The 6th Congress of the ICC: What is at stake

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At the beginning of November, the International Communist Current held its 6th Congress. A Congress is the highest authority of a communist organization. It's at the congress that the whole organization draws up a balance-sheet of its activities over the entire period since its previous congress that it pronounces upon the validity of the orientations defined by the latter, at the level both of the analysis of the international situation and of the perspectives     for the organization's activities that derive from this. This balance-sheet in turn makes it possible to draw up perspectives at both these levels for the period up until the next congress. It's clear that it's not only at the congress that the organization is concerned with and discusses the evolution of the international situation and of its own activities. This work has to be done on a permanent basis, so that it is capable at each moment of assuming its res­ponsibilities in the class struggle. But what distinguishes the work of the congress from any other regular meetings within the organization is on this occasion it's the entire organization which pronounces in a collective and directly unified manner on the general and essential orientations which constitute the framework within which all its activities can be developed and articulated. In other words, what distinguishes the congress is that it must confront what is primordially at stake for the whole life of the organization.

What is at stake in this Congress      

The revolutionary organization doesn't exist by itself or for itself. As a secretion of the revolutionary class, it can only exist as an active factor in the development of the struggle and the consciousness of that class. In this sense, what was at stake for the ICC in this Congress was directly linked to what is at stake in the present evolution of the class struggle? And what is at stake at this level is a great deal indeed. Faced with a capitalist system which is inexorably sinking more and more into its mortal crisis, a crisis whose only outcome on the terrain of the system can be a third world war which will destroy humanity, the struggle of the proletariat, its capacity to mobilize on its own class terrain, constitutes the only obstacle to such an outcome, as we have often pointed out and as we reiterate in the editorial of this issue of the IR. If the crisis of capitalism has not led today to a generalized holocaust, this is due fundamentally to the historic resurgence of class struggle since the end of the 1960s, a resurgence which, despite all the moments of retreat and of provisional disorientation in the class, has not let up. Thus, while one of the major tasks of the 5th Congress of the ICC was to understand and analyze the world-wide reflux which permitted and followed on from the proletariat's defeat in Poland in 1981, the 6th congress by contrast was held two years after the beginning of a new wave of struggles which has hit most of the industrialized countries, and particularly those of western Europe. This wave of struggles (the third since ‘68) is taking place at a crucial moment in the life of society.

It is taking place in the middle of a decade whose gravity our organization has frequently demonstrated, a decade in which "the reality of the present world will be revealed in all its nakedness", in which "to a great extent the future of humanity will be decided" (International Review 20, ‘The 1980s, Years of Truth'). This shows the whole importance of the central question which our 6th Congress had to deal with: how to arm our organization in the face of the third wave of struggles since the historic resurgence of 1968, which is taking place in the middle of such a decisive decade; how to ensure that the ICC is not just an observer, even a well-informed one, or even just an enthusiastic 'supporter' of the combats waged by the class, but, as its responsibilities demand, an actor in the historic drama which is taking place, an integral part of these combats?

While they were in the first place determined by the world situation and in particular by the evo­lution of the class struggle, the stakes of the 6th Congress of the ICC were also a result of the particular situation which our organization has been in these last few years. The communist organization is a historical product of the movement of the revolutionary class towards self-consciousness; it is not a mechanical or immediate product of the class movement. The class provides itself with communist organizations in order to respond to a need: to participate actively in the elabor­ation and deepening of revolutionary theory and positions, and in their dissemination throughout the class, to put forward in a clear manner the ultimate goals of the movement and the means to attain them; to wage a permanent and uncompromis­ing combat against all facets of the ruling ideol­ogy, which weighs constantly on the whole of the class and which has the effect of paralyzing its struggles. This is the mandate which the class confers on its revolutionary organizations, but it is not an a priori given that they will be able to carry out this mandate in the best possib­le way and at each moment of their existence. Just like the class of which they are a part, revolutionary organizations, and their militants, are subjected to the permanent pressure of the ideology of the ruling class, and although they are better armed to resist it than the rest of the proletariat, there is always the danger that this resistance will weaken and that in the end they will be unable to carry out the tasks for which the class has engendered them. Thus, the gravity of what's at stake in the 1980s represents a considerable challenge for all the organizations of the revolutionary milieu - a challenge which this milieu has shown great difficulties in taking up. The ‘years of truth' apply both to society as a whole and to the revolutionary organizations, and the convulsions which have marked the world situation since the beginning of the decade, at the level both of imperialist conflicts (such as Afghanistan) and of the class struggle (as in Poland) have had their echo in major convulsions in the revolutionary milieu which developed out of the historic resurgence of class struggle at the end of the ‘60s . This crisis of the revolut­ionary milieu, which we have pointed to and analyzed in this Review (see especially nos.28, 32 and 36) did not spare the ICC itself, as we have shown. The ICC's extraordinary conference in January ‘82 was an important moment in the redressment of our organization, and its 5th Congress (in July ‘83) could correctly draw "a positive balance-sheet of the way the ICC faced up to this crisis" (presentation of the 5th Con­gress, in IR 35). But, as we noted later on (see in particular the article in IR 42 ‘Centrist Slidings Towards Councilism'), while this redressment was a "real" one, it was still "incomplete". This is noted in the balance-sheet section of the activities resolution adopted by the 6th Congress:

"1. The 5th Congress of the ICC in July ‘83... correctly reaffirmed the validity of the general framework of organizational and political redressment assumed by the extraordinary conference in 1982 in response to the crisis which shook the ICC at the beginning of the 1980's, along with the whole revolutionary movement, faced with the stakes of the ‘years of truth'.

However, the 5th Congress allowed a lack of clar­ity to remain in our understanding of the inter­national situation, in particular the immediate perspectives for the, class struggle (the long proletarian reflux, waiting for the qualitative leap) and did not, in the activities resolution, give an orientation for our intervention in the workers' struggles that could be anticipated in the face of the sharpening attacks of the bourg­eoisie.

The slogan ‘less but better'[1], instead of being clearly posed and understood as the consolidation and preparation of the organization for the inevitable explosion of class struggle in the two years following the Congress, was conceived of and understood as a continuation of the same 'orderly retreat' of the 1982 Extraordinary Con­ference. The ICC thus remained, in part, turned towards the period of the disorientation of the proletariat, when, in fact, a grasp of the general characteristics of the class struggle in decadence, of the analysis of the current conditions, implied a recognition of the emergence from this disorientation and the recovery in workers' struggles. This was confirmed scarcely three months after the 5th Congress with the eruption of the strikes in Belgium in September ‘85.

2. During the last two years, the ICC has had to overcome this weakness, readjusting the orientat­ion of the 5th Congress, to raise its activity to "the level demanded of revolutionaries by the movement of the acceleration of history at every level, which conditions society's evolution towards decisive class confrontations" (activities resolution for the 5th Congress of RI , July 1984), and in particular, to ensure a consistent intervention in the general resurgence of class combats. Faced with the delay in understanding of, or wrong positions about, the events after the Congress..., the ICC... began to readjust its orientations, emphasizing the more rapid rhythm of the evolution of the international situation, drawing out the idea of the acceleration of history and explaining the meaning of events in the face of the delays in our analyses, and rejecting the incorrect con­ceptions that tended to diminish the origination's responsibilities."

