Fifty years ago, May 68: The difficult evolution of the proletarian political milieu (part 2)

Printer-friendly version

In the first part of this article we looked at some of the most important developments in the international proletarian milieu after the events of May 68 in France. We noted that, while the resurgence of the class struggle gave a significant impetus to the revival of the proletarian political movement, and thus to the regroupment of its forces, this dynamic had begun to run into difficulties by the beginning of the 80s. We take up the story from this point. This “history” by no means claims to be exhaustive and we make no apology for the fact that it is presented from the ICC’s “partisan” point of view. It can be supplemented in future by contributions from those who may have different experiences and perspectives.

The mass strike in Poland in 1980 demonstrated the capacity of the working class to organise itself independently of the capitalist state, to unify its struggles across an entire country, to unite economic with political demands. But as we said at the time: as in Russia in 1917, the problem could be posed in Poland, but it could only be resolved on an international scale. The working class of Western Europe in particular had been issued a challenge: faced with the irreversible deepening of the capitalist crisis, it would be necessary to attain the same heights of self-organisation and unification of its struggles, but at the same time to go beyond the movement in Poland at the level of politicisation. The Polish workers, fighting a brutal regime which claimed that the sacrifices it demanded were all steps on the way to a communist future, had, at the political level, not been able to reject a whole series of bourgeois political mystifications, in particular the idea that their conditions could best be improved by installing a democratic regime which allowed “free trade unions” to organise the working class. It was the specific task of the workers in the west, who had been through many years of bitter experience of the fraud of parliamentary democracy and the sabotaging role of trade unions that were formally separate from the capitalist state, to develop a genuinely proletarian perspective: the mass strike maturing into a direct confrontation with the capitalist system, the goal of an authentically communist society.

And there is no doubt that the workers in the west did take up the challenge in the sense of fighting back against a whole new round of attacks on their living standards, masterminded largely by right wing regimes in power prepared to force through massive levels of unemployment in order to “trim down” the bloated economic apparatus inherited from the post-war Keynesian period. In Belgium in 1983 the workers took important steps towards the extension of the struggle – relying not on the deliberations of union officials but sending massive delegations to other sectors to call on them to join the movement. In the following two years, the strikes by car workers, steel workers, printers and above all miners in the UK were the response of the proletariat to the new “Thatcherite” regime. They contained a real potential for unification if only they could rid themselves of the obsolete trade unionist notion that you can defeat the capitalist enemy by holding out for as long as possible in the confines of a single sector. Elsewhere in Europe – among the railway and the health workers in France, or the education workers in Italy – workers went further in trying to break away from the numbing grip of the trade unions, organising themselves in general assemblies with elected and revocable strike committees, and making tentative efforts towards coordinating these committees.

As we argued in the first part of this article, it was absolutely necessary for the small revolutionary organisations which existed at that time, even with their limited means, to participate in these struggles, to make their voices heard through the press, through leaflets, through speaking up at demonstrations, at picket lines and in general assemblies, to make concrete proposals for the extension and self-organisation of the struggle, to play a part in the formation of groups of militant workers seeking to stimulate the struggle and draw out its most important lessons. The ICC devoted a good deal of its resources in the 1980s to carrying out these tasks, and we produced a number of polemics with other proletarian organisations which, in our view, had not sufficiently grasped the potential of these struggles, above all because they lacked a general, historic vision of the “line of march” of the class movement. [1]

And yet, as we have also accepted elsewhere[2], we ourselves were less clear about the growing difficulties of the struggle. We tended to underestimate the significance of the heavy defeats suffered by emblematic sectors like the miners in the UK and the real hesitation of the class to reject trade union methods and ideology. Even when there was a strong tendency to organise outside the trade unions, the extreme left wing of the bourgeoisie set up false rank and file unions, even extra-union “co-ordinations”, to keep the struggle inside the bounds of sectionalism and ultimately of trade unionism. Above all, despite the determination and militancy of these struggles, there was not much progress towards the elaboration of a revolutionary perspective. The politicisation of the movement remained at best embryonic.

