of summer 1980 has been met by the workers with a much weaker and more dispersed response. It's Solidarity that has been able to achieve what the old unions were unable to do: make the workers accept a prolongation of the working week (the giving up of ‘free Saturdays'), a tripling of the price of bread and massive increases in the price of other basic necessi­ties, and increasingly severe shortages. It's Solidarity which has managed to drive the Polish workers into the impasse of self-manage­ment, which they showed little interest in last year, and which gives them the ‘right' to decide as long as this is compatible with the views of the ruling party -- who should be in charge of their exploitation. It's Solidarity which, by demobilizing so many struggles, has prepared the ground for the authorities' present offensive on the issues of censorship and repression.

The proletariat of Poland is much weaker today with a ‘free' trade union which enjoys its ‘confidence' than when it didn't rely on any trade union to defend its interests. And all the possible ‘renovations' of the union by elements more radical than Walesa won't change this. All over the world, this kind of ‘rank and file' unionism has shown its true nature. What­ever illusions its defenders might have, its function is to brighten up the image of an organization which can only serve the interests of capitalism.

This is what the clearest currents of the commu­nist left have been saying for a long time. This is what has to be understood by those communist currents who, with their chatter about ‘workers' associationism', are bolstering illusions about the possibility of the working class equipping itself with union-type organizations.

Even if the workers in Poland today are to a large extent caught in the trap of Solidarity -- in fact, precisely because of this -- the strugg­les there have helped to expose one of the most tenacious and dangerous mystifications for the working class: the mystification of trade union­ism. It's up to workers and revolutionaries of all countries to draw the lessons.

4. The characteristics of proletarian struggle in this period and the role of revolutionaries

We have dealt at great length with this question in this Review (‘Mass Strikes in Poland 80' -- IR 23; ‘Notes on the Mass Strike, Yesterday and Today' -- IR 27; ‘In the Light of the Events in Poland, the Role of Revolutionaries' -- IR 24), we will return briefly to this question here, to highlight two points:

1. In returning to the path of struggle, the proletariat inevitably rediscovers the weapon of the mass strike

2. The development of the struggle in Poland has clarified the tasks of revolutionaries in the epoch of capitalism's decay.

It was Rosa Luxemburg (cf. the article in this issue) who, in 1906, was the first to point out the new characteristics of the proletarian struggle, making a profound analysis of the phenomenon of the mass strike. She based her analysis on the experience of the 1905-6 revolution in the Russian empire, notably in Poland where she was herself living in this period. Through an irony of history, it's once again in Poland, in the Russian imperialist bloc, that the proletariat has revived this method of struggle with the greatest determination. This isn't entirely an accident. As in 1905, the proletariat of these countries is being subjec­ted to the contradictions of capitalism in the most violent manner. As in 1905, there was in these countries no ‘democratic' union structure capable of absorbing the discontent and combativity of the workers.

But, leaving these analogies aside, it's nece­ssary to point out the importance of the example of the mass strike in Poland. The strikes in Poland show, contrary to what was the case last century, and contrary to the views of the union bureaucrats against whom Rosa Luxemburg was polemicizing, that the proletarian struggle of our epoch doesn't result from a prior organization, but arises spontaneously from the very soil of a society in crisis. The organization doesn't precede the struggle; it is created in the struggle.

This fundamental fact gives revolutionary organizations a very different function from the one they had last century. When the trade union type of organization was a precondition for the stru­ggle (cf ‘The Proletarian Struggle in the Deca­dence of Capitalism', IR 23), the role of revo­lutionaries was to participate actively in the construction of these fighting organs. To a certain extent it could be said that revolution­aries had to ‘organize' the class for its day to day struggle against capital. But when the organization is a product of struggles which arise spontaneously in response to the convul­sions wracking capitalist society, there can no longer be any question of revolutionaries ‘organizing' the class or ‘preparing' its resistance against the growing attacks of capital. The role of revolutionary organizations is then situated at a very different level: not the preparation of immediate economic struggles but the preparation of the proletarian revolution. This means intervening within these immediate struggles to point out their global, historic perspective, and, in general, to defend the totality of the revolu­tionary positions.