The 6th Congress of the ICC, in order to raise the organization to the level of the responsibilities posed by the present moment, thus had to consolidate all the acquisitions that we had made in the previous years on the various levels evoked in the activities resolution. In particular it had to turn its back resolutely on all the hesit­ations, evasions and conservative tendencies which have appeared in response to the organization's efforts to arrive at these acquisitions, and which found their most acute, not to say caricatural expression in the minority which formed itself into a tendency in January ‘85. In this sense it had to pronounce clearly not only on the perspectives for the international situation, for the class struggle and for the intervention that we have to make within it, but also on the essential questions which have been debated at length in the organization throughout this effort, a debate which we have made public in the columns of the IR (cf. nos.40, 41, 42 and 43), and which was focused mainly on:

-- the recognition of centrist slidings towards councilism within the ICC

-- the importance of the danger of councilism for the class and its revolutionary organizations in the present period and the period ahead

-- the threat posed to revolutionary organizations, both today and in the past, by opportunism and particularly its centrist variety.

These were the stakes, the exigencies, of the 6th Congress of the ICC. To what extent did it manage to respond to them?

The discussions and texts of the 6th Congress

The analysis of the international situation

The readers of our Review will know that the ICC examines the international situation in a perman­ent manner. Thus the task of the 6th Congress was not to deal with all aspects of the internat­ional situation but to concentrate on those which are the most important, the most recent, and which determine most directly the tasks of our organization. In particular it had to point out the essential issues of the period, notably in the face of a whole series of ideological camp­aigns through which the bourgeoisie is trying to ‘prove':

-- that the capitalist economy is getting better, that it is ‘convalescing'

-- that thanks to the wisdom of the leaders of the great powers, the tensions between these powers are lessening

-- that the working class is struggling less and less, that it has ‘understood' the necessity to be ‘reasonable' so that the crisis can be overcome.

The resolution adopted by the congress, and which we're publishing in this issue, like the reports presented to the congress on which it's based, refutes these different lies. Recognizing what's         at stake in the present period means, in particular, pointing out:

-- the total impasse in which the capitalist economy finds itself, the barbarism into which it is plunging the whole of society (points 2-5)

-- the ineluctable aggravation of imperialist tensions and the lying character of all the speeches about peace (points 6-8)

-- that "the key to the whole historical situation is in the hands of the working class" (point 9); that "the present situation has an enormous potential for giving rise to proletarian movements" and that "revolutionaries have to be particularly vigilant about the potentialities of the present period and take great care not to underestimate this potential" (point 15) .

Pointing out what's at stake in the class struggle requires, in the first place, a capacity to refute all the lies about the "passivity" of the working (points 9, 10 and above all 11 are devoted to this), but it also requires an ability to analyze the present characteristics of the development of this struggle (see points 10 and 13 in particular) and of the many traps laid by the bourgeoisie, especially its unions, in order to paralyze it (points 13 and 13). Finally, it demands a clear analysis of the phenomenon of unemployment which is acting as an important spur to the class struggle.                             

Examining the development of the class struggle took up a major part of the discussions on the international situation (half of the resolution is devoted to it). This translated the whole importance which the ICC accords to this question, with the aim of intervening in the struggle as effectively as possible, despite our very limited resources, and thus of drawing out all the potential contained within it.

The intervention of the ICC

The necessity for the intervention of revolutionaries impregnates the resolution on the international situation which terminates on this point:         

"It's through intervention in particular, by putting forward proposals for action that correspond to the needs of the class, that revolutionar­ies will be able to prove concretely to the work­ers the necessity for a revolutionary organization, thus laying the foundations for the future party of the communist revolution." (point 15)

But above all it's at the centre of the activities resolution adopted by the Congress:

"Intervention in the class struggle, based on class demands, must be the ICC's priority. The organization's political presence through its intervention on a class terrain, that, is to say on the terrain of the defense of the workers' immediate interests in the face of capital's attacks, using the working class' own method of struggle (strikes, demonstrations, meetings, assemblies, workers' groups, unemployed committ­ees), is not only possible but necessary, and has an influence amongst the workers, whether or not it is the unions that call formally for the move­ment, whether the workers be present in small or large numbers. This is the precondition for the organization fulfilling the task for which it exists in the working class, for it being capable of denouncing the union caricatures of struggle and their strategy of demobilization (media operations, commando ‘actions', union delegations and petitions, corporatist and nationalist demands), for it being capable of putting concrete propositions for action, to encourage the class' reflection, unity and collective action, wherever and whenever the workers' interests are defended...

This mastery (of the organizational framework for intervention) presupposes the conviction that the two years to come will see upsurges and explosions of class struggle, laid down in today's conditions. We know that these will happen, just as the astronomers were able to determine the existence of Pluto without being able to see it. We also know that we do not have all the answers ready-made for the new problems that will arise, but that firmness on what we have already gained is a precondition for living up to the situation. The organization must be prepared at all times for a possible flare-up in the class struggle, which implies participating in every moment that class heralds, prepares and takes the class towards the large-scale movements that it needs to fulfill its historic mission."

Thus the Congress was particularly determined in reaffirming and strengthening the organization's commitment to an increasingly active intervention in workers' struggles, an intervention appropriate to the importance of these struggles. It confirmed this orientation by adopting a special resolution on the ICC press which insisted that:

"The press remains the main instrument for the intervention of the organization and is thus at the centre of our efforts to develop the mean to participate actively in the combats of the class. Even though intervention through leaflets and public speaking have become an integral part of the regular work of the organization, this in no way diminishes the importance of the press ‑ on the contrary. The press embodies the continuity of our intervention and represents an indispensable tool for placing each intervention in a broader framework, for showing the world historic dimension of each combat."

Finally, like the 5th Congress which adopted an ‘Address to Proletarian Political Groups' (IR 35), the 6th Congress again dealt with this question, emphasizing in particular that:          

"the present orientation towards accelerating and strengthening the ICC's intervention in the class struggle is also valid for, and must, be applied rigorously to, our intervention towards the milieu."

The resolution adopted on this question affirms that:           

"The ICC, for its part, must make the fullest use of the present class struggle's positive dynamic in order to push the milieu forward, to insist on the need for a clear and determined intervention of revolutionaries in these struggles. In order to make the most of this potential, which in turn is simply a concretization of the fact that the period of the fight for the formation of the class party is open, it is necessary to mobilize the forces of the whole ICC in defense of the political milieu, which involves... a determined attitude in taking part in the regroupment and unity of revolutionaries."

If the importance and the modalities of the ICC's intervention in workers' struggles mobilized a great deal of attention and effort at the 6th Congress, the political capacities of the organization, which precondition this intervention, were       also a central preoccupation. Thus the danger represented by councilism for the whole of the class and for its political organizations was clearly put forward, both in the resolution on the international situation (point 15) and in the resolution on activities which states that:

"This danger, which calls into question the capacity of the organization to be an active factor in the daily struggles of the class, can only be fought if the organization constantly develops and strengthens its political clarity and militant will."

But this concern to arm the organization politic­ally did not stop there. It gave rise to a discussion of a particular resolution on ‘Opportunism and Centrism in the Period of Decadence' and of a counter-resolution presented by a minority of the ICC on ‘Centrism and the Political Organizations of the Proletariat', both of which are published in this IR.

