Critique of the Groupe Communiste Internationaliste

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Defensive struggles, revolutionary struggles: the dynamic of the working class

The "Groupe Communiste Internationaliste", formed in 1979 by militants who had just split from the ICC, is a typical illustration of the weakness and difficulties of today's revolutionary milieu. These comrades' ill-considered creation of a ‘tendency' within our organization on an irregular and incoherent basis; their hasty departure, without trying to conduct a debate on principle which would have made it possible to clarify their diver­gences fully, expressed some of the most wide­spread faults in the revolutionary milieu today -- immediatism, voluntarism and sectarianism. Their starting point was, in fact, an impatience with the stagnation of the class struggle in the mid-70s. Disappointed by the proletariat, they took refuge in the Bordigist vision which makes the Party the ‘dens ex machina' of the class movement. In the same way, frustrated by their inability to immediate­ly convince the rest of the organization, they left before even drawing up a document summarizing their disagreements. Rather than under­take serious revolutionary work (which, in a living proletarian organization, also implies defending minority positions) they preferred to abandon themselves to the typically leftist and student delights of multiplying little circles where each individual can indulge him­self whole-heartedly in the petty-bourgeois ambition to be ‘master in his own home'. In a word, to sectarianism.

Following its original trajectory, the GCI has continued a systematic denigration of the ICC, constantly looking for counter-examples to disprove our analyses, constantly deforming our positions rather than taking up a real and fruitful polemic. Moreover, in arguing their basic positions, these comrades have been led to develop vague theories and abstract schemas to which they "adapt" reality. In so doing, they have rapidly abandoned any real under­standing of the working class and its move­ment; they have thrown into the dustbin of history whole chunks of the workers' movement and, in particular, the Second International.

As with many of today's revolutionary groups, this is at the core of the GCI's confusions on a whole series of' problems -- especially on the process of the development of working class consciousness and the role of revolutionary minorities, on the nature and the role of class violence, on the present perspectives for the class struggle and for our period's historic direction -- confusions which prevent it from contributing usefully to the coming battle.

This is what we aim to demonstrate in the following article.

Class consciousness and the role of the Party

The GCI[1] is perfectly aware that, unlike the bourgeois revolutions, the proletarian revolution will be a conscious one:

"The conditions and determinations of the proletarian struggle are thus radically different from those which conditioned the class struggle in the past. For the proletariat, which has no new system of exploitation to impose, the knowledge of its own being in movement (and therefore of its own goal) is necessary to its victory." (La Communiste, No 6, page 3) Unfortunately, while the GCI accepts this general premise, it immediately deforms it by ‘adapting' it to its own vision of class and party, The GCI is firmly anchored in the conviction that only a minority of the proletar­iat can arrive at a clear awareness of the means and ends of the revolution: "to demand that there be a general consciousness, in the sense that all workers are conscious of the objective and the means to achieve it, and of their accumulated experience, is to ask the impossible; the very conditions of exploitat­ion prevent it." (Rupture avec le CCI, page 10) Class consciousness is seen as the prerogative of those ("communist nuclei, groups, fractions, even individuals") who are to make up the world communist party. As for the great mass of workers, it is only later that they will acquire this precious gift, after the seizure of power and during the proletarian dictatorship. The GCI thus finds itself caught in two mutually exclusive affirmations: on the one hand, that "for the proletariat, the knowledge of its own being in movement (and therefore of its own goal) is necessary to its victory," and on the other, that "to demand that there be a general consciousness, in the sense that all workers are conscious ... is to ask the impossible." In the use and distorted meaning it makes of the word "all", the GCI plunges further into the confusion it thinks it is escaping. Do we have to remind them that, for marxism, "all the workers" is not a mere arithmetical sum of individuals? This "all" refers to the class as a social entity, with its own historical dynamic, It refers to the consciousness of the class as a whole, not to the consciousness of each worker as an individual, This difficulty in grasping the concept of the class as a whole, a difficulty common to every kind of petty-bourgeois approach, presents the GCI with an insuperable problem which it ‘gets out of' only by resorting to another old aberration.

How then, according to the GCI, will the proletariat be able to make the revolution? Essentially, this job falls to the party.

This position presents a number of difficult­ies in dealing with more concrete problems. If the workers are no better than unconscious sheep, why should they follow the party, why should they follow revolutionary slogans rather than those of the bourgeoisie? Why did the workers in Germany not follow their parties (KPD, KAPD) when these latter called the March Action in 1921? "There was a putsch because of a lack of preparation (eg the VKPD's overnight changes in position), and errors in appreciating the state of mind of the masses, and the balance of forces between the two antagonistic classes." (Le Communiste No 7, page 16).

