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IInd Congress of the ICC

We must take into account the impossibility of arriving at a transitional phase with notions that are fixed, complete, which don't allow any logical contradiction and which exclude any idea of transition.[1]

A) The period of transition from
capitalism to communism

1) The succession of modes of production; slavery, feudalism, capitalism, did not, properly speaking, undergo periods of transition. The new relations upon which the progressive social form was being built were created inside the old society. The old system and the new coexisted (until the second supplanted the first) and this cohabitation was possible because between these different societies there was only an.antagonism of form, all remained in essence exploitative societies. The passage from capitalism to communism differs fundamentally from all previous societies. Communism cannot emerge within capitalism because between the two societies there is not only a difference of form, but equally a difference of content. Communism is no longer a society of exploitation, and the motive force of production is no longer the satisfaction of the needs of a minority. This difference of content excludes the coexistence of the two of them and creates the necessity for a period of transition during which the new relations and the new society are developed outside capitalism.

2) Between capitalist society and communist society there is a period of revolutionary transformation from one to the other. This transitional period is not only inevitable but also necessary to complete the immature material and spiritual conditions inherited by the proletariat from capitalism (an immaturity which precludes the immediate establishment of communism at the end of the revolution). This period is characterised by the fusion of two social processes, one dismantling the relations and categories belonging to the system in decline, the other building relations and categories relevant to the new system. The specificity of the epoch of transition resides in this: the proletariat which has conquered political power (by the revolution) and guaranteed its domination (by its dictatorship) engages in the systematic and uninterrupted overthrow of the relations of production and the form of consciousness and organisation dependent on those relations. During the intermediate period, using political and economic measures, the working class develops the productive forces left as the heritage of capitalism while under-mining the basis of the old system and laying the basis of new social relations. The proletariat will produce and distribute goods in such a way as to allow all the producers to realise the full satisfaction, the free expansion, of their needs.

B) The political regime in
the period of transition

3) For capitalism, the substitution of its privileges for feudal privileges – the epoch of bourgeois revolutions – was able to accommodate itself to a lasting coexistence between capitalist and feudal states and even pre-feudal states without altering or suppressing the basis of the new system. The bourgeoisie, on the basis of a gradual attainment of its economic position, did not have to destroy the state apparatus of the dominant class; it was able to gradually take it over. It did not have to suppress the bureaucracy, nor the police, nor the permanent armed forces; it simply had to subordinate these instruments of oppression to its own ends, because its political revolution (which was not always indispensable) merely concretised an economic hegemony and juridically substituted one form of exploitation for another. Things are different for the proletariat, which, having no economic base and no particular interest, cannot be content with taking over the old state apparatus. The period of transition cannot begin until after the proletarian revolution, whose essence is the global destruction of the political domination of capitalism and, primarily, of bourgeois nation states. The seizure of general political power in society by the working class, the institution of the global dictatorship of the proletariat, precedes, conditions and guarantees the advance of the economic and social transformation.

4) Communism is a society without classes, and, consequently, without a state. The period of transition, which does not really develop until after the triumph of the revolution at the international level, is a dynamic period which tends towards the disappearance of classes, but which still experiences the division into classes and the persistence of divergent interests and antagonisms in society. As such, there must inevitably arise a dictatorship and a form of political state. The proletariat cannot make up for the temporary insufficiency of the productive forces left over by capitalism without resorting to constraint. In fact, the transitional epoch is characterised by the necessity to discipline and regiment the evolution of production, to expand production in such a way as to allow the establishment of a communist society. The danger of the restoration of the bourgeoisie is also a result of this insufficiency of production and of the productive forces. The dictatorship and the use of the state are indispensable to the proletariat, which is faced with the necessity to direct the use of violence to root out the privileges of the bourgeoisie, to dominate it politically, and to organise in a new way the forces of production that are gradually being liberated from the fetters of capitalism.

