5th Congress of the ICC: The responsibility of revolutionary organizations

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The life of revolutionary organizations is part of the life of the revolutionary class. Even if they don't have much size or influence, even if certain organizations have a tendency to forget it, proletarian political organizations are secreted by the proletariat and its historical struggle for communism. To under­stand this is to understand the responsibility that these organizations have.

The Fifth Congress of the ICC, which took place at the beginning of July, and which was attend­ed by delegates from ten countries, was thus -- both in its strengths and weaknesses -- not a private event, the work of a few individuals, but a moment in the life of the working class.

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As usual, our Congress devoted itself both to defining the characteristics and perspectives of the present historical period, and to exam­ining the state of the organization and draw up the main lines of its activity in the near future. It also looked at the general question of the proletarian political party and adopted an "Address to Proletarian Groups" which put forward the necessity -- faced with the crisis which for over two years has been hitting an already weak revolutionary milieu -- to work to­wards a greater spirit of debate and fraternal confrontation to fight more energetically than ever against any spirit of sectarianism.

The international situation

"At the beginning of the ‘80s we analyzed the new decade as the ‘years of truth', in which the convulsions and open bankruptcy of the capitalist mode of production would reveal in all its clarity the historic alternative: communist revolution or generalized imperialist war. At the end of the first third of the this period we can say that this analysis has been fully confirmed: never, never, since the 1930s, has it been so clear that the capitalist economy is in a total impasse; never, since the last world war, has the bourgeoisie set in motion such huge military arsenals, or mobilized so much productive effort towards destruction; never, since the 1920s, has the proletariat fought battles on the scale of those which shook Poland and the whole ruling class in 1980-81. However, all this is just the beginning. In particular, although the bourgeoisie is apparently consoling itself by talking about the ‘economic recovery', they have a hard time masking the fact that the worst of the crisis is still ahead of us. Similarly, the worldwide retreat in the workers' struggle following the tremendous fight in Poland is only a pause before the enormous class confrontations that will in­volve the decisive detachments of the world proletariat, those of the industrial metropoles and of Western Europe in particular."

(‘Resolution on the International Situation')

The reports and resolution on the internation­al situation adopted at this Congress thus emphasized:

(a) on the level of the crisis of capital

-- the impossibility for the world bourge­oisie to put forward any economic policy that will really enable it to get its economic machinery rolling again;

-- that capital is more and more revealing itself to be an anachronistic social relation­ship whose maintenance can only give rise to poverty and barbarism;

(b) on the level of the class struggle

-- that the retreat in the workers' struggle, especially in Western Europe, since 1980, a retreat produced by an international counter­offensive of the bourgeoisie, will inevitably be a temporary one, since the deepening crisis and the wearing down of bourgeois mystificat­ions are creating the conditions for going be­yond it;

-- that while the proletariat may still be to a considerable extent paralyzed and disoriented by the sheer breadth of capital's economic and political attack, its combativity remains in­tact and -- in contrast to the 1930s -- it is not really mobilized behind capital on an ideolog­ical level;

-- that, in this sense, the present historic course is still the one that was opened up in 1968: towards increasingly decisive class con­frontations that will pose the possibility of a victorious, world-wide communist revolution.

The state of the ICC and the crisis in the revolutionary milieu

In these conditions, can it be said that the ICC, and more generally the revolutionary mil­ieu as a whole, have been and are up to the de­mands of the situation? How have the revolut­ionary organizations been adapting to and pre­paring for the trials of history? This is what we said in the ‘Resolution on the Life and Act­ivities of the ICC', adopted by the Fifth Congress:

"Since its Fourth Congress, the ICC has been through the most serious crisis in its exist­ence. A crisis which wasn't limited to the vic­issitudes of the ‘Chenier affair' and profound­ly shook the organization, very nearly making it fall apart, resulting, directly or indirect­ly in the departure of forty members and cut­ting in half the membership of its second lar­gest section. A crisis which took the form of a blindness and disorientation the like of which the ICC has not seen since its creation. A crisis which demanded the mobilization of ex­ceptional methods if it was to be overcome: the holding of an extraordinary international conference, the discussion and adoption of basic orientation texts on the function and function­ing of the revolutionary organization, the adoption of new statutes."

Already in 1982, in a resolution adopted by its extraordinary international conference, the ICC pointed out that

"the difficulties that the ICC has been going through are not unique to it and are an expression of a crisis which is hitting the whole revolutionary milieu. This crisis is the expression of the fact that the convulsions of the ‘years of truth' which are hitting society do not spare the communist groups. For them as well the‘80s are the years of truth and history will not forgive them any weaknesses."

The 5th Congress drew up a positive balance sheet of the way the ICC faced up to this crisis:

"The ICC bears with it all the weaknesses that affect the entire proletarian milieu. If it has resisted these weaknesses better, if it has been able to avoid falling apart like other groups, if it was essentially able to regain its balance after the crisis of ‘81, it's essentially because of the solid frame­work of its platform and statutes, based on the experience of the whole communist left (even if it neglected, forgot or ignored them for a while)." (‘Resolution on the Life and Activities of the ICC').