Opportunism and Centrism

The recognition of the permanence of the historic phenomenon of opportunism in the decadent period of capitalism is an integral part of the heritage of the communist left which fought against the degeneration of the Communist International, pre­cisely under the banner of the struggle against opportunism and centrism.

At its inception the ICC had some difficulties in reappropriating this acquisition. But things were already made clearer at its 2nd Congress, which adopted a ‘Resolution on Proletarian Polit­ical Groups' (IR 11). The calling into question of this acquisition by certain comrades of the minority which went on to form a ‘tendency' thus represented a clear regression, which the ICC combated in a long discussion which has found its echo in this Review, especially nos. 42 and 43. The richness of these debates, the deepening of our acquisitions which they made possible and which have strengthened our organization against the permanent danger of opportunism and centrism, had their logical conclusion at the Congress in the adoption of the ‘Resolution on Opportunism and Centrism in the Period of Decadence' and the rejection of the counter-resolution. This latter text essentially repeats the arguments contained in the article ‘The Concept of Centrism: the Road to the Abandonment of Class Positions' published in IR 43 and to which the ICC has already replied in the same issue (‘The Rejection of the Concept of Centrism: The Open Door to the Abandonment of Class Positions'). This is why it's not necessary to return here to the critique of these arguments except to underline that the conceptions put forward by this resolution lead both to a total sectarianism (‘outside organizations defending an intransigent marxism on all points, there is only the bourgeoisie') and at the same time, even if it denies it to weakening the organization's vigilance against the main forms of the penetration of bourgeois ideology.

The adoption of the resolution by the Congress was accompanied by the adoption of a short resol­ution indicating the necessity for the ICC to rectify its platform. The clarity which emerged out of these debates, and which is summarized in the resolution, had shown the need for a rectification on the question of the conditions in which the former workers' parties (SPs and CPs) passed into the bourgeois camp. Such a rectification was on the agenda of the Congress and amendments had been prepared some months before. But while the debates at the Congress showed a considerable degree of clarity on the issue of the resolution itself, they also showed that there was an incomplete maturity on the formulations that were to be inserted in the platform. Recognizing this, and conscious of the fact that on the primordial question of opportunism and centrism - which has immediate implications for the life of the organization - the ICC had solidly armed itself with the resolution, the Congress decided to put off the rectification of the platform until the next Congress.

On the other hand, the Congress adopted several amendments to the statutes, in the same spirit as the statutes as a whole and as expressed in the ‘Report on the Structure and Functioning of the Organization of Revolutionaries' (IR 33), which made it possible to be more precise on certain points and, in particular, to close the door to any idea that the organization can function on the basis of ‘working groups' as was the case in the Dutch Left. This precision was made necessary because, led astray by their councilist slidings, the minority comrades were moving towards such a conception, without recognizing it.

These comrades' disorientation over organizational questions was also expressed at the Congress by their departure from the Congress and from the organization.

The desertion of the ‘tendency'

In the article in IR 43 in response to the art­icle by the ‘tendency', we warned the comrades of the danger of being "crushed under the wheels of the centrist approach they have adopted." Their attitude at the Congress showed that this was no idle warning. Faced with affirmations by certain members of the ‘tendency' that they were about to leave the organization, the Congress straight-away asked the comrades of the ‘tendency' about their militant commitment to the organization. It is perfectly conceivable that a minority (or a majority) of an organization can present itself at a Congress announcing the necessity for a split and demanding that the crucial issues be immediately put to the vote: this is how the majority of the SFIO acted at the Tours Congress in1920 and the minority of the PSI at the Livorno Congress of 1921, vis-a-vis the question of joining the Communist International. But this wasn't  the attitude of the ‘tendency', which, in order to cover up the disagreements within it between those who wanted to retire and those who wanted to remain militants of the ICC, preferred to evade the question posed to it. This is how, in a resolution unanimously adopted by the delegates present, the Congress took up a position on the attitude of the ‘tendency':

"Considering that:

-- the tendency presented itself to the 6th Congress posing an unacceptable ultimatum, according to which it would put into question its adherence to the organization if the Congress adopted the orientations presented by the retiring central organ                          

-- the tendency refused to answer the question posed by the Congress that it clearly pronounce on its militant commitment to the organization after the Congress, the Congress asked the tendency to withdraw in order to think, prepare and provide a response at the following session.                                                      

Instead, the tendency and two comrades of the organization, while sending a declaration to the presidium claiming that they had been excluded from the Congress but affirming that they continue to be part of the organization, definitively left the Congress without even informing the organization of this departure.

Despite the fact that the Congress adopted a  resolution requiring their return and communicated this resolution to them on the telephone, the tendency and the two comrades refused to come back and explain themselves to the Congress, contenting themselves with a false declaration presenting their attitude as an "exclusion of the tendency from the works of the Congress".                                                                  

Facing this, the Congress considers that the attitude of the tendency and of the two comrades:      

-- firstly, expresses a contempt vis-a-vis the Congress and its character as a moment, of militant action of the organization,             

-- secondly, constitutes a real desertion from the responsibilities which are those of any militant in the organization."          

After the Congress, the ICC received from the comrades of the ‘tendency' a declaration in which it repeats the lie that it was excluded from the Congress. In the terms of the declaration, this so-called "exclusion" marked "the degeneration of the internal life of the ICC in an irrevocable manner," and consequently the ‘tendency' had decided to "constitute itself into a fraction outside the organizational framework of the ICC" in order to "represent the programmatic and organic continuity with the pole of regroupment which the ICC used to be, with its platform and statutes which it has ceased to defend."

Thus, the proletarian political milieu, already heavily marked by sectarianism and dispersion, is going to be ‘enriched' by a new group based on the same platform as that of the ICC. The lamentable trajectory of this ‘tendency', which has achieved a ‘historical first' by constituting itself into a ‘fraction' (which means ‘a part of') after leaving the organization from which it or­iginated, which has to resort to the most bare­faced lies to justify its contortions, clearly demonstrates the danger of constituting a ‘tendency' on an inconsistent basis, as we pointed out in IR 42:

"For its part, the ICC does not consider that this is a true tendency presenting a positive alternative orientation to the organization, but an agglomeration of comrades whose real cement is neither the coherence of their positions, nor a profound conviction in these positions, but an attitude of being ‘agains' the orientations of the ICC in its combat against councilism."

The real dedication, the sincere militant commitment of a certain number of the comrades of the ‘tendency' was to no avail: as soon as they allowed themselves to get caught up in the aberrant dynamic of the ‘tendency', they ended up trailing behind those elements who were tired of militant life and were looking for the slightest pretext, even the most fallacious, to disengage from it while at the same time ‘saving face.'

For as long as communist organizations have existed, they have had to face losing militants. At certain moments of history, as in the most terrible years of the counter-revolution, from the ‘30s to the ‘50s, this loss represented a tragic phenomenon which threatened the very life of the organizations themselves. Today the situation is very different and the departure of the com­rades of the ‘tendency' will not compromise the capacity of the ICC to take up its responsibilities, any more than it prevented our Sixth Cong­ress from carrying out its tasks.

In conclusion...