C) Origins and role of the state in history 

5) In all societies divided into classes, in order to prevent the classes with opposed and irreconcilable interests from destroying each other, and at the same time consuming the whole of society, there arise superstructures, institutions, whose pinnacle is the state. The state is born to maintain class conflicts within certain limits. This does not mean that it can manage to reconcile antagonistic interests on a terrain of “democratic” understanding, nor that it can play the role of “mediator” between classes. As the state arises from the need to discipline class antagonisms, but as at the same time it arises in the midst of class conflict, it is in general the state of the most powerful class, which has imposed itself politically and militarily on the historic balance of forces, and which, through the intermediary of the state, imposes its domination.

"The state is the special organisation of a power" (Engels), it is the centralised exercise of violence by one class against the others, and has the task of providing society with a political framework which conforms to the interests of the ruling class. The state is the organ which maintains the cohesion of society, not by realising a so-called “common good” (which is completely non-existent), but by carrying out all the tasks involved in the rule of a given class, at various levels: economic, juridical, political, and ideological. Its own role is not only one of administration, but above all, the maintenance, by violence, of the conditions of domination of the ruling class over the dominated classes: it is to assure the extension, the development, the conservation of specific relations of production, against the dangers of restoration or destruction.

6)Whatever the forms that society, classes, and the state may take, the role of the latter always remains fundamentally the same: the assurance of the domination of one class over the others. The state is not then "a conservative organ by nature". It is revolutionary in certain periods, conservative or counter-revolutionary in others because, far from being an autonomous factor in history, it is the instrument, the extension, the form of organisation of social classes which are born, mature and disappear. The state is tightly bound to the cycle of the class and so is proved to be progressive or reactionary according to the historic relation of the class to the development of the productive forces and of society (depending on whether it favours or acts as a fetter on such development).

It is necessary to be wary of holding on to a strictly 'instrumentalist' vision of the state. By definition a class weapon in the immediate conflicts of society, the state is affected in turn by those same conflicts. Far from being simply the tributary of the will of the ruling class, the state apparatus sustains the pressure of various classes and various interests. Both the economic framework and the political and military relations of force intervene to determine the actions of the state (and the possibilities for its evolution). It is in this sense that the state "is never in advance of the existing state of affairs". In fact, if in certain periods the state allows progressive classes to exercise political power in order to extend their relations of production, it is constrained – in these same periods and in pursuit of the same aims – to defend the new society against internal and external dangers, to bind together scattered aspects of production, of distribution, of social, cultural and ideological life; and it must do this with means which do not always and necessarily emerge from the programme of the revolutionary class, from the basic tendencies of the nascent society.

Thus, it is necessary to consider that the formula 'the state is the organ of a class' is not, formally speaking, a response per se to the phenomena which have determined it, the philosopher's stone which lies at the bottom of all enquiry; but it does mean that the relations between class and state are determined by the function of a given class[2]

D) The need for soviets as the state power of the proletariat

7) The state which succeeds the bourgeois state is a new form of organisation of the proletariat, by virtue of which it transforms itself from an oppressed class into a ruling class and exercises its revolutionary dictatorship over society. The territorial soviets (of workers, poor peasants, soldiers…) as the state power of the proletariat, signify:

  • the attempt by the proletariat, as the only class which is the bearer of socialism, to struggle for the organisation of all the exploited classes and strata;
  • the continuation, with the help of the soviet system, of the class struggle against the bourgeoisie, which remains most powerful class even at the beginning of the dictatorship of the proletariat, even after its expropriation and political subordination.

The proletariat still needs a state apparatus, as much for repressing the desperate resistance of the bourgeoisie as for directing the mass of the population in the struggle against the capitalist class and for the establishment of communism. There is no need to idealise this situation:

The state is only a transitional institution which will be used in the struggle, in the revolution, in order to hold down one's adversaries by force; it is pure nonsense to talk of a free people's state: so long as the proletariat still uses the state, it does not use it in the interests of freedom, but in order to hold down its adversaries.[3]