What did this preparation (a success in Russia, a failure in Germany) consist of? In the March Action, there was no "serious conspiracy," no "insurrectional plot, no massive insurrection, and still less any weak­ening of the bourgeoisie," (ibid), This is how the GCI ‘gets out of' the difficulty it finds itself in -- by completely eliminating the factor of class consciousness.

The factors determining the victory of the insurrection are reduced: for the party, to a "conspiracy", a "plot", and for the class, to a "massive insurrection". Full stop.

If the GCI eliminates class consciousness so easily from its analysis of revolutionary movements, when they talk about it so much in other texts, this is fundamentally because they do not know what they are talking about, and because they do not understand what class consciousness is.

Class consciousness is the working class' consciousness of its own being, of its per­spectives, and of the methods it adopts for carrying them out. It is not awareness of an object outside the proletariat, but a self-awareness, and is therefore accompanied by a change within the proletariat. Class conscious­ness only exists through a conscious class. The class being conscious does not mean that each worker, taken individually, has this consciousness, but it is a material fact that a conscious class means the class affirming itself through the destruction of the capital­ist system. Any attempt to dissociate class consciousness, the conscious class, and the material destruction of capitalism, is simply to reintroduce the separations and specializations of bourgeois ideology into revolutionary theory.

Collective class consciousness cannot, then, by its very nature, be the property of a minority. The party, or the revolutionary nuclei, does indeed have a theoretical understanding of the problems of the revolution, but they cannot claim to be the exclusive owners of class consciousness.

In fact, the GCI does not see where class con­sciousness comes from, nor how it develops. On the pretext that "action precedes con­sciousness", they refuse to understand that class consciousness is formed in the daily struggles of the class, and from the inevit­able reflection it is obliged to undertake on its own experience. Nor does the GCI see that it is because the proletariat gains in aware­ness that it is able to modify its methods of struggle. The proletariat will not undertake a "massive insurrection" under the pressure of misery alone, as the GCI seems to think. The proletariat will only make the revolution if it knows what it is doing and where it is going.

On this point, the GCI likes to spread the idea that the ICC is, amongst other things, profoundly "democratic". "With its cult of generalized consciousness (which it turns into a fetish before which it falls down on its knees), the ICC has fallen straight back into ‘bourgeois democratic' ideology." (Rupture avecle CCI, page 11). Elsewhere, the GCI affirms that "the minority aspect of class conscious­ness will certainly remain until an advanced stage of the revolutionary process, to be spread to ever-widening sections of workers during the period of dictatorship. The communist revolution is thus mainly undemocratic".

Contrary to what the GCI thinks, the question is not one of ‘minority' or ‘majority' in itself. We have no attachment to scenes of voting mechanisms, of forests of raised hands, of fine majorities carrying the day but are concerned with understanding the conditions that make the revolution possible. Neither the revolution, nor the transformation that follows, will be possible thanks simply to a ‘conscious minority'. The transformation of capitalist society, whose blind forces domin­ate the proletariat, as they do the rest of society, will not be done by decree; it is possible only through the proletariat's conscious and collective action. The guarant­ees of society's transformation are the prolet­ariat's mobilization and its ability to take on complete power. This is why the dictatorship of the proletariat will mean workers' democrac­y; that is to say a real equality, an unprece­dented liberty for the whole working class.

This will also mean the rejection of all violence within the proletariat. While on the subject, we might ask the GCI what they mean concretely when they say that the communist revolution will be anti-democratic even within the proletariat?

The GCI reproaches the ICC just as virulently for our "assemblyism", "formalism" or "general assembly fetishism" -- the exact term varies from day to day -- in brief, the fact that we propagandize, in our general intervention, for particular organizational forms for the workers' struggle: that is, today, general assemblies, strike committees, elected and revocable delegates, which foreshadow the Workers Councils of the revolutionary period ... The GCI argues that since all organizational forms (Councils, strike committees, unions, etc) can be recuperated by the bourgeoisie (which is quite true), the form is therefore unimportant, and all that matters is the content. The GCI has thus developed a schema which obliterates the link between form and content.