Since the end of the 1980s we have been arguing that this situation – of a working class strong enough to resist the drive towards another world war, and yet not capable of offering humanity the perspective of a new form of social organisation – constituted a kind of social stalemate which opened up what we call the phase of social decomposition. The collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989, which marked the definitive onset of this new phase in the decline of capitalism, was like an alarm bell which made us reflect deeply on the destiny of the international class movement which had appeared in successive waves since 1968. We began to understand that the new period would pose considerable difficulties for the working class, not least (but not only) because of the furious ideological assault of the bourgeoisie which proclaimed the death of communism and the final refutation of marxism.

In the first part of this article we noted that, already at the beginning of the 80s, the proletarian political milieu had gone through a major crisis, signalled by the collapse of the international conferences of the communist left, the splits in the ICC and the implosion of the Bordigist International Communist Party (Communist Program). The main political organisations of the working class thus entered this new and uncertain period in a weakened, dispersed condition. The overall failure of the class to politicise its struggles also meant that the very noticeable growth of the proletarian political milieu in the late 60s and 70s had begun to slow down or stagnate. Furthermore, in our view, none of the existing organisations apart from the ICC had the theoretical framework which would enable them to understand the characteristics of the new phase of decadence: some of them, such as the Bordigists, more or less rejected the concept of decadence altogether, while others, like Battaglia and the Communist Workers Organisation (now regrouped as the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party) had a concept of decadence but no interest in gauging the historic balance of forces between the classes (what we referred to as the question of the “historic course”). The idea of a social stalemate thus had no meaning for them.

The impact of decomposition

The principal danger of decomposition for the working class is that it gradually undermines the very basis of its revolutionary nature: its capacity, indeed its fundamental need, for association. The tendency towards “every man for himself” is inherent in the capitalist mode of production, but it takes on a new intensity, even a new quality, in this final phase of capitalist decay. This tendency may be driven by both material and ideological factors - by the physical dispersal of proletarian concentrations as a result of mass lay-offs and relocations, and by the deliberate stirring up of divisions between workers (national, racial, religious etc); by competition over employment or social benefits and by ideological campaigns about the ‘joys’ of consumerism or democracy. But its overall effect is to gnaw away at the capacity of the proletariat to see itself as a class with distinct interests, to come together as a class against capital. This is intimately linked to the actual diminution of working class struggles in the past three decades.

The revolutionary minority, as a part of the class, is not spared the pressures of a disintegrating social system which clearly has no future. For revolutionaries, the principle of association is expressed in the formation of revolutionary organisations and the commitment to organised militant activity. The counter-tendency is the flight into individual solutions, towards a loss of confidence in collective activity, distrust in revolutionary organisations and despair about the future. When the eastern bloc fell and the prospect of a profound retreat in the class struggle began to reveal itself, our comrade Marc Chirik, who had experienced the full force of the counter-revolution and had resisted its impact through his militant activity in the fractions of the communist left, said once that “now we will see who the real militants are”. Unfortunately, Marc, who died in 1990, would not be around in person to help us adapt to conditions where we would often be swimming against the tide, although he had certainly done all he could to transmit the principles of organisation which would serve as our best means of defence against the coming storms.

In part one of this article we already explained that crises are an inevitable product of the situation of revolutionary organisations in capitalist society, of the ceaseless bombardment of bourgeois ideology in its various forms. The ICC has always been open about its own difficulties and internal differences, even if it aims to present them in a coherent manner rather than simply “putting everything on the table”. And we also insisted that crises should always oblige the organisation to learn from them and thus strengthen its own political armoury.

The advancing decomposition of capitalist society tends to make such crises more frequent and more dangerous. This was certainly the case in the ICC in the 90s and at the turn of the century. Between 1993 and 1995, we were faced with the necessity to confront the activities of a clan that had become deeply entrenched in the international central organ of the ICC, an “organisation within the organisation” that bore a strange resemblance to the International Brotherhood of the Bakuninists inside the First International, including the leading role played by a political adventurer, JJ, steeped in the manipulative practises of freemasonry.  Such predilections for occultism were already an expression of the powerful tide of irrationality that tends to sweep across society in this period. At the same time, the formation of clans inside a revolutionary organisation, whatever their specific ideology, parallels the search for false communities which is a much broader social characteristic of this period.