After several days of intense debates, in which the delegations from all the territorial sections of the ICC expressed themselves, in which the different reports, resolutions and amendments were examined, discussed, and voted on, we thus consider that overall the 6th Congress of the ICC attained the objectives it had fixed for itself, that it has valuably armed the organization to face up to what is at stake in the present period. The years to come will judge the validity of this appreciation. In particular they will show whether the ICC's analysis of the international situation, and especially of the evolution of the class struggle, is in accordance with reality - something contested by most other revolutionary groups. But right now, the resolutions which we are publishing in this issue of the International Review prove that the ICC is going in a very precise direction, leaving as little as possible room for ambiguity (as is not unfortunately the case for many of these groups); a direction which, on the basis of the analyses of the enormous potential for struggle maturing and developing in the class, expresses the firm will to be equal to the demands of these struggles, to be an integral part of them and to contribute actively to orienting them towards a revolutionary outcome.


Resolution on the international situation

1) On the eve of the 1980s, the ICC designated these years as the ‘years of truth', in which the formidable extent of what was at stake in the whole life of society would be clearly revealed. Half-way through this decade, the evolution of the international situation has fully confirmed this analysis:

-- through a new aggravation of the convulsions of the world economy which were manifested from the very beginning of the ‘80s in the most imp­ortant recession since the 1930s;

-- through an intensification of tensions between the imperialist blocs, expressed both through a considerable jump in military expendit­ure and by the development of deafening; campaigns of war ideology conducted by Reagan, the chief of the most powerful bloc;

-- through the resurgence, in the second part of 1983, of class combats after their momentary re­treat in 81-83, preceding and following the repression of the workers in Poland. This resurg­ence has been characterized particularly by an unprecedented simultaneity of struggles, espec­ially in the vital centers of capitalism and of the working class in Western Europe.

But, at the very time when the whole gravity of what's at stake in the period is becoming clear, when all the potential it contains is being revealed, the bourgeoisie is launching a whole series of ideological campaigns which have the aim of:

-- accrediting the myth of an amelioration in the situation of world capitalism, incarnated in the ‘success' of the American recovery in ‘83 and ‘84 (higher growth rates, fall in inflat­ion and unemployment);

-- making people believe that there is an attenuation of imperialist tensions: Reagan's speeches in ‘84 were presented as being more moderate, as ‘holding out a hand' to negotiations with the USSR, and this had its equivalent in the line of diplomatic seduction being pushed by the newcomer Gorbachev;

-- pushing into workers' heads the idea that the proletariat isn't struggling, that it has given up defending its class interests, that it's no longer an actor on the international political stage.

In reality, these are nothing but smokescreens aimed at hiding from the workers the importance of what's at stake today at the very time when a new wave of class struggles is gaining in depth. What is revealed by an examination of world real­ity is a striking confirmation of the fundament­al tendencies of the present historic period, tendencies which have been manifesting themselves since the beginning of the decade.

The economic crisis

2) The myth of an amelioration in the situat­ion of the world economy burst like a soap bubble when you look at the terrible reality of what's happening in the peripheral countries of capitalism. The gigantic debts (900 billion dollars) owed by the countries which by a sinist­er irony are referred to as being ‘on the road to development', the flagrant failure of the extremely bitter potions prepared ‘for their own good' by the ‘experts' of the IMF (a 50% fall in buying power in two years in Mexico, 20% in 6 months in Argentina, etc...); the incredible rates of inflation (400% in Brazil, the 'model country' of the ‘70s, 10,000% in Bolivia...), the complete failure of the countries previously vaunted for their miraculous growth (Hong Kong, Singapore); the dreadful poverty of the populat­ions of all the third world countries which, through the malnutrition, famines and epidemics that it provokes, is responsible every day for the death of 40,000 people and which makes daily life for billions of human beings a permanent hell - all this frightful reality, which the bourgeoisie of the advanced countries doesn't hesitate to put on display when it wants to portray the economy and workers' living condit­ions in the industrialized regions as something to be ‘envied', just shows one thing: the total impasse facing the world economy, the definitive incapacity of the capitalist mode of production to overcome its mortal contradictions, for which the peripheral countries are the first to pay the consequences.

Similarly, the permanent inability of the so-called socialist countries to realize national plans which are in any case less and less ambit­ious, the total and permanent shortage of consum­er goods, the decline in production in Czechoslo­vakia and Poland (the latter country has now regressed to the I974 level), the 150% inflation in Poland over the last 2 years, the lowering of life expectancy in the USSR (66 years in 1964 but only 62 years in I984) - all these character­istics not only clearly unmask the lies about their ‘socialist' nature but mark a definitive end for the ‘theories' which have existed even within the revolutionary milieu about the capaci­ty of state capitalism to overcome the contra­dictions of classical capitalism, to free itself from the constraints of the law of value. They show that if these countries are no less capital­ist than others, it is a poorly developed and uncompetitive capitalism which reigns there, a capitalism which in many ways is similar to that in the third world countries (as in the predomin­ance of raw materials in their exports) and which is thus particularly fragile in the face of the hammer blows of the crisis.

3) The myth of the convalescence of capitalism also comes up against the harsh reality of the situation in the oldest bourgeois countries - those of Western Europe, which contains the most powerful industrial concentration in the world. In this zone, the few improvements which could be seen in recent years in certain of these countries in terms of inflation rates and growth of GNP cannot mask the following realities:

-- despite a certain drop, the result of repeated attacks on workers' living conditions, the present level of inflation for these countr­ies as a whole (7.2%) still represents more than twice that of 1967 (3.3%);

-- the level of industrial production was no higher in I984 than in I981;

-- whole major sectors of the industrial app­aratus have been eliminated (in steel, ship building, mines, cars, etc) in the name of ‘health measures' which look like repeated amputations on a body ridden with gangrene;

-- the scourge of unemployment hasn't ceased to develop hitting 25 million workers or over 11% of the working population (between ‘81 and ‘84 the numbers of unemployed grew more than over the previous 20 years); the daily reality of these countries is the extension, on a scale not seen for decades, of soup kitchens and absolute pauperization.

These facts, since they relate to one of the vital centers of world capitalism, show how all the blather about ‘recovery' and ‘improve­ment' is indeed nothing but a smokescreen.

4) Similarly, all the discourses about the ‘health' of the American economy are shown to be pure lies when you examine the real content of the ‘Reaganomics' which is supposed to have worked such miracles. In fact, what lies behind the ‘dazzling' 6.8% increase in its GNP in 1984 (the only notable increase in any of the major countries apart from Japan, whose great competit­iveness has up to now spared it from the hardest blows of the crisis), behind the fall in unempl­oyment and in inflation rates, is, respectively:

-- a relaunching of production through major Federal budget deficits (up to 379 billion dollars in ‘83 and ‘84), which is in total contradiction to the principles touted by Reagan when he arrived at the head of state;

-- the continuation of the elimination of whole chunks of the industrial sector (a process which has now begun to affect even the ‘hi-tech; industries which were supposed to create a marvelous quantity of new jobs); the new jobs which have lowered unemployment have been essentially located in the service sector which can only worsen the competitiveness of the American economy as a whole;

-- the fall in the price of imports due to the considerable increase in the exchange rate of the dollar based on the huge borrowings made by the Federal State to meet its deficits.

As the resolution of the 5th ICC Congress showed, explaining the recession of ‘80-‘82:

"The ‘monetarist' policies orchestrated by Reagan and followed by all the leaders of the advanced countries register the failure of the neo-Keynesian policies and allow the underlying cause of the capitalist crisis to come to the surface: generalized overproduction, and its ineluctable consequences - the fall in production, the elimination of excess capital, the throwing of millions of workers into unem­ployment, the massive deterioration in the living standards of the whole proletariat." (International Review 35).