The experience of the workers' struggle in Poland, the lessons that important sectors of the world proletariat are beginning to draw from them (like the workers at FIAT in Turin who shouted ‘like in Gdansk' in their demonstrations) are a powerful illustration of how revolutionary consciousness develops in the working class. As we have seen, many of the lessons of the struggles in Poland have for decades been part of the programmatic heritage of the communist left. But all the obstinate, patient propaganda carried out by the groups of this current over many years has been far less effective in making the world proletariat assimilate these lessons than a few months of class struggle in Poland. The consciousness of the proletariat doesn't precede its being, but flows out of its development. And the proletariat only develops its being through its struggle against capitalism, and through the self-organization that emerges in and for this struggle. It's only when it begins to act as a class, and thus to struggle on a massive scale, that the proletariat is up to drawing the lessons of its struggles, past and present. This doesn't mean that revolutionary organizations have no role to play in this pro­cess. Their task is precisely to systematize these lessons, to integrate them into a global, coherent analysis, to connect them to the whole past experience of the class and to the pers­pectives for its future battles. But their intervention and propaganda within the class can only really find an echo in the mass of workers when the class is confronted, in practice, in a living experience, with the fundamental questions raised by this intervention.

Only when they base themselves on the first stirrings of class consciousness of which they themselves are an expression -- can revolutionary organizations hope to be heard by the class as a whole, to fertilize the class struggle.

New problems posed by the struggles in Poland

While important proletarian movements generally see the workers rediscovering methods and lessons that were already valid in the past, this doesn't mean that the class struggle is merely a monotonous repetition of old scen­arios. Since it emerges from conditions that are in constant evolution, each new movement of the class brings with it new lessons to enrich its historical store of experience. At certain crucial moments in the life of society, such as revolutions or periods in between major epochs, it may even be the case that a particular struggle provides the world proletariat with new elements that are so fundamental that the whole perspective for the historic movement of the class is affected by it. This was the case with the Paris Commune, and the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 in Russia. The first demonstrated the necessity for the proletariat to destroy the capitalist state from top to bottom. The second, situated at a turning point in the life of capit­alism, between its ascendant and decadent phases, showed what instruments the proletariat needed in this new period, both for the resistance against capital's attack and for embarking upon an offen­sive against the existing order: the mass strike and the workers' councils. The third, up to now the only serious experience of the proletariat exercising power in an entire country, has allowed the class to approach the problem of the dictatorship of the proletariat, its relations with the transitional state, and the role of the proletarian party in the entire revolutionary process.

The workers' struggles in Poland, despite their importance, have not provided the proletariat with such fundamental elements as the ones just mentioned. However, it's necessary to point to certain problems to which practice has not yet given a decisive response, even though they have long been posed on a theoretical level, and are being elevated into the front rank of concern for the working class by the events in Poland.

In the first place, the struggles in Poland are a clear illustration of a general phenomenon which we have already pointed out in our press and which is something new in the history of the workers' movement: the development of a revol­utionary proletarian wave not in response to a war (as in 1905 and 1917 in Russia, 1918 in Germany and the rest of Europe) but to the econ­omic collapse of capitalism, ‘confirming', as one might put it, to the schema envisaged by Marx and Engels last century. In other texts we have analyzed in some detail the characteristics imposed on the present wave of workers' struggles by the conditions in which they are unfolding: a long-drawn out movement, arising out of essent­ially economic demands (whereas in 1917, for example, the main demand, peace, was directly political). We only return to this question here to point out that these new conditions require revolutionaries to have a vigilant, critical, modest and open-minded attitude, in order to avoid falling into schemas of the past that are obsolete for today. Those groups who consider that the next revolutionary wave will, as in the past, arise out of an imperialist war have already fallen into such schemas.

The struggles in Poland are a clear indication of the fact that capitalism won't be able to impose its own solution to the general crisis of its economy until it has defeated the prolet­ariat. As long as the various national fractions of the bourgeoisie have their survival as a class threatened by the combativity of the workers, they can't take the risk of allowing their struggles for world hegemony to degenerate into a confrontation which would weaken them in front of their common, mortal enemy: the proletariat. This is what the year 1980 showed: while the first part of the year was marked by a very tangible aggravation of tensions between the two imperialist blocs, these tensions -- though they don't disappear -- were pushed into the background, as far as the world bourgeoisie was concerned, by the August strikes. After these struggles, the bourgeoisie had to do all it could -- and in a coordinated manner -- to stifle the workers' combativity. Not one sector of the bourgeoisie failed to respond to this call. The USSR and its acolytes used military maneuvers and promises of ‘fraternal aid' to intimidate the Polish workers, they diligently denounced Walesa and Kuron every time these latter needed to polish up their image, tarnished as it was by their incessant anti-strike activity. The western countries provided loans and basic foodstuffs at a reduced rate; they sent over their trade union officials with propaganda material and good advice for Solidarity; they did all they could to give credibility to the idea that the Warsaw Pact would intervene if things didn't calm down; they gave the ‘socialist' Chancellor of Austria, Kreisky, and the president of the ‘Socialist International', Brandt, the job of exhorting the Polish workers to get down to work.