The ICC’s response to these phenomena was to bring them into the light of day and to deepen its knowledge of the way the marxist movement in had defended itself against them. We thus produced an orientation text on functioning which rooted itself in the organisational battles in the First International and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party[3], and a series of articles on the historical fight against sectarianism, adventurism, freemasonry, and political parasitism[4].  In particular, the series identified Bakunin as an example of the declassed adventurer who uses the workers’ movement as a springboard for his own personal ambitions, and the International Brotherhood as an early example of political parasitism – of a form of political activity which, while superficially working for the revolutionary cause, carries out a work of denigration and destruction which can only serve the class enemy.

The aim of these texts was not only to arm the ICC against being infected by the morality and methods of classes alien to the proletariat, but to stimulate a debate in the whole proletarian milieu around these questions. Unfortunately, we received little or no response to these contributions from the serious groups of the milieu, such as the IBRP, who tended to see them as no more than strange hobbyhorses of the ICC. Those who were already overtly hostile to the ICC – such as the remnants of the Communist Bulletin Group – seized on them as final proof that the ICC had degenerated into a bizarre cult that should be avoided at all cost[5]. Our efforts to provide a clear framework for understanding the growing phenomenon of political parasitism – the Theses on Parasitism published in 1998[6] - met with the same kind of reaction. And very quickly, the milieu’s lack of understanding of these problems did not merely result in an attitude of neutrality towards elements who can only play a destructive role towards the revolutionary movement. As we shall see, it led from “neutrality” to tolerance and then to active cooperation with such elements. 

The growth of political parasitism

At the beginning of the 2000s the ICC was again faced with a grave internal crisis. A certain number of militants of the organisation, again members of the international central organ, who had played an active part in exposing the activities of the JJ clan, coalesced into a new clan which took up some of the same themes as the previous one – particularly their targeting of comrades who had stood most firmly for the defence of organisational principles, even spreading the rumour that one of them was a police agent who was manipulating the others. 

The “Internal Fraction of the International Communist Current” has since amply demonstrated that there is often a thin line between the activity of a clan inside the organisation and of a fully fledged parasitic organisation. The elements who made up the IFICC were excluded from the ICC for actions unworthy of communist militants, which included theft from the organisation’s funds and the publication of sensitive internal information that could have put our militants in danger from the police. Since then, this group, which has subsequently changed its name to the International Group of the Communist Left, has given further evidence that it embodies a form of parasitism so rabid that it is indistinguishable from the activities of the political police. In 2014 we were obliged to publish a denunciation of this group which had again managed to steal internal material from the ICC and was seeking to use it to denigrate our organisation and its militants[7].

Clearly a group which behaves in this manner is a danger to all revolutionaries, regardless of the formally correct political positions it defends. The response of a communist milieu which understood the need for solidarity between its organisations would be to exclude such practises, and those who engage in them, from the proletarian camp; at the very least, it would have to renew the traditions of the workers’ movement which held that behaviour of this sort, or accusations against the probity of a revolutionary militant or organisation, required the formation of a “Jury of Honour” to establish the truth about such forms of conduct or such accusations[8]. In 2004, however, a series of events which we have referred to as the “Circulo” affair showed how far today’s proletarian political movement has strayed from these traditions. 

In 2003, the ICC entered into contact with a new group in Argentina, the Nucleo Comunista Internationalista. After intensive discussions with the ICC, there was a definite movement towards the positions of our organisation and the question of eventually forming an ICC section in Argentina was posed. However, a member of this group, who we have called “B”, held a monopoly of the computer equipment available to the comrades and thus of communication with other groups and individuals, and it had become clear during the course of our discussions that this individual regarded himself as a kind of political guru who had arrogated to himself the task of representing the NCI as a whole. During the visit of the ICC’s delegation in 2004, B demanded that the group should immediately be integrated into the ICC. Our response was that that we were interested above all in political clarity and not in the foundation of commercial franchises and that a good deal of discussion was still necessary before such a step could be taken. His ambition to use the ICC as a springboard for his personal prestige thus thwarted, B then made an abrupt volte face: unbeknown to the other members of the NCI, he had entered into contact with the IFICC and with their support suddenly declared that the entire NCI had broken with the ICC because of its Stalinist methods and had formed a new group, the Circulo de Comunistas Internacionalistas. Jubilation from the IFICC who happily published this great news in their bulletin. But the worst of this was that the IBRP – who had also entered into contact with the IFICC, no doubt flattered by the IFICC’s declaration that the IBRP, “now that the ICC had thoroughly degenerated”, was now the true pole of regroupment for revolutionaries – also published the Circulo’s statement on their website, in three languages. 