We are not attached to an organizational form as such, but to a content: the development of class consciousness through the workers' active participation in the struggle, their collect­ive functioning, the supersession of the separation between ‘economic' and ‘political', the breakdown of the division of workers by sector or by factory. There are not any number of organizations that correspond to this content, and in any case not the trade unions (even if the GCI considers some of them to be "classist"), nor the industrial unions. A political group's lack of clarity on the organizations where the revolutionary dynamic will find its expression is dangerous. The GCI's position on today's struggles' organizational forms has led them to a hopelessly inadequate intervention in relation to Poland. So on the one hand, as they try to prove that "it is impossible to say in advance and outside real life that the ‘class union', ‘council', ‘commune' or ‘soviet' forms have completely exhausted their historical cycle and will no longer appear as expressions of the proletar­ian movement" (Le Communiste, No 4, page 29), so instead of denouncing the free unions, the GCI writes: "These (free unions) can indeed be real workers' organizations, wide, and open to all workers in struggle, coordinating and centralizing the strike committees, but, they may also, under the joint pressure of the authorities and the ‘dissidents' be transformed into organisms of the bourgeois state". (Le Communiste, No 7, page 4.).

On the other hand, the GCI has been content to insist on the movement's massive and centralized character, without bringing themselves to talk about the forms of organization that this presupposes -- general assemblies, elected and revocable delegates -- doubtless because this reality was too ‘democratic' for their taste?

The GCI's silence as to the struggle's organizational forms is all the deeper since, in the final analysis, they are not interested in understanding the movement of the working class. As far as they are con­cerned, it is the party that organizes the class.

The concrete role of the Party

"(Communists) are not opposed to the numerous associations that appear amongst the proletarians, and which struggle for particular objectives (...). They act to raise their level, to generalize their tasks and objectives, to melt them together organically: that is to say, to unite them in one organization, or at least, if this is not possible directly, to centralize them around the most advanced pole". (Rupture avec le CCI, page 8).

The GCI's perfect ideal is the party tending to centralize the whole class -- the function fulfilled by the First International in the 19th century of "organizing and coordinating the workers' forces for the battle that awaits them." (Marx, 1871). The GCI is completely unaware that the revolution of the working class on the one hand, and the change in the historical period on the other, have modified the historic role of revolutionaries:

"In the early days of the workers' movement, the necessity for distinct communist organizations fulfilling a particular function was not felt in an urgent way. The primary task of organization that revolutionaries like Marx gave themselves was to try to make the proletariat, into an organized and autonomous force, by uniting the dispersed class expressions existing at the time. This was the course followed by the First Internation­al which was as much a political party in the strict sense of the term as a general organization of the class (workers' associations and societies, unions, etc). With the Second International, a greater separat­ion was put into operation between, on the one hand, the political party, and on the other, more general organisms such as the unions. However, the immaturity of the burgeoning proletariat and the possibility of waging permanent struggles for reforms, and therefore of creating and keeping alive permanent organizations of struggle (unions), gave a great weight to the ‘organizing' role of revolutionaries. The parties themselves were mass organizations, linked to the unions. This practice was reflected in the ideas that marxists held about their role. In fact, throughout this period, in the absence of decisive revolutionary experiences (the Paris Commune being an isolated event), marxists tended to see the political party as an organism which would more or less progressively organize the majority of the class and which because of this mass nature would be led to exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat. This con­ception was particularly strengthened during the period of social democracy ....

But after 1905 in Russia, this conception began to break down. The entry of capital­ism into its period of decline, the opening of the epoch of world revolution marked by the first world war, definitively and profoundly changed the conditions of the workers' struggle and therefore equally the characteristics of its organizations. Capital­ism's crisis prevented the survival of permanent struggles, and the mass organizations (unions and parties) were engulfed by the state apparatus. At the same time, the greater maturity of the proletariat led it to launch itself into revolutionary confront­ations and to spontaneously create unitary class organizations abolishing the division between politics and economics; the Workers Councils. The Workers' Councils are "the discovered form of the dictator­ship of the proletariat" (Lenin). In this situation, the real function of revolution­ary organizations became much clearer: revolutionaries, even if they still formed parties, constituted a minority whose impact as ‘organizers' was reduced vis-a-vis the mass of the proletariat in movement. Instead their specific political role of developing class consciousness became crucial for the progress of the revolution...." (quoted from ‘The Necessity and Function of the Party', World Revolution No 55).

