The organization of revolutionaries: On the conditions for the formation of the Party
The general conditions of the working class resurgence since 1968 and the implications for the process of regroupment for the party
1. The future party will not emerge as the result of a reaction against war but from a slow and uneven development of class struggle against a relatively slow evolution of an international crisis. This implies:
-- the possibility of a much greater maturation of working class consciousness before the final assault; this maturation would be expressed especially within revolutionary minorities;
-- the fact that the struggle is developing on an international scale creates the basis for a process of regroupment of revolutionary forces emerging directly on an international level.
2. The ‘uniqueness' of the period 1917-23 lies not so much in the rapidity of events (we should expect a much greater rapidity in the future, against a better prepared bourgeoisie, once the revolutionary process has begun) but rather in the fact that it came at a turning point in history.
Today, with seventy years of capitalist decadence behind us, a whole number of questions are now posed in much clearer terms than at the time of the first revolutionary wave: the nature of the unions, of democracy and parliamentarianism, the national question. Although we are still far from the insurrectional period, every workers' struggle is obliged to confront the forces of bourgeois mystification and control. Even in the midst of confusion, the present proletarian milieu is forced to take a stand on the lessons of these seventy years of decadence. The task of clarifying the conditions opening up for class struggle because of capitalist decadence is much easier today than in 1919.
3. Although the present period suffers from a lack of organic continuity with the movement of the past and despite the fact that this situation weighs heavily on revolutionary forces and their relations, it should be remembered that the organic continuity between the Second and Third Internationals, in providing the living forces of the Communist International, also determined many of its weaknesses. It was not only on the programmatic level that the vanguard was unable to offer a sufficiently profound critique of Social-Democratic traditions and take into account the new conditions of the period. On an organizational level as well, the different factions of the Left before 1914 had great difficulty understanding what they represented and realizing that they had to go beyond the stage of an opposition intent upon redressing the degenerating Social Democratic organization. The process of confrontation and regroupment itself was marked by the model of the Second International, functioning as a sum of national parties; even within nations, such as Germany, the Left was weighed down by habits of federalism. Thus:
-- even without any ‘organic break', the framework of discussion set up was not sufficiently international; it was difficult even in Germany alone;
-- the unfolding of the split with the Second International remained a series of national processes implying gaps in time and political heterogeneity.
The long period of defeat suffered by the proletariat after the failure of the revolution was at the same time a crucible where the class went as far as it could in an effort to draw the lessons of the revolutionary wave. Today we can draw on the living experience of October, the efforts of the fractions, Bilan and Internationalisme to prepare for the coming wave of struggle.
4. Today the organic break with the movement of the past means that revolutionary groups are no longer confronted with the need to break with organizations which have gone over to the enemy. They are no longer what Bilan was either, a fraction with the basic task of building a bridge towards the next revolutionary upsurge - drawing all the lessons of defeat from the depths of the triumphant counter-revolution. The existence and development of today's groups is above all determined by the emergence of open struggle in 1968.
5. Never before have conditions been better for carrying out what the text adopted as a Resolution of the Fifth ICC Congress ("On the Party and its Relationship to the Class" IR 35) puts forward: in the period of decadence "the political party can perfectly well emerge before the culminating point of the appearance of workers' councils."
The simplistic vision of the Bolsheviks as the "exemplary party" in contrast to the German situation where regroupment proved much more difficult does not take into account the fact that in 1917 the absence of an international party was a great weakness which weighed heavily on the whole revolutionary wave. The delay in the regroupment for the world party was felt on the international level, everywhere, and not just in Germany. The pole of clarification which the Communist International represented took off too late and lasted too short a time. Today, conditions are much better for the constitution of a pole of clarification before the decisive moment. Also, such a pole will be able to organize, must organize, on a clearer programmatic basis, integrating, at the very least, all the lessons of the first revolutionary wave.
6. Today, because conditions make it possible to have a clearer party, a more mature and more directly international one, these characteristics are more necessary than ever. Although the bourgeoisie can no longer take advantage of the crucial counter-revolutionary weapon of the mass organizations which had just gone over to the enemy in 1914, it has now developed more subtle methods of control and we have to expect a desperate effort to recuperate any bodies the class will create. Above all, the proletariat will face a bourgeoisie which is much more capable of unifying extremely rapidly on an international level. In such a situation, the clarity of the proletarian vanguard, its unity and its capacity to develop an international influence will be vital.
The proletarian milieu and the effort towards regroupment today
1. The failure of the cycle of international conferences which led to a crisis in the revolutionary milieu at exactly the time of the acceleration of history opening up today, shows to what extent communist minorities are weak and not up to their responsibilities. Thus, although objective conditions today exert a favorable influence on clarification and the unifying tendency among revolutionary forces, they are not enough in themselves to determine automatically a process of regroupment of the party.