The ICC’s response to this lamentable affair was very thorough. Having established the facts of the matter – that the new group was in fact a pure invention of B, and that the other members of the NCI had known nothing of the alleged split with the ICC – we wrote a series of articles denouncing the adventurist behaviour of B, the parasitic activity of the IFICC and the opportunism of the IBRP, which was prepared to take a whole heap of slanders against the ICC at face value, without any attempt at investigation, with the idea of demonstrating that “something was moving in Argentina” … away from the ICC and towards themselves. It was only when the ICC proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that B was indeed a political imposter, and when the NCI comrades themselves made a statement denying that they had broken with the ICC, that the IBRP quietly deleted the offending Circulo material from their website, without offering any explanation and still less any self-criticism. A similarly ambiguous attitude was exhibited around the same time when it became evident that the IBRP had made use of a list of ICC contact addresses stolen by the IFICC when they were expelled from the ICC to advertise an IBRP public meeting in Paris[9].

This affair demonstrates that the problem of political parasitism is not a mere invention of the ICC, and still less a means of shutting up those who oppose our analyses, as some people have claimed. It is a real danger for the health of the proletarian milieu and serious obstacle to the formation of the future class party. And thus our theses on parasitism conclude that:

What was valid in the time of the IWA remains valid today. The struggle against parasitism constitutes one of the essential responsibilities of the communist left and is part of the tradition of its bitter struggles against opportunism. Today it is one of the basic components in the preparation of the party of tomorrow, and in fact is one of the determining factors both of the moment when the party can arise and its capacity to play its role in the decisive battles of the proletariat”.

The parasitic groups have the function of sowing divisions in the proletarian camp by spreading rumours and slanders, introducing into it practices which are alien to proletarian morality, such as theft and behind-the-scenes manoeuvres. The fact that their principal aim has been to build a wall around the ICC, to isolate it from other communist groups and turn newly emerging elements away from engaging with us does not mean that they are only damaging the ICC – the whole milieu and its capacity to cooperate with a view to the formation of the party of the future is weakened by their activity. Furthermore, since their nihilistic and destructive attitudes are a direct reflection of the growing weight of social decomposition, we can expect them to have a growing presence in the coming period, above all if the proletarian milieu remains blithely ignorant of the danger they represent.

2004-2011: the emergence of new political forces, and the difficulties they encountered

The article on our experience with the NCI talks about revival of class struggle and appearance of new political forces. The ICC had noted signs of this recovery in 2003, but the clearest proof that something was shifting was provided by the struggle of students against the Contrat Première Embauche (CPE) legislation in France in 2006, a movement which showed a real capacity for self-organisation in assemblies and which threatened to spread to the employed sectors, thus obliging the government to cancel the CPE. In the same year the assembly form was adopted by the steel workers of Vigo who also showed a real will to incorporate other sectors into the movement. And in the wake of the financial crash of 2008, in 2010, we saw a significant struggle by university and college students around fees and grants in the UK, and a movement against pension “reforms” in France. The next year, 2011, saw the outbreak of the “Arab spring”, a wave of social revolts where the influence of the proletariat varied from country to country but which in Egypt, Israel and elsewhere provided the world with the example of the occupation of public squares and the holding of regular assemblies - an example taken up by the Occupy movement in the US, by assemblies in Greece and most importantly by the Indignados movement in Spain. The latter in particular provided the basis for a definite degree of politicisation through animated debates about the obsolescence of capitalism and the need for a new form of society.