The ‘recovery' of the American economy was perm­itted by the momentary abandoning of this policy, the aim of which was to prevent: "the astronomic­al rise in debts upon which the world economy is sitting today from leading to the death of the patient through an apocalyptic rush of the inflationary spiral and the explosion of the international financial system." (ibid).

Thus, the limits of the US ‘recovery', which we can already see today, are contained in the same reality which in 1980 obliged the government of that country to put its foot hard on the brake, plunging the whole world into the brutal recess­ion of ‘80-‘82: faced with the inevitable and growing engorgement of solvent markets, capital's only perspective can be to reduce production, profits, the labor power it exploits and the wages it pays for it. Because of this, the only ‘recovery' can be a headlong flight into debt, that is to say the accumulation of contradictions on a scale never seen before and growing all the time, turning the world economy into a veritable powder-keg.

5) In reality, since the world economy entered its phase of open crisis in the mid-‘60s, it has had no alternative but to oscillate more and more savagely between recession (directly translating the cause of the crisis - the saturation of the world market) and inflation (which merely expresses the abuse of credit and of printing money through which the states and the capitalists have tried to get round this saturation). Each one of the ‘recoveries' the world economy has been through after the recessions of ‘71, ‘74-75, and ‘80-82 has been based on a new outburst of indebtedness:

-- it was mainly the phenomenal indebtedness of the third world in the second half of the ‘70s - an indebtedness fed by loans from the western banks as a way of ‘recycling' the ‘petrodollars' - which allowed the industrial powers to temporarily boost their sales and relaunch production;

-- after 1982, it was the even more major debts of the USA, both external (which would soon make it the biggest debtor in the world) and internal (more than 6,000 billion dollars in 1984, or the equivalent of the total prod­uction of west Germany over 10 years), which allowed that country to reach record growth rates in ‘84, just as it was its enormous commercial deficits which momentarily benefit­ed the exports of a few other countries (such as west Germany) and thus the production levels.

In the final analysis, just as the astronomical indebtedness of the third world countries could only result in a catastrophic rebound shock, in the form of unprecedented austerity and recess­ion, the even more considerable indebtedness of the American economy can only lead, under the threat of an explosion of its financial system (its vulnerability to which can be meas­ured by the uninterrupted succession of bank collapses), to a new recession both of this economy and the other economies whose external markets will be subject to a severe shrinkage.

The only perspective facing the world, its most industrialized countries, and including, for the first time in an explicit way the 2nd and 3rd industrial powers of the western bloc, Japan and west Germany, is thus:

-- a new dive in production resulting in a terrible aggravation of unemployment;

-- the intensification of the attack on workers' living; conditions in the form of falling wages, reduction in social security and an unprecedent­ed aggravation in the rhythm and conditions of work.

What lies behind all the talk of ‘recovery' and economic ‘health' is a new process in absolute impoverishment, not only in the backward countries but also in the great metropoles of capital. Thus the ‘years of truth' are confirm­ing one of the great teachings of marxism, which all sorts of ‘experts' claimed were ‘false' or ‘out of date': this system leads not only to the relative impoverishment of the exploited class; the latter is now more and more experiencing an absolute impoverishment which is going to reach, notably with the development of mass unemploy­ment in the great metropoles of capital, levels which for more than three decades have been reserved for the backward countries.

The truth that these years are revealing in a sinister and striking manner is the whole barbarism into which decadent capitalism has plunged the whole of society.

Imperialist conflicts

6) This barbarism of decadent capitalism also reveals itself in the shadows behind the speeches about peace which are currently at the centre of the stage. Reagan's change of tone, leaving aside his talk about the ‘Evil Empire' and extending a hand to the chief of the opposing bloc; Gorbachev's ‘good little boy' dip­lomatic offensive; the forthcoming meeting between the two leaders - all this cannot hide the pursuit of war preparations by the two blocs or hide the development of imperialist tensions between them.

In fact, a simple examination of the efforts made by both blocs at the level of armaments exposes the emptiness of all the speeches about ‘détente'. Thus, during the year 1984 alone, the industrial states spent 1,000 billion dollars on arms: that is, more than the whole of the debt accumulated by the third world countries The countries of the western bloc are about to join those of the eastern bloc in the complete subordination of the productive apparatus to the needs of armaments:

-- right now, two-thirds of American research laboratories work directly for the army;

-- in all the highly technical sectors (aeronautics, electronics, telecommunications, robotics, computers, etc) the effort towards research and innovation are directly determined by military needs into which the best scientif­ic and technical talents are being channeled. This is strikingly illustrated by the American ‘Star Wars' project and its west European appendage ‘Eureka'.

On a world scale, while humanity sinks into an increasingly unbearable poverty and misery in the form of famines and ‘natural' catastrophes whose murderous effects are perfectly avoidable, more than 10% of production is not only sterilized in arms but participates directly or indirectly through the destruction caused by these weapons, in aggravating and multiplying these calamities (as for example in Ethiopia and Mozambique where the terrible famines are much less the result of climatic conditions than of the wars which permanently devastate these areas).

The growth of armaments in both blocs isn't the only thing which reveals the present scale and intensity of imperialist tensions. This intensi­ty corresponds to what is at stake in all the local conflicts which ravage the planet. This scale corresponds to the breadth and objectives of the present offensive of the US bloc.

7) This offensive has the objective of completing the encirclement of the USSR, of depriving this country of all the positions it has been able to maintain outside its direct area of domination. It has as a priority the definitive expulsion of the USSR from the Middle East, through the disciplining of Iran and the re­insertion of this country into the US bloc as an important pawn in its global strategy. It has the ambition of going on to recuperate Indochina. In the final analysis, its aim is to completely strangle the USSR, to strip it of its status as a world power.

The present phase of this offensive, which began right after the invasion of Afghanistan by the armies of the USSR, (which was a major advance by the latter towards the ‘warm seas'), has already achieved some major successes:

-- the winning of complete control over the Near East where Syria, previously linked to the Russian bloc and, along with the PLO, was the main loser from the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon in ‘82, has now become one of the pawns of US strategy, sharing with Israel the role of ‘gendarme' in this region and where the resist­ance of recalcitrant bourgeois factions (PLO etc) has been progressively broken;

-- the alignment of India following the assassin­ation of Indira Gandhi in 1984;

-- the growing exhaustion of Iran (which is the condition for its complete return to the US fold) due to the terrible war with Iraq, which is supported by the US bloc via France;

-- a greater integration of China into its strategy towards the USSR and Indo-China.

One of the main characteristics of this offensive is the western bloc's more and more massive use of its military power, notably through the send­ing of expeditionary corps from the US or other central countries (France, UK, Italy) to the battle zones (as was particularly the case with the Lebanon, to ‘convince' Syria of the necessi­ty to align itself with the US bloc, and in Chad in order to put an end to Libya's pretensions to independence). This corresponds to the fact that the economic card so abundantly used in the past to grab hold of the enemy's position is no longer sufficient:

-- because of the present ambitions of the US bloc;

-- because of the aggravation of the world crisis itself, which creates a situation of internal instability in the third world count­ries that the US bloc used to rely on.