In other words: although the gangsters who run the world will never miss the opportunity to stab each other in the back, they are ready to come together in a ‘Sacred Union' as soon as the proletarian enemy raises its head. The working class struggle, as it is now going on, is truly the only obstacle to a new generalized war. The events in Poland demonstrate once again that the perspective isn't imperialist war, but class war. The next revolution won't arise out of a world war; the next war could only take place over the revolution's dead body.

The other problem posed by the events in Poland is more specific: it relates to the kind of weapons that the bourgeoisie is going to use against the working class in the Russian bloc countries.

In Poland, we've seen that the bourgeoisie has been forced to defend itself with the kind of tactics more familiar in the west: the division of labor between government teams whose job is to talk ‘frankly', to use the intransigent language of austerity and repression (the Reagan and Thatcher model), and opposition teams who speak a ‘working class' language and whose job is to paralyze the workers' response to the attacks of capital. But whereas the western bourgeoisies are old hands at this sort of game, and have a well-ensconced ‘democratic' system to play it with, it's much harder for the eastern bloc bourgeoisies to play such a game, since their method of rule is based on a party-state which is the absolute master of all areas of social life.

In December 1980, we already pointed out this contradiction:

"... a Stalinist regime cannot tolerate the existence of such oppositional forces without profound dangers to itself; this is just as true today as it was yesterday. The congenital fragility and rigidity of these regimes has not disappeared by magic, thanks to the explosion o f workers' struggles ... The regime is forced to tolerate a foreign body within its entrails, which it needs in order to survive, ,but this body .., is rejected by all the fibers of the regime's own organism. Thus, the regime is going through the worst convulsions in its history." (International Review 24)

Since then, the Party has succeeded -- notably after its 9th Congress and, once again, thanks to the collaboration of the major powers in stabilizing its internal situation around Kania and establishing a modus vivendi with Solidarity, This modus vivendi, however, hasn't done away with bitter attacks and denunciations. As in the west, all this is part of the game which allows each protagonist to be credible in the role it's playing. By showing his teeth, the ‘wicked' actor shows that, if necessary, he wouldn't hesitate to use repression; at the same time, he makes the public sympathized with the ‘nice' actor who, by standing up to the nasty one, takes on all the allure of a hero.

But the confrontations between Solidarity and the Polish CP aren't just cinema, just as the opposition between right and left in the western countries isn't just cinema. In the west, however, the existing institutional framework generally makes it possible to ‘make do' with these oppositions so they don't threaten the stability of the regime, and so that inter-bourgeois struggles for power are contained within, and resolved by, the formula most appropriate for dealing with the proletarian enemy. In Poland on the other hand, although the ruling class has, using a lot of improv­isations, but with some momentary success, managed to install these kinds of mechanisms, there's no indication that this is something definitive and capable of being exported to other ‘socialist' countries. The same invective which serves to give credibility to your friendly enemy when the maintenance of order demands it can be used to crush your erstwhile partner when he's no longer any use to you (cf the relation between fascism and democracy in the inter-war years).

By forcing the bourgeoisie to adopt a division of labor to which it is structurally inadapted, the proletarian struggles in Poland have created a living contradiction. It's still too early to see how it will turn out. Faced with a situation unprecedented in history ("the age of the never-­seen-before", as a Solidarity leader, Gwiazda, put it), the task of revolutionaries is to approach the unfolding events in a modest manner.


As we have seen, revolutionaries can't give a detailed prediction of tomorrow's events. On the other hand, they must be able to trace the more general perspectives for the movement, to identify the next step the proletariat is going to have to make on the way to the revolution. We identified this step immediately after the August 1980 strikes in the IC''s international leaflet ‘Poland, in the East as in the West, the Same Workers' Struggle Against Capitalist Exploitation' (6.9.80): the world-wide generalization of the struggle.