This politicisation at a more general level was accompanied by the appearance of new forces looking for revolutionary answers to the impasse of the social order.  A number of these forces were oriented towards the positions and organisations of the communist left. Two different groups from South Korea were invited to ICC congresses during this period, as well as the EKS group in Turkey and new contacts from the USA. Discussions began with groups or discussion circles in South America, the Balkans and Australia; some of these groups and circles became new sections of the ICC (Turkey, Philippines, Ecuador, Peru). The ICT has also gained new forces since this period

There was also a sizeable development of an internationalist current in anarchism, which could be seen for example in the discussions on the libcom internet forum, and in the growth of new anarcho-syndicalist groups which were critical of the “institutionalised” syndicalism of organisations like the CNT. 

The ICC responded to these developments as widely as possible, and this was absolutely necessary: without passing on the heritage of the communist left to a new generation, there can be no hope of a movement towards the party of the future.

But there were important weaknesses in our intervention. When we say that opportunism and sectarianism are diseases of the workers’ movement, the result of the constant pressure of the ideology of other classes on the proletariat and its political organisations, we do not use this merely as a means for criticising other organisation, but as a yardstick for assessing our own capacity to resist this pressure and hold onto the methods and acquisitions of the working class in all areas of our activity.

The Turkish section of the ICC, integrated in 2009, left the ICC in 2015 to form a short-lived group, Pale Blue Jadal. In our attempt to draw a balance sheet of this failure, we turned the light on our own opportunist errors in the process of their integration:

 “Our integration of the EKS group as the ICC’s Turkish section was a process infested with opportunism. We do not propose here to go into the reasons for this: suffice it to say that we tried to force the pace of history, and this is a classic recipe for opportunism.

‘Forcing the pace’, of course, was at our own small level; principally, it meant the decision to ‘fast-track’ the discussions with the EKS group which was to become our section in Turkey. In particular we decided:

  1. To drastically reduce the time spent on organisational discussion with the members of EKS before their integration, on the grounds that the art of building an organisation is learnt essentially from experience.
  2. To integrate EKS as a group, not as individuals. Although our statutes provide for this, it holds the danger that the new militants will see themselves, not first and foremost as individual militants of an international organisation but as members of their original group[10].

As we argued in the first part of this article, opportunism and sectarianism often go together. And some retrospective elements of our response to the Circulo affair can certainly be seen as sectarian. Given the rise of new political forces on the one hand, given the latest evidence of the difficulty of the ICT in behaving in a principled manner, and the unalterably rigid sectarianism of the Bordigists, there was a certain tendency in the ICC to conclude that the “old milieu” was already washed up and that our hopes for the future would have to reside in the new forces we were beginning to encounter.

This was the sectarian side of our reaction. But again, it also had an opportunist side. In order to convince the new milieu that we were not sectarian, in 2012 we made fresh overtures to the ICT, arguing for a resumption of discussions and common work that had been disrupted ever since the collapse of the international conferences at the beginning of the 80s. This was correct in itself, and was a continuation of a policy we had, without much success, carried on throughout the 80s and 90s[11]. But in order to get this process underway, we accepted at face value the ICT’s explanation for their behaviour over the Circulo affair: that it had essentially been the work of one comrade who had subsequently died. Apart from the dubious morality of such an approach on their part, it brought absolutely no clarification by the ICT about their willingness to form an alliance with elements who really had no place in the proletarian milieu. And in the end the discussions we started with the ICT soon foundered on this so far unbridgeable gap on the question of parasitism – the question of which groups and elements can be considered as legitimate components of the communist left. And this was not the only example of a tendency on the ICC’s part to push to one side this vital question because it was decidedly unpopular in the proletarian milieu. It also included the integration of the EKS who never agreed with us on the question of parasitism, and approaches to groups which we ourselves considered to be parasitic, such as the CBG (approaches which led nowhere).

The ICC’s articles during this period show an understandable optimism about the potential contained in the new forces (see for example the article on our 18th congress[12]). But there was at the same a time an underestimation of many of the difficulties facing these new elements who had appeared in the phase of decomposition.

As we have said, a number of the elements coming from this upsurge came towards the communist left and some integrated into its main organisations. At the same time, many of these elements did not survive for very long – not only the ICC’s Turkish section, but also the NCI, the discussion group formed in Australia[13], and a number of contacts who appeared in the US. More generally, there was a very pervasive influence of anarchism on this new wave of “seekers” – to some extent an expression of the fact that the trauma of Stalinism and the impact it has had on the notion of the revolutionary political organisation was still an operative factor in the second decade after the collapse of the Russian bloc.