8) A product of the division of society into classes, of the irreconcilable nature of class antagonisms, the dictatorship of the proletariat is distinguished however from the power (and thus the state) of past ruling classes, by the following characteristics:

a) The proletariat does not exercise its dictatorship with a view to building a new society of oppression and exploitation. In consequence, it has no need, like old ruling classes, to hide its aims, to mystify other classes by presenting its dictatorship as the reign of "liberty, equality, and fraternity". The proletariat resolutely affirms that its dictatorship is a class dictatorship; that the organs of its political power are the organs which serve by their activity the proletarian programme, to the exclusion of the programmes and interests of all other classes. It is in this sense that Marx, Engels, Lenin and the fraction spoke – and had to speak – not of a state "of the majority of exploited and non-exploiting classes" (the encapsulation of the intermediate formations in the state is not synonymous with a division of power), not of a "non-class" state, or a "multi-class" state (ideological and aberrant concepts), but of a proletarian state, a state of the working class, which will be one of the indispensable forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

b) The domination of the majority, organised and directed by the proletariat, over the minority, dispossessed of their prerogatives, renders useless the maintenance of a bureaucratic and military machine; the proletariat puts in its place both its self-arming – to smash all bourgeois resistance – and a political form which allows it (and eventually the whole of humanity) to progressively take over the management of society. It suppresses the privileges inherent in the functioning of the old states (levelling of salaries, rigorous control of functionaries through election and permanent revocability) and the also the separation, enforced by parliamentarism, between legislative and executive organs, From its formation, the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat ceases to be a state in the old sense of the term. For the bourgeois state is substituted the soviets, a semi-state, a commune-state; the organisation of the rule of the old class is replaced by institutions essentially different in principle.

E) Withering away or strengthening
of the state?

9) Considering what we have said about the conditions and historic surroundings in which the proletarian state is born, it is evident that its disappearance cannot be conceived of except as a sign of the development of the world revolution, and more profoundly, the economic and social transformation. In unfavourable conditions for struggle (on the political, economic and military level) the workers' state can find itself constrained to strengthen itself, both to prevent the disintegration of society, and to carry out the tasks of the defence of'a proletarian dictatorship erected in one or several countries. This obligation reacts in turn on its own nature: the state acquires a contradictory character. Whilst being the instrument of a class, it is at the same time forced to organise distribution and social responsibilities according to norms which are not always and necessarily relevant to an immediate tendency towards communism. In coherence with the conception developed by Lenin, Trotsky and above all Bilan, we must then admit – beyond metaphysical preoccupations – that the workers' state, although assuring the domination of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, always expresses its temporary powerlessness to suppress bourgeois right. This continues to exist, not only in the economic and social process, but in the heads of millions of proletarians, billions of individuals. Even after the political victory of the proletariat, the state continually threatens to give rise to social stratification which more and more stand against the liberating mission of the working class. Also, in certain periods,

…if the state, instead of withering away, becomes more and more despotic, if the mandates of the working class bureaucratise themselves, while the bureaucracy erects itself over society, this is not only for secondary reasons, such as ideological survivals of the past, etc; it is by virtue of the inflexible necessity to form and maintain a privileged minority, as long as it is not possible to assure real equality[4]

Until the dis-appearance of the state, until its reabsorption in a society that administers itself, the state continues to have this negative aspect; a necessary instrument of historic evolution, it constantly threatens to direct this evolution not to the advantage of the producers, but against them and towards their massacre.

F) The proletariat and the state

10) The specific physiognomy of the workers' state devolves as follows:

  • on the one hand, as a weapon directed against the expropriated class, it reveals its 'strong' side;
  • on the other hand, as an organism called forth not to consolidate a new system of exploitation, but to abolish all exploitation, it uncovers its “weak” side (because in unfavourable conditions it tends to become the pole of attraction for capitalist privileges). That's why, whilst there cannot be antagonisms between the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois state, they can arise between the proletariat and the transitional state. With the foundation of the proletarian state, the historic relationship between the ruling class and the state finds itself modified. It is necessary to consider that:

a) the conquering of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the existence of the workers' state, are conditions which are advantageous to the world proletariat, but not an irrevocable guarantee against any tendency to degeneration;