In the present period, when the proletariat is tending to launch itself into massive struggles and the workers to organize in their millions, the vision of a party unifying the workers' associations in "one organization" betrays a deep-seated megalomania and anachronism in those who put it forward. The GCI thinks it has found a historical prop for this conception: the KAPD in Germany, from 1920-21, which worked essentially in the ‘Unionen' (AAUD). This organizational form has won its approval for two reasons: first, because the ‘Unionen' were strictly linked to a party and second, because there was a political criterion for membership -- acceptance of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

So the GCI glorifies the KAPD: "In the KAPD's practice, we cannot but find indications as to the content of the revolutionary movement to come," (Le Communiste No 7, pages 18-19). Blinded by the fact of having finally discover­ed the organizational form they were looking for and a party that created it, the GCI is incapable of appreciating to what extent both the creation of the ‘Unionen' and the KAPD's intervention were in many respects the results of the weakness of the revolut­ionary movement in Germany. The ‘Unionen' were created after the defeat of the Workers' Councils, which the bourgeoisie had succeeded in neutralizing. The political disorientation of the proletariat that followed was reflected in these bodies, which were clearly a withdrawal to the factory and which the workers saw simply as more radical trade unions. This disorientation was also to influence the intervention of revolutionaries: the KAPD's intervention was a voluntarist attempt to rebuild the mass movement thanks to the ‘Unionen'. The KAPD's centralization was only the mirror image of the lack of any real centralization in the class, and of the dispersal of its forces. In the end, the KAPD's putschist attitudes (in the March action) only led to defeat.

Armed with all this ‘historical-theoretical' baggage, the GCI sees its role as being primarily one of "organizing the class" - or at least those elements that will let themselves be organized. Its efforts have come to nothing either because its ‘calls' have met no echo in the groups concerned (eg their call for a "coordination of workers in struggle" in Le Communiste No 2, criticized in International­isme No 35), or because its various committees, set up on an artificial basis and lacking any real internal life, rapidly succumbed to their own contradictions. These disastrous experiences should be enough to show the GCI that this is not the direction for revolutionary work to take today. In the present period, revolut­ionaries must intervene to defend clear perspe­ctives within the general struggles of the class; something the GCI had practically stopped doing, up to the movements in Belgium at the beginning of 1982, being too preoccup­ied with the organization and the activation of their phantom ‘committees'.

The working class

Carried away by their search for "active" and "historic" minorities, the GCI has been led to define the working class in a manner peculiarly their own: "The ICC is unaware that the existence of the working class does not appear in the static numbering of proletarians, nor even in a majority of them, but often in minorities that express the tendency towards the constit­ution of the class," (Rupture avec le CCI, page 3). The GCI has thus developed a completely abstract vision of the working class. A vision which is foreign to Marxism because it simply wipes out the class' economic determinations. Where does this "movement" that they make a criterion for defining the class come from; what is the material motive force for the struggle, if not the proletarians' exploitat­ion?

This is the definition of the working class that has propped up the GCI's intervention which has been progressively centered upon certain sectors of the working class, espec­ially the unemployed, presumably considered likely to break out into motion more rapidly than workers employed in the industrial con­centrations. We can see how far the GCI has gone in its worship of "movement", irrespective of the social forces behind it, in its posit­ion on the Berlin squatters' struggle: "The struggle in Berlin, conducted above all by the youth, is in fact part of the proletariat, because the occupations correspond to an authoritarian satisfaction of a general need of the workers, and because to carry out these occupations, the movement must confront the bourgeois state and call into question the sacred principle of private property," (Action Communiste No 4, page 6).

If the GCI has rejected "static economic determinations" this is the better to glorify a movement on the grounds that it confronts the state, and in the name of purely moral criteria: "authoritarian satisfaction", "sacred principle of private property," etc...

The squatters' movement expresses the dead-end that capitalism has come to, a dead-end which provokes convulsions throughout society.

Nevertheless, such movements do not bear with­in themselves the supersession of this system. Only the working class contains this super­session, and can and must develop its struggles in order to unify all these social revolts. The GCI prefers to give the squatters' movement its own perspectives -- centralizing housing struggles across national frontiers. The GCI's blind attraction for ‘everything that moves' makes them call into question an essential basis of marxism and of the revolutionary struggle: that the working class is today's only revolutionary class.

Class violence

Since the GCI does not understand the working class' ability to organize itself unitarily, and develop its class consciousness, no more does it grasp how the proletariat will be able to beat the bourgeoisie by means of its organized class violence. This leads it into a number of confusions which all have in common the idea that physical confrontations will play a central part in the development of the revolut­ionary perspective. The GCI also defends ‘workers' terrorism' and insists on the need for ‘military preparation' of the insurrection, and for the proletariat to develop a ‘red terror'. Because we do not share these ideas, the GCI accuses us of ‘pacifism' and ‘legalism' - "The ICC has never disengaged itself from social-pacifism," (Rupture avec le CCI, page 14).

The ICC is in no doubt that the permanent struggle between two irremediably antagonistic classes is, and that the revolution will be violent. But the real question is: "What role does violence play in the proletarian revolution?"