The development of the anarchist milieu in this period was not wholly negative. For example, the internet forum libcom, which was a focus for a lot of international political debate in the first decade of its existence, was run by a collective which tended to reject leftist and life-stylist forms of anarchism and to defend some of the basics of internationalism. Some of them had come through the superficial activism of the “anti-capitalist” milieu of the 1990s and had begun to look to the working class as the force for social change. But this quest was to a large extent blocked by the development of anarcho-syndicalism, which reduces the entirely valid recognition of the revolutionary role of the working class to an economist outlook unable to integrate the political dimension of the class struggle, and which replaces activism limited to the street to activism in the workplace (the notion of training “organisers” and forming “revolutionary unions”). Paradoxical as it may seem, this milieu was also influenced by the theories of “communisation”, which is a very explicit expression of a loss of conviction that communism can only come about through the struggle of the working class. But the paradox is more apparent than real, since both syndicalism and communisation reflect an attempt to by-pass the reality that a revolutionary struggle is also a struggle for political power, and demands the formation of a proletarian political organisation. More recently, libcom and other expressions of the anarchist movement have been sucked into various forms of identity politics, which continues the slide away from a proletarian standpoint[14] . Meanwhile, other sectors of the anarchist movement were completely suckered by the claims of Kurdish nationalism to have established some kind of revolutionary Commune in Rojava.

It must also be said that the new milieu - and even the established revolutionary groups – had few defences against the noxious moral atmosphere of decomposition and in particular the verbal aggression and posturing that often infests the internet. On libcom, for example, members and sympathisers of left communist groups, and the ICC in particular, had to fight hard to get through a wall of hostility in which the slanders of parasitic groups like the CBG were usually taken as read. And while some progress at the level of the culture of debate seemed to be taking place in libcom’s early years, the atmosphere took a definite turn for the worse following the entanglement of the libcom collective in the scandal of “Aufhebengate”, in which the majority of the collective adopted a cliquish stance of defending one of their friends in the Aufheben group who had been clearly shown to be cooperating with police strategies against street protests[15].

Other examples of this kind of moral decay among those professing the cause of communism could be given – the member of the Greek communisation group Blaumachen who became a minister in the Syriza government being perhaps one of the most evident[16]. But the groups of the communist left were not spared from such difficulties either: we have already mentioned the dubious alliances the ICT has established with certain parasitic groups. And more recently, the ICT was first compelled to dissolve its section in Canada which had adopted an apologetic attitude to one of its members who had engaged in sexual abuse, while a group of Greek sympathisers lapsed into the most rabid nationalism in the face of the immigration crisis[17]. And the ICC itself experienced what we called a “moral and intellectual crisis” when one of our comrades, most vociferous in opposing the opportunist policies we had adopted in certain of our activities (and who had previously been the target of the clans from the 90s) was subjected to a campaign of scapegoating[18]. A “Jury of Honour” established within the organisation found all the charges against her to be null and void. These events demonstrate that the question of behaviour, of ethics and morality, has always been a key element in the construction of a revolutionary organisation worth its name. The revolutionary movement will not be able to overcome its divisions without confronting this question.

Contemporary problems and future perspectives

The signs of a revival of the class struggle which appeared in 2006-2011 have largely been eclipsed by a wave of reaction which has taken the form of the rise of populism and the installation of a series of authoritarian regimes, notably in a country like Egypt which was at the centre of the “Arab Spring”. The resurgence of chauvinism and xenophobia has affected some of the very areas where, in 2011, the first shoots of a new internationalist flowering seemed to be appearing – most notably, the wave of nationalism in Catalonia, which had previously been at the heart of the Indignados movement. And while the growth of nationalism highlights the danger of bloody imperialist conflicts in the period ahead, it also underlines the total incapacity of the existing system, riven by rivalry and competition, to address the mounting threat of environmental destruction. All of this contributes to widespread moods either of denial about the apocalyptic future capitalism has in store for us, or of nihilism and despair.