The present offensive of the US bloc is not in contradiction with the fact that, in the period of the decadence of capitalism, it is the bloc which has done worst out of the division of the world which, in the last resort, pushes the whole of society into generalized war (the ‘central' powers in 1914, the ‘Axis' in 1939). Certainly, the present situation differs from the one which preceded the Second World War in that now it is the better placed bloc which is on the offensive:

-- because it enjoys an enormous military superiority, particularly at the technolog­ical level;

-- to the extent that, since today's crisis is much more prolonged than that of the 30s without being able to break out into a generalized conflict, there are much more prolonged and extensive preparations for this conflict; obviously the economically stronger bloc is best equipped to carry out these preparations.

However, for the USSR, the stakes involved are considerable: the US offensive means in the end a matter of life or death for Russia, as can be seen by the stubbornness with which it tried, via Syria, to maintain a toe-hold in the Middle East. And if this offensive finally achieves its ulti­mate objectives (which presupposes that it isn't held back by the class struggle), the USSR will have no alternative but to play the desperate card of a thrust into the European heartlands - the real prize of the inter-imperialist conflict: in other words to resort to the terrible means of generalized war.

8) The present aggravation of imperialist tensions, the threat they pose to the very life of humanity, is the direct expression of the impasse faced by the capitalist economy, of the total bankruptcy of the system.

In the ‘years of truth' therefore, what's being revealed with a hideous clarity is that with the aggravation of the convulsions in society's economic infrastructure, economic war necessarily leads on to armed war, that economic means give way to military means. While in the past military force served as a support and guarantee to economic positions that had been or were to be acquired, today the economy more and more serves as an auxiliary to the needs of military strategy. The whole of economic activity is geared towards supporting military power; the world economy is sinking into the insatiable maws of arms production. Militarism, which contrary to Luxemburg's assertions has never constituted a real field of accumulation, has on the contrary become the terrain upon which the collapse of capitalist production, and of capitalism as a historic system, is being made a reality.

This is in no way an abandonment of marxism, which considers that in the last instance it is the economic base which determines the whole life of society. Capitalism's entry into its decadent period is determined by economic causes, and the history of decadence has seen the capit­alist economy getting more and more stuck in a dead-end. Similarly, it is clear that it is the present aggravation of the crisis which is accentuating the pressures towards generalized war - a pressure which has been a permanent fact of life for society since decadence began.

But the important thing to underline is that in the decadence of capitalism, war - even if it is determined by the economic situation - has lost all economic rationality, in contrast to last century when, despite the costs and massacres involved, it was a means for pushing forward the development of the productive forces of capital­ism, which in a manner of speaking made it ‘profitable' for the system as a whole.

What has been shown by the first two world wars is the purely destructive nature of war in the period of decadence. The fact that the victorious countries (with the exception of the USA whose territory was kept out of the battle zones) came out of the wars considerably weakened by them, has today reached its fulfillment in the ob­vious fact that a third world war would have no economic advantage either for capitalism as a whole or for any of its national fractions. And if this doesn't prevent the bourgeoisie from still preparing for it, this only expresses the reality that in the period of decadence the process lead­ing to war is a mechanism completely outside the control of the bourgeoisie. What we can see today is the full development of a tendency which has existed since the beginning of the century and not a ‘new' phenomenon. However, by reaching its extreme point, this tendency has introduced a new element: the threat of the total destruct­ion of humanity, which only the struggle of the proletariat can prevent.

Never in history has the alternative between socialism and barbarism been posed with such terrible clarity. Never has the proletariat had such an immense responsibility as it has in the present period.

The class struggle

9) The key to the whole historical situation is in the hands of the working class. This is precisely what the bourgeoisie is trying to hide from it by seeking to convince it that it is powerless, that its great battles against capit­alism belong to a past that is definitely over. This is also something not seen by many revolut­ionary groups who are incapable of understanding; the historic course and spend their time lament­ing the ‘weakness of workers' struggles', thus demonstrating that they themselves are victims of the bourgeoisie's campaigns.

The recognition of the aggravation of imper­ialist tensions and of a certain number of defeats like that in Poland in 1981 should not lead us to the conclusion that the bourgeoisie has a free hand to impose its own response to the crisis of the system: generalized imperialist war. The analysis of the historic course develop­ed by the ICC takes into account the following elements:

a) by definition, a historic course is someth­ing which applies to a whole historical period. It is not conditioned by conjunctural or second­ary events. Only major events in the life of society are able to put it into question:

-- the long opportunist degeneration of the llnd International, the complete disorientation of the proletariat that it expressed and aggravat­ed, was the condition for the opening up of the course towards the first world war;

-- three years of generalized imperialist war, involving massacres and sufferings on a scale never before known, was the price to be paid for a new change of course in favor of the prolet­ariat;

-- the long series of defeats of the proletariat from Germany in 1919 to China in 1927, defeats aggravated by the degeneration of the revolution in Russia and of the Communist International, and also by the momentary re-establish­ment of the capitalist economy between 1923 and 1929, were necessary for the bourgeoisie to free itself of the proletarian obstacle to its logic;

-- the appearance of new workers' generations who haven't been through defeat or world war, the wearing-out of the myth of the USSR as the ‘socialist fatherland' and of the anti-fascist mystification, capitalism's entry into a new open crisis, have been the conditions necessary for the re-establishment of a course towards class confrontations.

b) The present historic course can't be put into question by the partial defeats which, though rarely, have hit the proletariat in sec­ondary or peripheral countries, like Poland ‘81. Only a succession of defeats following decisive struggles by the proletariat in the central countries, and notably those of Western Europe, would suffice to open the door to a course towards war.

c) the existence of a course towards class confrontations in no way implies the disappearance of imperialist antagonisms, conflicts between the blocs, the aggravation of  these conflicts, or military preparations for a third world war. In particular, in the present period, only struggles of an except­ional breadth, like those in Poland 1980, can have an immediate impact on the tensions between east and west. Within this framework provided by the historic course, the bourgeoisie contin­ues to have a certain margin for maneuver. What's at stake today is therefore not the capacity of this or that outburst of class struggle to push back arms production or silence this or that conflict between the blocs; it's the fact that the reserves of combativity that these struggles express prevent these imperialist conflicts from reaching their extreme conclusion: a world­wide conflagration.

d) The existence of a historic course towards class confrontations in no way implies that the proletariat is developing its struggles in a continuous way, that class combats reach, month after month, year after year, an over­growing breadth and depth. Such a view would be totally at odds with the whole historical experience of the proletariat; it would contra­dict what Marx put forward in The 18th Brumaire and which Luxembourg and other great revolution­aries analyzed later on: the movement of the class struggle through advances and retreats in its progress towards decisive confrontations with capitalism. It would also contradict the fact that, in the period of decadence, such a phenomenon, far from disappearing, can only become more pronounced, which means that within a course towards class confrontations (itself an expression of this phenomenon on a grand scale) there is a succession of waves of struggle, of repeated assaults against the capitalist fortress, broken up by moments of partial defeats, disarray and demoralization.