To this question, Rosa Luxemburg replied:

"In the previous bourgeois revolutions, it was the bourgeois parties that took charge of the political education and leadership of the revolutionary masses and, moreover, it was simply a matter of overthrowing the old gov­ernment; and so short-lived street fighting on the barricades was the most, appropriate form of revolutionary struggle. Today, the working class has no choice but to educate itself, to unify and to lead itself in the course of the struggle; and so the revolution is directed as much against capitalist exploitation as against, the old state regime. So much so, that the mass strike appears as a natural means of recruiting, organizing and preparing for the revolution the largest possible proletarian strata, as well as being a means for under­mining and destroying the old state, and for limiting capitalist, exploitation (...) What was once the main outward sign of the revolut­ion -- fighting on the barricades and direct confrontation with the forces of the state  -- is in the present Revolution, no more than the culminating point, a phase in the pro­cess of the mass proletarian struggle." (Mass Strike, Party and Unions).

The battles for the proletarian revolution may well be bloodier and more violent than those the bourgeoisie went through in making its revolution. But it is the proletariat's consciousness and its ability to organize that will determine how effective its violence is, and not any ‘military preparation in itself', as the GCI thinks. This is why the proletarian party's essential role in preparing the insurr­ection, as at a more general level, lies in the development of class consciousness.

The GCI's incomprehension of the question of class violence consequently determines certain errors in its intervention. According to the GCI, the working class will have to go through a specific apprenticeship in violence. This leads them to applaud every violent act carried out by isolated groups of workers. "Violence is today an immediate need for every struggle that wants to strike home," (see the article on Longwy-Denain in Le Communiste No 1). And because they are afraid that this might weaken their propaganda for violence, they absolutely refuse to consider that these violent outbursts often combine a real combativity with an equally real lack of perspectives, as in the steel struggles in France or Belgium. The GCI's intervention does not correspond to the real needs of the class.

The working class does not need to learn how to be violent, any more than it needs to learn how to go on strike. The working class produces revolutionary organizations because it needs to understand and analyze the situation, and to trace clear perspectives for its struggles -- not to applaud its more immediately spectacular actions.

In its leaflets, the GCI is constantly advanc­ing slogans such as "illegal restraint of the bosses" or "destruction of stockpiles". And yet the ‘exploits' of rank-and-file unionism (destruction of banks, tax-centers and company headquarters, or illegal restraint of bosses) should be enough to make them understand that these slogans are not in themselves, any more than any others, a sign of the seriousness of the proletariat's autonomous struggle.

An organizing activism, a worship of partial movements, an apology for ‘minorities' and violence in a context where the working class' immaturity has so far left room for illusions on the party ‘leading the class', ‘organizing it', or ‘centralizing its violence' -- these are the factors which have enabled the GCI's intervention to have produced a relative and ephemeral increase in numbers in Belgium. The GCI's foundations are shaky. We have just seen that they are built on a basic miscomprehension of the nature of the working class, of how the class develops its consciousness and of the role of revolutionary organizations and of the party. This is, in fact, an incomprehension of the dynamic of the class struggle.

The dynamic of class struggle

When we leave the realm of definitions and theory, which has become a pure abstraction for the GCI, we can see the full extent of these theoretical errors. The GCI is, in fact, unable to offer any serious analysis of the movement of the class struggle. The main reason is their refusal to take account of the objective conditions, ie the material conditions which determine, within the capital­ist system, a struggle's potential -- or its limits. This idealist approach appears as much in their historical incomprehension (the difference between struggles in capitalism's ascendant and decadent periods) as in their incomprehension of the struggle's development at an international level today.