b) if the state is proletarian, this in no way means that there could be no need or possibility for the proletariat to enter into conflict with it, or that no opposition to state policies can be tolerated;

c) contrary to past states, the proletarian state cannot synthesize, concentrate in its apparatus, all the aspects of the dictatorship. The workers' state is profoundly different from the unitary organ of the class and the organ which regroups the vanguard of the proletariat. This differentiation operates because the state, in spite of the appearance of its greater material power, has, from the political point of view, less possibility of action. It is many times more vulnerable to the enemy than the other worker organs. The proletariat can only compensate for this weakness by its class politics, its party and the workers' councils through which it exercises an indispensable control over the state's activities, develops its class consciousness, and ensures the defence of its interests. The active presence of these organisms is the condition for the state to remain proletarian. The foundation of the dictatorship resides not only in the activities of the workers' councils and the party (proscription of violence within the class, permanent right to strike, autonomy of the councils and the party, freedom of tendencies in these organs), but also that these organs must have the means to resist an eventual metamorphosis of the state, should the latter tend not towards its disappearance, but towards the triumph of its despotic tendencies.

G) On the dictatorship and the tasks of the workers' state

11) The role and aim of capitalism determines the role and aim of its different state forms: to maintain oppression for the profit of the bourgeoisie. As for the proletariat, it is again the role and aim of the working class which will determine the role and aim of the proletarian state. But in this case, the policy of the state is no longer an indifferent element in determining its role (as was the case for the bourgeois and all preceding classes), but an element of the highest importance, on which will depend its basic function in the world revolution, and by definition, the conservation of its proletarian character.

12 ) A proletarian policy will direct economic policy towards communism only if that development is given an orientation diametrically opposed to that of capitalism, only if it aims for a progressive, constant raising of the living standards of the masses. To the degree that the political situation allows, the proletariat must press for a constant reduction in unpaid labour, which, in consequence, will inevitably lead to the rhythm of accumulation becoming considerably slower than that of the capitalist economy. Any other policy will necessarily lead to the transformation of the proletarian state into a new bourgeois state, following the pattern of events in Russia.

13) In any case, accumulation cannot be based on the necessity to combat the economic and military power of the capitalist states. The global revolution can only come out of the ability of the proletariat of all countries to fulfil its mission, out of the world-wide maturation of the political conditions for the insurrection. The working class cannot borrow from the bourgeoisie its vision of a "revolutionary war". In the period of the civil war the struggle will not be between proletarian states and capitalist states, but between the world proletariat and the international bourgeoisie. In the activity of the proletarian state, the economic and military sphere are necessarily secondary.

14) The transitional state is essentially an instrument for political domination and cannot be a substitute for the international class struggle. The workers' state must be considered a tool of the revolution, and never as a pole of concentration for it. If the proletariat follows the latter course, it will be forced to make compromises with its class enemies, whereas revolutionary necessity imperatively demands a ruthless struggle against all anti-proletarian groupings, even at the risk of aggravating the economic disorganisation resulting from the revolution. Any other perspective, which takes as its point of departure so-called “realism”, or a “law of unequal development”, can only undermine the foundations of the proletarian state, and lead to its transformation into a bourgeois state under the false guise of “socialism in one country”.

15) The dictatorship of the proletariat must ensure that the forms and procedures for control by the masses are many and varied, so as to prevent any shadow of degeneration and deformation of soviet power. It must have the aim of continuously weeding out “the tares of bureaucracy”, an evil excrescence which will inevitably accompany the period of transition. The safeguard of the revolution is the conscious activity of the working masses. The true political task of the proletariat lies in raising its own class consciousness, just as it transforms the consciousness of the whole of the labouring population. Compared to this task, the exercise of constraint through the policy and administrative organs of the workers' state is secondary (and the proletariat must take care to limit its most pernicious effects). The proletariat must not lose sight of this: that "so long as (it) still uses the state, it does not use it in the interests of freedom, but in order to hold down its adversaries".

S, RC, Ry, M, P, JL, RJ, AF.