Internationalism is one of the basic positions of the proletarian program -- perhaps the most important. It was forcefully expressed in the watchword of the Communist League, and in the hymn of the working class. It was the dividing line between proletarian and bourgeois currents in the degenerating Second and Third Internat­ionals. The privileged place given to inter­nationalism isn't due to some general principle of human fraternity. It expresses a vital, practical necessity of the proletarian struggle. As early as 1847, Engels wrote "The communist revolution will not be a purely national revol­ution. It will break out simultaneously in all the advanced countries.." (Principles of Communism)

The events in Poland show just how true this is. They demonstrate the necessity for the prolet­ariat to unite on a world-wide scale against a bourgeoisie which is capable of acting in a concerted manner, of achieving a degree of solidarity which cuts across its inter‑imperialist antagonisms, when it's facing up to its mortal enemy. This is why we can only attack the utterly absurd slogans adopted by the Communist Workers' Organization in Workers' Voice 4, where they call on the Polish workers to make the "Revolution Now!" In this article, the CWO claims that "To call for revolution today is not simple-minded adventurism," although they are well aware that "Given the facts that the class enemy has had 12 months to prepare to crush the class, and that the Polish workers have not yet created a revolutionary leadership aware of the issues at stake, the chances of victory appear very slim." Despite its lack of under­standing about all this, the CWO knows that the USSR isn't going to let the workers make a revolution at its front door with impunity. But the CWO has found the solution: "We call on the workers of Poland to take the road of armed struggle against the capitalist state and to fraternize with the workers in uniform who will be sent to crush them." So -- all that's needed is to think about fraternizing with the Russian troops.

It's quite true that this is a real possibility: it's one of the reasons why the USSR hasn't intervened in Poland to deal with the prolet­ariat. But to go from there to thinking that the Warsaw Pact is already incapable of putting down the Polish workers is to give oneself incredible illusions about the present conditions for the revolution in Eastern Europe and the rest of the world. Because that's what we're talking about: the proletariat can only make the revolution in one country if it's already on the cards in another. And the few strikes which have taken place in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Rumania and even Russia since August 1980 hardly allow us to say that the situation in these countries is ripe for a generalized class confrontation.

The proletariat cannot make the revolution ‘by surprise'. The revolution can only be the result, the culminating point, of an international wave of struggles, which we're just seeing the very beginnings of now. Any attempt by the proletariat of a given country to launch itself into a struggle for power without taking into account the level of struggle in other countries is doomed to end in bloody failure. And those who, like the CWO, call on the workers to hurl them­selves into such adventures, are irresponsible imbeciles[2].

The internationalization of struggles isn't only indispensable as a step towards the proletarian revolution, as a way of staying the bourgeoisie's hand against the proletariat's initial attempts to take power. It's a precondition for the Polish workers, and those of other countries, to break through the mystifications which are currently holding back their struggles. If we examine the reasons for the present success of Solidarity's maneuvers, we can see that they are essentially rooted in the isolation of the Polish proletariat.

As long as the proletariat of the other eastern bloc countries, especially Russia, hasn't entered into the battle, then all the noise about an intervention by the ‘fraternal' countries will continue, and anti-Russian nationalism and religion will maintain their hold over the Polish workers.

As long as the workers of the west haven't dev­eloped the struggle against their own ‘independent' unions, their own ‘democratic' regimes, the workers of the east won't be able to make a definitive break with their illusions about ‘free trade unions' and ‘democracy'.

As long as the basic practice of the worldwide struggle hasn't made the workers understand that they have no ‘national economy' to defend, that there's no possibility of improving the economic situation in the context of one country and of capitalist relations of production, they will still accept sacrifices in the name of the ‘national interest', and mystifications about ‘self-management' will continue to have an impact.

In Poland, as everywhere else, the qualitative evolution of the struggle depends on its generalization onto a world-wide scale. This is what revolutionaries must say clearly to their class, instead of presenting the workers' struggles in Poland as the result of historical conditions peculiar to that country. In this sense, an article like the one that appears in Programme Communiste 86 is hardly a contribution to the development of class consciousness, despite the internationalist phrases you can find in it. This article refers to the events of 1773, 1792 and 1795 and to the "heroism of Kosciuszko" to explain the present struggles, rather than situating them in the context of a world-wide resurgence of struggles. The article makes the Polish proletariat the heroic heir of the revolutionary Polish bourgeoisie of yesterday, and even reproaches the Polish bourgeoisie of today for its submissive stance towards Russia.

More than ever we have to say, as we did in December 1980, that "In Poland, the problem can only be posed. It's up to the world proletariat" (International Review 24). And, because it's falling apart everywhere, its world capitalism itself which is creating the conditions for this world-wide upsurge of class struggle.

FM (3.10.81)

[1] Bordiga, the founder of the Italian Left, rejected the notion of the decadence of capitalism. But the Italian Left current as a whole, notably the review Bilan, held firm to this analysis up to WW II.

[2] Since this article was written, the CWO have declared that they were wrong to make this call for immediate insurrection (Workers' Voice 5)