Rejection of the Second International and the trade unions

The GCI has rapidly rejected the concept that forms the mortar of the ICC's platform -- the division of capitalism into ascendant and decadent periods. To be precise, they have never produced a real critique, preferring to let drop the odd word of this here and there[2]. They also reject the implications of this periodiza­tion for the potential of the workers' struggle. That is to say: in the 19th century, the period of capitalism's expansion, the revolut­ion was not directly on the agenda. In the context of this expansion, the proletarian struggle could culminate in reforms, improve­ments in its conditions, whether on the econ­omic level (reduction in working hours, increase in wages) or on the political (rights of assoc­iation, freedom of meeting and of the press, extension of the right to vote, etc). Over and above these immediate aims it was through these struggles that the proletarians developed their organization, unity and class consciousness; through this experience, the revolutionary struggle was prepared. In this period, the social-democracy and the unions were the organizations that regrouped workers around both the immediate and long-term objectives. A century later, the GCI considers that any reform that capitalism could integrate was anti-proletar­ian to the core: "Following the improvement in working conditions and the rise in wages made possible by the high level of capitalist accumulation, the workers' struggles were, on each occasion, transformed into struggles for reforms (and therefore destroyed as proletar­ian struggles), factors for capitalist expan­sion and ‘progress'," (Le Communiste No 6, page 32). So what should the proletariat fight for? According to the GCI: "our class can only realize one kind of partial conquest; when the workers wrench a reduction in the rate of exploitation from capital's grasp," (Le Commun­iste to No 4, page 14). We have already answered this hopeless absurdity, "Outside its revolut­ionary moments, the workers' struggle has never had the aim of putting an end to the growth of the rate of exploitation, for the very good reason that this would mean the end of capitalist accumulation, and so the end of capitalism itself," (‘Lutte revendicative et Revolution', Internationalisme No 40). This analysis of the GCI's is a good illustration of their approach, which delights in elaborat­ing sterile schemas. Perhaps the reality of the struggle at the end of the 19th century should come into it? It is simply dumped in the dust­bin of history. The proletarian organisations of the time? Social-democracy and the unions are decreed ‘counter-revolutionary', the former from its birth, the latter once they were legalized by the bourgeois state. Quite apart from its political grotesqueness, this example is significant. What the GCI rejects, in fact, is that the working class is not only a revolut­ionary, but also an exploited class. This implies that it struggles firstly for immed­iate objectives (for the improvement or against the deterioration of its living conditions), and that the struggle's revolutionary potent­ial can only be realized in given historical circumstances -- the period of capitalist decadence.

For the GCI, the working class ought to be revolutionary in all historical conditions, and in each particular struggle. They try to ram reality into this schema by affirming in every one of their utterances that the workers' struggle today is "for an increase in wages and unemployment benefits," "for a reduction in working hours," thus attributing to every struggle an offensive character direc­ted against the bourgeoisie on the economic terrain. This vision is, in many respects, profoundly absurd. Even today, when determined struggles of the class contain the question of the Revolution directly within them, every struggle has defensive aspects. It is the resistance to the degradation of its living conditions that pushes the working class to develop its combat to the point where it becomes a revolutionary struggle, when the defensive aspect, while always present, takes second place. The transformation from defensive to revolutionary struggle demands a whole maturation on the part of the working class, its struggle, and its consciousness. The GCI's vision, which only recognizes as ‘struggle' those movements that pose the question of revolution and which see the revolution con­tained directly in every struggle and every factory, is a wholly idealist one.

Internationalization of struggle

The GCI generally ignores the problem of the struggle's generalization. But when it does consider the problem, it always does so incorrectly because it does not understand the material conditions that determine the potent­ial of the present workers' struggles.

The GCI thinks that the revolution is on the agenda in an identical manner throughout the world, with some secondary differences between various countries. For us, the fate of the Revolution will be determined in the central countries of capitalism, where the proletariat is the most concentrated and the most experien­ced -- and where the bourgeoisie is the most highly developed, with all that this implies. This is why we have always placed the resurgence of international class struggle in 1968, when the whole of Europe was shaken by social convulsions. We explicitly reject the theory of the ‘weak link', which sees the Revolution breaking out in those conditions where the bourgeoisie is weak and ill-equipped against the proletariat. We have reaffirmed this posit­ion in trying to understand the perspective opened up by the mass strike in Poland in 1980-81. We have insisted that the development of the struggle in Poland, like the Revolution, was essentially dependent on the proletariat in the central countries of capitalism taking up the struggle.

As far as this question goes, the GCI has up to now demonstrated a hopeless inability to under­stand the dynamic of the class struggle in the present period; what are its important movements? Where, within the international movement of the working class, are we to find the focus of the confrontation between bourgeoisie and proletariat? Etc, etc...

So, on the pretext that there were struggles before 1968, the GCI thinks it's clever to deny the significance of the period opened up in 1968. In the same way, when we analyze Poland as "the most important workers' movement since 1917," the GCI (more to be ‘original' than to offer another analysis) proclaims that "this bombastic and apologetic affirmation really actively forgets (no less!) the important class movements which in recent years have shaken the capitalist world from Latin America to Iran, from Turkey to Korea, and from Italy to China)," (Le Communiste No 13, page 13). The GCI needn't worry, we haven't forgotten these struggles. But not all these movements are of the same importance[3]. It's not a question of judging a movement's characteristics in themselves (from this point of view, the struggle in Latin America has often been more violent and more general than those in Europe), but of seeing how they do or do not integrate into the gener­al dynamic of the world working class, taking account of the maturity of the situation -- on a historical level. From this point of view, Poland, like the 1968 movements in Europe, represents a qualitative step forward for the whole movement and for the consciousness of the world proletariat.