If it is to avoid being at the mercy of violent routs in the face of growing social chaos, a permanent objective of any communist organization must be to arm itself with the programmatic and organizational means to under­stand and adapt itself to the demands of the historic period. This is how the 5th Congress concretized this effort in its resolution on activities:

"The 4th Congress, held 9 months after the mass strikes in Poland, could not yet see the tendency towards a retreat in the struggle. The 5th Congress, on the other hand, is quite aware that, over the last two years, the offensive of the entire world bour­geoisie, based around the card of the ‘left in opposition', has been crowned with a cert­ain amount of success, the consequence of this being not only a very definite diminution in the class struggle, but also in the audience for revolutionary ideas (drop in sales, attend­ance at public meetings, etc). This situation is only temporary, but as long as it lasts revolutionaries must take it into account so as not to waste their energies and arrive exhausted at the decisive battles. In this sense the ad­vice of the extraordinary conference remains as valid as ever:

When necessary the organization must undertake a retreat in good order to devote its efforts to what is essential in the present period: the strengthening of the political and organizational framework. ‘Better less but better'."

The control that a revolutionary organization has to have over its own activities is all the more important when the historic period is, in the most profound sense, one of rising class struggle. The organization must be prepared to be able to accelerate its intervention without much warning and without falling into activist stampedes, as was too often the case during the struggles of 1978-80.

The Statutes

It's not enough, however, for a communist organization to have a good analysis of the historic situation and a general orientation for its activity. It must also have an organizational structure and mode of life which allows it to translate these orientations into its daily practice, with a real homogeneity between all its sections.

The statutes of the organization are the in­struments for realizing this objective. The product of the historic experience of all the communist organizations of the past, and of the organization's capacity to assimilate these experiences and apply them to the problems of its time, the statutes of an organization are a real expression of its organizational and political maturity. They are a practical concretization of all the organization's positions on questions as essential as: the way the rev­olutionary process and class consciousness dev­elop, the place that revolutionaries have within this process, centralization and workers' democracy, the relations that must exist within the revolutionary class and thus within its political organization. Thus, in line with its general conception, the ICC's statutes are the materialization of a rejection of, for example, federalist, monolithic, and substitutionist tendencies (see ‘The Functioning of the Rev­olutionary Organization' in IR 33).

By adopting new statutes[1], the ICC has strengthened its capacity to face up to the tasks of the hour. But while the statutes are an immediate organizational framework, they are also a preparation for the future. This preparation requires a continually enriched and renewed understanding of the forms, the function, and the operation of the communist organizations of the proletariat. Thus the 5th Congress also put the question of the party on its agenda.

The Party

The text adopted by the Congress does not con­tain any particular innovations of what has been the ICC's analysis since its inception. It is, above all, an affirmation of the method with which this question must be approached: ie, the historical method.

Too often the debates on the question of the communist organization get bogged down in ideo­logical analyses (councilism, partyism) where abstract and purely logical syllogisms ignore and cover up the essential point: the practice, the historic experience of the real movement.

The conferences of the communist left were scuttled by the Partito Comunista Internazionalist (Battaglia Comunista) and the Communist Workers' Organization in the name of their dis­agreement with the ICC on the question of the party. Instead of, as the ICC insisted, having an open public debate on the question, these organizations preferred to run away, from confrontation by imposing their conception of the party as a criterion for participation in the conferences, thereby excluding the ICC.

The publication of the document adopted by the 5th Congress thus aims to contribute to this de­bate on the only basis which can serve as an objective point of reference; the experience of our class. It is therefore an appeal to the other revolutionary organizations to take up their responsibilities and to see their real importance -- without megalomaniac overestimation or self- castrating underestimation.

The address to proletarian political groups

The ruling class fears nothing more than the perspective of the communist revolution. Proletarian political groups are the main defenders of this revolutionary perspective. When they are weakened, the exploiting class is strength­ened.

Faced with the present situation of crisis in the revolutionary milieu, faced with a period in which the responsibilities of what is going to have to be a vanguard of the world proletariat are becoming more and more urgent, it's more necessary than ever to fight against tendencies towards atomization, act­ivist or academicist fragmentation, sectar­ianism and the denigration of other groups for its own sake. More than ever it's vital that revolutionary groups give themselves the means to have a political life in which they don't ignore each other, in which open theor­etical debate and confrontation makes it poss­ible to go beyond disagreements, and which serves as a point of reference for all the communist forces that will be engendered by the intensification and generalization of the class struggle.

This is the aim of the text adopted by the 5th Congress of the ICC.



[1] These are in fact a reformulation of the statutes adopted at the Ist Congress of the ICC in 1976, taking subsequent experience into account.