In short, the sombre social and political atmosphere does not seem to be propitious for the development of a new revolutionary movement, which can only be presaged on a conviction that an alternative future is possible.

And again, little progress has been made towards improving relations between the existing communist groups, where it seems to be a case of one step forwards, two steps back: thus, while in November 2017 the CWO accepted the ICC’s invitation to make a presentation at our day of discussion on the October revolution, since then they have consistently rejected any further initiatives of this type.

Does this mean, as a member of the CWO recently claimed, that the ICC has lapsed into demoralisation and pessimism about the future of the class struggle and the potential for the formation of the party of tomorrow?[19]

We certainly see no sense in denying the very real difficulties facing the working class and in developing a communist presence within it. A class which has increasingly lost a sense of its own existence as a class will not easily accept the arguments of those who, against all the odds, continue to insist that the proletariat not only exists but holds the key to the survival of humanity. 

And yet, despite the very tangible dangers of this last phase of capitalist decadence, we do not think that the working class has said its last word. There remain a number of elements pointing to the possibilities of an eventual recovery of class identity and class consciousness among new generations of the proletariat, as we argued at our 22nd Congress in our resolution on the international class struggle[20]. And we are also seeing a renewed process of communist politicisation in a small but significant minority of this new generation, often taking the form of a direct inter-action with the communist left. Individuals searching for clarification as well as new groups and circles have appeared in the USA in particular, but also in Australia, Britain, South America… This is a real testimony to the fact that Marx’s “old mole” continues to burrow away beneath the surface of events.

Like the new elements who appeared a decade or so ago, this emerging milieu is faced by many dangers, not least from the diplomatic offensive towards them of certain parasitic groups and the indulgence shown towards the latter by proletarian organisations like the ICT. It is especially hard for many of these young comrades to understand the necessarily long-term character of revolutionary commitment and the need to avoid impatience and precipitation. If their appearance expresses a potential that still resides deep in the entrails of the working class, it is vital for them to recognise that their current debates and activities only make sense as part of a work towards the future. We will return to this question in subsequent articles.

Evidently, the existing organisations of the communist left have a key role in the fight for the long-term future of these new comrades. And they themselves are not immune from dangers, as we have already mentioned with regard to the previous wave of “searching elements”. In particular, they must avoid courting any facile popularity by avoiding discussion about difficult questions or watering down their positions with the aim of “gaining a wider audience”. A central task of the existing communist organisations is basically the same as it was for the fractions which detached themselves from the degenerating Communist International in order to lay the bases for a new party when the evolution of the objective, and above all the subjective, conditions placed this on the agenda: an intransigent combat against opportunism in all its forms, and for the maximum rigour in the process of political clarification.



[1]    See for example: International Review 55, ‘Decantation of the proletarian political milieu and the oscillations of the IBRP’,; IR 56, ‘20 Years since May 68, The evolution of the proletarian political milieu, pat iii’:;

[2]     See for example, the report on the class struggle to the 21st ICC Congress, in IR 156:

[4]     Published in IRs 84,85, 87, 88

[5]     International Review 83, Political Parasitism: The "CBG" Does the Bourgeoisie's Work

[6]      IR 94, Theses on parasitism


[11]      For example, appeals to the proletarian milieu issued from our congresses  in 1983, 1991 and 1999, the latter two accompanied with a proposal for a joint intervention against the wars in the Gulf and in the Balkans; the holding of a common meeting with the CWO on the question of class consciousness in 1984 and on  the Russian revolution in 1997, etc

[12]      IR 136: “ICC’s 18th Congress: towards the regroupment of internationalist forces”,

[19]       “And where is the ICC today? A demoralised and defeated remnant of a once larger organisation built on the illusion that revolution was just around the corner. Today it consoles itself with talk of chaos and decomposition (which is true but is a result of the deepening capitalist crisis and not some paralysis in the class war as the ICC maintain). When the ICC maintains that today they are just a "fraction" (and then openly lies by saying it has always only been a fraction!) what they are saying is that there is nothing to be done but write silly polemics to other organisations (but then that has been ICC methodology since 1975)”. Post signed by the forum’s editor Cleishbotham on the ICT forum following a discussion about the balance of class forces with a sympathiser of the ICC:


Communist Left