The GCI puts everything on the same level. Worse still, at times it reverses events in order of importance. Thus while "in Poland, the schema of the counter-revolution is unfolding" (after December 13th), "the struggle of the proletariat in El Salvador represents a great step forward in the communist struggle and the formation of the world party." While the first thing they have to say about the defeat in Poland is that it shows fully "the inadequacy that materializes through the absence of a communist leadership," the lesson they draw from E1 Salvador is that "We know from our own class experience that in the present situation in El Salvador (...) in spite of everything, communist minorities exist," (Le Communiste No 12). The totally disproportion­ate importance accorded here to E1 Salvador, and to Latin or Central American struggles in general[4], originates in their worship of violence in the struggle, and of ‘military' confrontations between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Their inability to understand that only the struggle in the centre of capitalism can offer a perspective to the workers' combativity in the peripheral countries, and to defend this perspective before the working class, condemns them to the role of admiring spectators of the perpetual massacres there, to becoming the apologists for the isolation of this fraction of the world working class.

In these conditions, it is not surprising that the GCI understands nothing about the problem of the internationalization of the class struggle. "Revolutionary marxism has always analyzed the best way of generalizing a movement, as being neither to ‘invade' other countries, nor to ‘wait' for the movement to break out simul­taneously everywhere (...) On the contrary, the best means of generalizing a movement world­wide is to reply blow for blow against ‘one's own' bourgeoisie, or the direct representatives of the world bourgeoisie; it is to intensify the class struggle as much as possible where it has broken out." (Le Communiste No 13, pages 9-10) -- this was what the GCI had to say in reply to the questions posed by the events in Poland: when and how can such a struggle become international? Once again, the GCI is half right -- and therefore half wrong. Clearly, the best way for workers in a given country to help a movement internationalize is not to wait, but to take action in this direction. But more was needed than these banalities -- and in particular a reply to the following questions: was the situation ripe enough for the movement in Poland to go beyond national frontiers in this way? What objective conditions determine such a situation? Essentially, it is a matter of the proletariat in capitalism's centre setting itself in motion. From this point of view, it was impossible to ignore the immaturi­ty of the international class struggle (see the International Review Nos 24, 25, 26 and lnternat­ionalisme Nos 59 and 60). The GCI seems incapable of situating itself at this level of analysis, and of understanding that the conditions for internationalization are above all world-wide.

The historic course

The GCI's profound lack of confidence in the working class potential prevents them from replying clearly to the question: what direct­ion is society going in? Towards generalized war or class confrontations?

The ICC has pointed out that, since the beginning of the crisis, and contrary to the class' situation in the 1930s, the proletariat has resumed its struggle on a world scale. While war is the only solution the bourgeoisie can propose for the crisis, it cannot be un­leashed as long as the proletariat's resistance remains unbroken on a world level. The future is thus one of class battles which will decide victory of the proletariat (and so of the Revolution) or its defeat (and the possib­ility for the bourgeoisie to unleash war).

The GCI is well aware of the difference between today and the 1930s; they state quite correct­ly that in that period of blackest counter-revolution, the course lay inevitably towards war. But today, for them, the tendencies towards war and towards Revolution are develop­ing simultaneously, each supporting the other.

For example, the GCI writes, on the struggle in Poland: "it is clear that today's events, which materialize the force of our class, dial­ectically strengthen the intensification of the world bourgeoisie's march towards its ‘solution' to the crisis, generalized war. The develop­ment of the proletarian struggle is also a development of anti-working class measures and mystifications, thus strengthening the struggle between classes," (Le Communiste, No 7, page 7).

The GCI's ‘contribution' to marxist theory is to have completed ‘dialectically' the slogan that Lenin addressed to workers during World War 1 - "Turn the imperialist war into a civil war" -- by providing its bourgeois complement. The bourgeoisie is supposed to be able to "transform the danger of civil war into the material and ideological preparation for imperialist war" (Le Communiste No 13, page 13). This hazy new theory ill conceals the GCI's incomprehension and profound mistrust of what the proletarian struggle means in practice. The GCI does not really understand that when the proletariat struggles, it tends to become aware of its own interests, to struggle on its own class terrain, and to organize independently of the bourgeoisie; and that as long as it has this ability, the bourgeoisie will be unable to lead it off to war. The GCI, on the contrary, sees the prol­etariat as a mass, manipulated either by the bourgeoisie or by a party. The bourgeoisie is supposedly capable of confronting the struggle and producing mystifications to take the prol­etariat off its class terrain (where it has its solidarity and its internationalism, struggling at the same time against war and the crisis), into imperialist war (where the proletariat is divided, under the yoke of nationalist war propaganda)! This position leads the GCI into numerous errors: on the theoretical level, they unconcernedly propagate the bourgeois idea that the class struggle increases the danger of war. Their analysis of particular situations is equally incorrect: for instance, their analysis of the Falklands War -- designed in reality to give more weight to the bourgeoisie's ideologi­cal campaigns on the danger of war -- as an inter-imperialist war between the US and the USSR (see The International Review No 30). These incorrect positions can only make their intervention in the working class yet more sterile.