10) The thesis about the ‘passivity' of the working class, which bourgeois propaganda has got certain revolutionaries to swallow, if it could have some appearance of reality at certain moments in the past such as at the time of defeat for the proletariat in Poland ‘81, is today totally contradicted by the facts. In par­ticular it is given the lie too by the formidab­le development of workers' struggles from the second half of 1983, the characteristics and conditions of which were analyzed by the ICC as early as January ‘84:

"The present wave of struggles has already announced that it is going to be broader and more important than the two waves which preced­ed it since the historic upsurge of struggle at the end of the ‘60s: that of 1968-74 and 1978-80...The present wave has its source in the wearing out of the factors which led to the post-Poland retreat:

-- the vestiges of illusions from the 1970s which have been swept away by the very deep recession of 1980-82;

-- the momentary disarray provoked by the move of the left into opposition and by the defeat in Poland;

It is emerging:

-- after a long period of austerity and mounting unemployment, of an intensification of economic attacks against the working class in the central countries;

-- following several years of using the card of the left in opposition and all the mystifi­cations associated with it.

For these reasons, it is going to carry on with increasingly powerful and determined battles by the proletariat of the metropoles of capit­al, the culminating point of which will be at a higher level than either of the first two waves.

The characteristics of the present wave, as have already been manifested and which will become more and more discernable are as follows:

-- a tendency towards very broad movements involving large numbers of workers, hitting entire sectors or several sectors simultaneous­ly in one county, thus posing the basis for the geographical extension of the struggle;

-- a tendency towards the outbreak of spont­aneous movements, showing, especially at the beginning, a certain bypassing of the unions;

-- the growing simultaneity of struggles at an international level, laying the basis for the world generalization of struggles in the future;

-- a progressive development, within the whole proletariat, of its confidence in itself, of its awareness of its strength, its capacity to oppose itself as a class to the attacks of the capitalists;

-- the slow rhythm of the development of stru­ggles in the central countries and notably of their capacity for self-organization, a phenom­enon which results from the deployment by the bourgeoisie of these countries of a whole arsenal of traps and mystifications." (International Review 37, ‘Theses on the Present Upsurge in Class Struggle').

11) Today this analysis remains perfectly valid. It has been confirmed by the unprecedented extent and simultaneity of this third wave of struggle. This simultaneity has been most marked in Western Europe, epicenter of the proletarian revolution. It has been accompanied by massive struggles in the third world. This analysis is not contradicted by the low number of strike days in a certain number of countries (such as France and Italy) over the past year, a point which the bourgeois media have seized upon to prove the ‘passivity' of the working class, its resigned acceptance of its lot. In particular, there is no basis for saying that the third wave of struggles is already exhausted, that we have entered into a situation similar to the one which followed Poland:

-- you cannot judge the whole international situation in an immediate way, on the basis of short-term facts, especially because, as we have shown, the present wave is distinguished by the slow rhythm of its development: when revolution­aries fall into such a short-term view, as is the case for some of them today, they are getting this not from marxism but from bourgeois ideology, and are only reflecting passively the hesitations which affect the whole class:

-- for the last two years the proletariat has been engaged in a long-term combat. Such a combat inevitably goes through moments of respite, of maturation, of reflection. But in contrast to the post-Poland situation where a short but real reflux was opened up by an international defeat for the proletariat and acted like a leaden weight pressing for two years on all the main countries of western Europe, the present moments of respite (reflected in the diminution of strike days in this or that country) which the class may go through are limited in time and space; and although the bourgeoisie does every­thing it can to turn the workers' expectations, their efforts at reflection into passivity, the situation remains characterized by an accumulat­ion of discontent and of potential combativity which can explode at any moment, as can be seen from recent events in France (Dunkirk, SNCF, etc);

-- the fact that in countries where the working class is traditionally combative, like France and especially Italy, there has been a particul­arly low numerical level of strikes, should not obscure the significance for the whole class of the development of a very strong combativity in the class movement in countries used to ‘social peace', especially in the Scandinavian countries;

-- statistics on strike days, even if they are an element which revolutionaries must study and take into consideration, do not on their own give a precise indication of the level of discontent, combativity and consciousness within the class. In particular, there is a much more significant indicator of the proletariat's state of mind and fighting potential: the pore and more massive distrust towards the unions, expressed notably in an accelerated decline in membership.

12) If the present phenomenon of de-unionization is so important, it's because of the specific role of trade unionism today as the spearhead of the bourgeois ploy of the left in opposition.

While the political parties of the left naturally have a central role in the strategy of the left in power or as a candidate for power (as in the mid-‘70s), the strategy of the left in opposition is characterized by a language and a practice which claims to directly express the workers' demands and preoccupations, and therefore bases itself principally on the bourgeois institutions closest to the daily life of the workers and present in the workplace: the unions.

Faced with the two vital necessities of the workers' struggle, extension and self-organization, it's the task of the unions:

-- to disorient the workers, to develop among them a feeling of powerlessness through the division between different union federations or between the ‘base' and the ‘leadership';

-- to imprison and isolate struggles on the corporatist, sectoral or localist terrain;

-- to put forward, against the danger of a real extension, a false extension which aims to drown the most combative nuclei, as was done in Belgium in September ‘83, or which presents extension as something limited to a particular industrial branch (miners' strike in GB) or even to the different factories of one enterprise (Renault in October ‘85);

-- to prevent any spontaneous outbreak of struggle, any tendency towards self-organization, by acting in advance to call for demobilizing forms of ‘action' and by putting themselves at the head of movements as soon as they arise. This tactic of the bourgeoisie, which aims at occupying the workers' terrain and is the essent­ial component of the strategy of the left in opposition, has been widely used in 1985. At the present time it constitutes a real political offensive of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. The proletariat cannot avoid this political battle being imposed upon it. It cannot and must not allow the left parties and unions to maneuver freely on the terrain of the defense of its living standards, but must resolutely and systematically oppose and confront these maneuvers. Revolutionaries must put themselves in the front ranks of this political combat, imposing their presence on the workers' terrain by putting forward the necessity for extension and self-organization and by denounc­ing the obstacles and maneuvers of the unions.

It's through the proletariat repeatedly confront­ing these maneuvers, notably in the metropoles where the most experienced sector of the prolet­ariat confronts the most experienced sectors of the bourgeoisie, the ones capable of putting forward the most sophisticated traps, that the class will be able to develop the weapon of the mass strike, to extend and generalize its combats on an international scale and to launch the decisive confrontations with capitalism, the battles of the revolutionary period.

13) For all these reasons the present develop­ment of distrust for the unions is an essent­ial element in the balance of forces between the classes and thus of the whole historic sit­uation. However this distrust is itself partly responsible for the reduction in the number of struggles in different countries, particularly where the unions have been most discredited (as in France following the accidental arrival in power of the left in 1981). When the workers have for decades clung to the illusion that they can only wage the struggle in the frame­work of the trade unions and with their support, the loss of confidence in these organs leads them to resort to passivity in answer to the so-called ‘calls for struggle' coming from the unions. This is precisely the game the unions are playing more and more: incapable of any long-­term mobilization of the workers behind their banners and slogans, they are skillfully using the passivity and skepticism with which their appeals are met with the aim of transforming this passivity into demoralization - of particip­ating, in their own way, in the campaign about the ‘disappearance of the class struggle' which seeks to undermine the proletariat's confidence in itself (even though the unions, of course, claim to be the real defenders of this struggle). In this sense, the passivity many workers, incl­uding the more combative ones, display towards the ‘actions' called by the unions (strikes and demonstrations), while perfectly explicable and expressing a necessary loss of illusions in trade unionism, should not be seen as being positive in itself, since this response is exactly what the bourgeoisie wants to get from the workers at this time. The only way workers can spring this trap - and revolutionaries must encourage them in this - is not to turn away from these kind of actions but on the contrary use every opportunity for workers to assemble together around issues affecting their class interests, even when they derive from union maneuvers, partici­pating in them as actively and as massively as possible in order to transform them into places expressing the unity of the class beyond sectoral divisions, the combativity and determination of the proletariat, as was the case for example with the May 1st demonstrations in Hamburg. Just as there is no principle that revolutionar­ies should refuse to call workers to movements ‘launched' by the unions, calling for workers to be present in such movements is not a recipe that can be applied in all circumstances, but has to be evaluated according to the immediate possibilities for transforming these actions, recognizing that the conditions for doing this are coming together more and more.