2. The organic break with the past and fifty years of counter-revolution imply qualitatively different tasks for communist minorities today. The question is no longer posed in terms of assuring a continuity of the program by making a clear break with old, degenerated organizations. But the task ahead is no less difficult. Revolutionaries must carry through a long process of decantation which started with the proletarian resurgence in 1968. A decantation not only in the sense of a reappropriation of the lessons of the past but also a clarification of the new conditions opening up. This decantation implies an understanding of what these new conditions actually are and are not - linked to an analysis of the present period. Megalomania, the myth of pretending to be the party today and rejecting any confrontation with the milieu; sectarianism, the idea that history begins with ‘oneself' or that the party and the program have been ‘invariant' and unchangeable since 1848; the general confusion on the process of regroupment: these are all in fact expressions of the difficulty of the milieu in its efforts to deal with its responsibilities today.
3. In saying that conditions exist today for the party to emerge before the crucial moment we do not mean to say that it can be formed tomorrow morning. Its link with the development of class struggle means that for the party to be formed, the working class must answer the call of history and develop its consciousness in a dynamic movement towards internationalization of its struggle.
The appearance of proletarian parties requires such a dynamic not only so that the party can be ‘heard', not only because it is only at that stage that revolutionary ideas can become a ‘material force', but because only such a dynamic can bring to the regroupment of revolutionary forces on a world scale the essential elements of clarification in practice on such questions as: the problem of international generalization, the organizations of the class pitted against all the forces of the unions, the role of violence...and, especially, clarity on the question of the party and its relation to the workers' councils.
4. While rejecting the idea of a party artificially created around a ‘PCI + ICC + CWO' and the absurdity of such a hypothesis, the ICC does not consider the future party as a fatalistic, mechanical result of the pre-revolutionary period. For the party to be formed there must be an effort of will on the part of communist minorities starting today but with no immediatist illusions. Our will to participate in the Conferences initiated by the PCI (Battaglia Comunista) was based on:
-- the rejection of all sectarian practices which refuse debate;
-- the understanding that it could not be a question of creating any premature regroupment;
-- the need to create an arena of confrontation and decantation as large as possible but within the framework of class frontiers;
-- the need to have sufficiently clear criteria for participation, rejecting among others ‘anti-party' modernist currents or councilist ones, particularly so that the point of such conferences would be clear;
-- the objective these Conferences represented in relation to the class - working towards an active pole of reference capable of taking a stand on essential issues;
-- the need for agendas which deepen the effort towards unification of revolutionaries today; the analysis of the present period and of the crisis on the one hand, the question of the role of revolutionaries on the other hand (as one of the least clear questions today which makes such a confrontation of positions urgent).
It must be noted that sectarianism and the refusal of open debate have weighed heavily even on the groups which actively participated in the Conferences. The immaturity of the milieu was also expressed in the idea finally adopted by the PCI (BC) and the CWO (Communist Workers Organization) of much more immediatist conferences aimed at a precipitous regroupment before the debate even took place. They finally ended up expecting nothing more from the first Conferences than the material means to get rid of the ICC - in the name of a disagreement on the party that had not even been debated.
5. This experience shows the extent of the road still ahead of us. We have put the question of the party on the agenda in the ICC because we feel that this question crystallizes the understanding of the tasks of revolutionary minorities today and the attitude they should have towards each other. At the heart of the process of decantation which, like it or not, is happening within the milieu - even in the form of an open crisis leading to the disappearance of whole groups - is the question of the party and the process of the development of class consciousness.
The crisis the milieu is going through, which has not spared the ICC, is a serious warning.
It shows that confusions on the role of the political organizations of the working class, the search for an immediate result and impatience in relation to class struggle is the terrain for the destruction of communist organizations through the material and ideological pressure of the bourgeoisie.
We cannot get any satisfaction from the fact that the PCI (Programme Communiste) gave rise to a bourgeois organization (E1 Oumami) or from seeing the CWO flirt with nationalist groups. This shows that without a clear programmatic resistance to the pressure of the bourgeoisie, without developing a capacity to integrate new lessons from class struggle, any effort at decantation within the milieu can be destroyed from one day to the next.
6. Our understanding on the question of the party goes further than others in drawing the lessons of the first revolutionary wave. It is on this question that there is the most confusion in the milieu because the experience of 1917-1923 did not completely clarify the issue. We have often said that our position is more negative than positive. But we have to understand that only the coming movements of mass strikes can fully clarify this question on an international level.
The events of Poland with all their limitations were for us a clear confirmation of our positions on the development of class consciousness, the role of revolutionary minorities and the unitary forms of organization of the working class. They also compelled us to go further in our understanding of the problem of internationalization, of the rejection of the theory of the ‘weak link'. The entire milieu was tested by these events. Faced with such a movement in a more central country, how long could the CWO have continued to call for immediate insurrection? Would the PCI have continued to claim that there is no class movement without a previous organization of the workers by the party?
The coming movements, even more than the downswing at the beginning of the ‘80s, will severely test revolutionary groups. There will undoubtedly be other changes in the milieu; we will also see the appearance of new groups who will not be immune from the confusions of the past. To take in the lessons of future experiences of the working class, to constitute a pole of reference so that the new communist vanguards will not commit the same mistakes, an effort towards clarification must be carried out within the present milieu.
The skeleton of the future patty is not given once and for all by the currents and groups existing today. But it is their task today to carry through in this effort of decantation indispensable for the regroupment of tomorrow. That is why the working class produced them as soon as it took up once again the path to struggle.