Conclusion

This text is not an exhaustive examination of the GCI's positions. This polemic has essentially tried to clarify a series of confused ideas that still hold sway in the revolutionary movement. In fact, for the GCI as for other groups, the main source of these confusions lies in their incomprehension of the working class' nature, of its real dynamic, and of the different aspects of its struggle. The extent of these confusions is a good demonstration of the revolutionary movement's difficulty in re-appropriating marxist theory. It also brings out the necessity for groups prepared to under­take the work of clarification to answer these confusions, whether in public meetings or in the written press.

In our opinion, the GCI is not among those groups whose existence is an expression of the effort to clarify revolutionary perspectives. Up to now, the GCI's main function in the revolutionary movement (including those ele­ments that it ‘organized' in its committees) has been to spread confusion.

Quite apart from their theoretical regression since leaving the ICC, and the regular outpouring of "historico-theoretical" innovations in their press, this is demonstrated by their attitude towards today's revolutionary milieu. By their refusal to hold public meetings, or to attend those we organize, by their attempt to sabotage the 3rd Conference of Left Communist groups, the GCI up to now has only demonstrated one thing -- its ever-deepening sectarianism.

In fact, the GCI's main concern is its own self-satisfaction, the justification of its existence by an ‘original' vision, as much of the history of the workers' movement as of the problems posed today.

Sadly, these ‘discoveries' of the GCI do not take us far, unless it is to an ever-greater calling into question of marxism. The fact that this group has been promising for three years to produce its "Theses of political orientation defining our group's theoretical bases," (Le Communiste No 1, May 1979), and has still not managed to publish its "theoretical bases" says much about its difficulty in defining itself coherently.

Those, like the GCI, who are constantly quoting Lenin, need reminding that nothing irritated him more than "bombastic, hollow, radical phraseology."

But those who are constantly mouthing their ‘Bolshevism' need reminding of Lenin's reply to a call for ‘Bolshevism on a West-European scale':

"I don't attach much importance to this desire to call oneself ‘Bolshevik', since I know some ‘old Bolsheviks' from whom heaven preserve us ...In my opinion, it shows a frivolity and absolutely inadmissible lack of party spirit to trumpet a new Bolshevism for a whole year, and leave it at that. Isn't it time to think, and to give comrades something which lays out this ‘Bolshevism on a West-European scale' as a coherent whole?" (Lenin, Oeuvres Completes, Tome 23, page 18).

-J‑



[1] GCI - Groupe Communiste Internationaliste, BP54, Bruxelles 31, 1060 Bruxelles, Belgium.

[2] We learn from the GCI that the notion of "capitalist decadence" defended by the Left Communists on the basis of Luxemburg's economic analysis, was in fact nothing other than "one of the period's (1936) two dominant bourgeois theses (upheld by the social democrats, Trotskyists and Stalinists ....)" (Le Communiste no 6, page 46) - a statement they don't for a minute think of demonstrating! The GCI thinks it can refute the notion of decadence simply by declaring that "capitalism has not stop growing, as can be verified in the sequence of events from the imperialist war of 1939-45 to the infernal growth of capitalism since the war..." (ibid). But this argument shows nothing if not that the GCI has got stuck in the swamp of bourgeois propaganda which tries to use its ‘growth rates' to bludgeon us into belief in the eternal life of capital!

[3] By contrast, what the GCI ignores, or has never learned, is how to determine the repercussions of a particular struggle, and its impact on the development of class struggle world-wide. For them, ‘all cats are grey'.

[4] According to the GCI, ‘class unions' have thus existed in Argentina and Peru, of which, moreover, they are unable to give another example anywhere else in the world. Nor does the GCI hesitate to illustrate the revolutionary wave of 1917-23 by the example of the class struggle in ....Patagonia! (Le Communiste no 5). More recently, the GCI has ‘discovered' that in El Salvador the BPR, a populist organization set up in 1975 and led by leftists, was originally a proletarian body! (Le Communiste no 12).