Because of the enormous discontent developing in the class which can only grow as a new round of capitalist attacks is unleashed in response to the coming recession; because of the consid­erable fighting potential accumulating; at a profound level, whose strength could be seen recently in the railway strikes in France; because the extension of struggles is being felt as an imperious necessity by a growing mass of workers - any manifestation of real workers combativity, any determined attempt to extend the struggle is, and will be more and more, pregnant with very wide-scale class move­ments. And it's principally in the face of the obstacles the unions put in the path of such movements, and of their search for extension, that the necessity for self-organization is being imposed more and more on the workers in the great capitalist metropoles, notably in Western Europe.

14) The question of the extension of struggles, of going beyond sectoral and professional barriers, is therefore at the centre of the perspective for the class struggle in the present period. And it's through the generalization of           the capitalist attack to all sectors of the class that the conditions for a response to this question are developing. The present growth in the number of unemployed, on a scale unknown for half a century, and which is the most striking result of this generalized attack, is a powerful factor in the maturation of these conditions, to the degree that:

-- it's the whole working class, and not just the unemployed workers, which is hit by unemployment, notably by a drop in living standards brought to many working class families when they have to support one or more unemployed members;

-- unemployment does away with sectoral divisions simply because the workers are ejected from the place of production, and this also has the conse­quence of a lesser degree of containment by the union apparatus;

-- through the absolute impoverishment that it represents, unemployment indicates the future that lies in store for the whole working class and thus raises the perspective of a struggle for the overthrow of capitalism.

In fact, just like the dizzying ascent of militarism, but in a way that is much more directly grasped by the workers, the irrevers­ible growth of unemployment is an irrefutable indication that capitalism has become an aberration, which plunges the masses into misery not because it produces too little but because it produces...too much. More generally, the ejection from wage labor of a growing; mass of workers demonstrates the total bankruptcy of a mode of production whose historic role was precisely to extend wage labor.

For all these reasons, unemployment will more and more constitute an essential factor in the development of consciousness throughout the class of what's really at stake in the struggles it is waging, of the fact that it has the hist­oric task of abolishing a system that leads to such aberrations.

In this sense, unemployment is going to play, more slowly but in a much more profound manner, the same role as the war did in the emergence of the revolution in Russia and Germany in 1917-18. Furthermore, the unemployed workers will more and more tend to be at the front line of the class struggle, playing a role comparable to that of the soldiers in the Russian revolution of 1917. Against therefore what is claimed by the bourgeoisie and by certain particularly myopic revolutionaries, and even if it can initially create a certain disarray in the class, unemployment is in no way a factor that atten­uates the class struggle. On the contrary, it will be an essential element in its development right up to the revolutionary period.

15) The ultimate perspective contained within the workers' struggles of today is the revolutionary confrontation with capitalism. The present situation has an enormous potential for giving rise to proletarian movements.

The total bankruptcy of capitalism revealed by the years of truth, just as it leads to an acceleration of history at the level of inter‑imperialist antagonisms, also does so at the level of the class struggle. This is expressed in particular by the fact that the moments of retreat in the struggle (as in ‘81-82) are getting shorter and shorter, whereas the culminating point of each wave of combats is situated at a higher level than the previous one. And this accumulation of the experience of struggle by the proletariat, as well as the proximity between each experience, is an essential element in the coming to consciousness of the whole class about what's really at stake in its struggles. This is why revolutionaries have to be particularly vigilant about the potentialit­ies of the present period and take great care not to underestimate this potential.

However, this does not mean that we have already entered into the phase of combats leading directly to the revolutionary period. This is still a long way ahead of us. This is because of the slow rhythm of the realization of the irreversible collapse of capitalism, and the bourgeoisie's formidable capacity for politi­cal resistance in the decisive centers of the world-historic situation - the great metropoles of capitalism, especially Western Europe.

But these aren't the only elements. In order to understand the present situation, and the one which is to come, we also have to take into account the characteristics of the proletariat that is waging the struggle today:

-- it's composed of workers' generations who haven't gone through a defeat, unlike those who reached their maturity in the ‘30s and during World War 2; because the bourgeoisie hasn't managed to inflict a decisive defeat on them, their reserves of combativity are still intact;

-- these generations have the benefit of an irreversible wearing-out of the great mystifications which in the past have made it possible to mobilize the proletariat for imper­ialist war (fatherland, civilization, democracy, anti-fascism, defense of the USSR, etc) .

These two essential characteristics explain why the present historic course is towards class confrontations and not towards imperialist war. However, that which makes for the present strength of the proletariat also makes for its weakness: precisely because this generation hasn't known defeat and is able to re-discover the road of class struggle, there exists be­tween these generations and those which fought the last decisive combats in the ‘20s, an enormous gulf for which the proletariat today is paying a heavy price:

-- a considerable ignorance of its own past and lessons;

-- the absence of a revolutionary party.

These characteristics explain in particular the highly uneven course of the present workers' struggles. They make it possible to understand the moments when the proletariat loses confidence in itself, unaware of the force it can muster against the bourgeoisie. They also show how long the path in front of the proletariat is; it can't make the revolution if it hasn't consciously integrated the experience of the past and acquired its class party.

The historic resurgence of the proletariat at the end of the ‘60s put the formation of the party on the agenda, but this could not be realized owing to:

-- the half-century gap separating us from the previous revolutionary parties;

-- the disappearance or atrophy of the left fractions which came out of them;

-- the distrust many workers have towards any political organization, whether proletarian or bourgeois, which is an expression of the danger of councillism as identified by the ICC, a translation of a historic weakness of the proletariat faced with the necessity to politicize its combat.

It is up to the revolutionary groups who exist today to actively prepare the conditions for the party, not by proclaiming themselves to be The Party or offering the working masses no other perspective than rallying to their banners, as the Bordigists like to do, but by developing a systematic work for the regroupment of revolut­ionary forces and for intervention in the class. It's through intervention in particular, by putting forward proposals for action that correspond to the needs of the class that revolutionaries will be able to prove concretely to the workers the necessity for a revolutionary organization, thus laying the foundations for the future party of the communist revolution.

Resolution adopted on

Opportunism and centrism in the period of decadence

1) There is a fundamental difference between the evolution of the parties of the bourgeoisie and the evolution of the parties of the working class. The first, because they are the political organs of a ruling class, are able to act within the working class and some of them indeed do this because they are part of the division of labor amongst the political forces of the bourgeoisie, having been given the particular task of mystify­ing the proletariat, of controlling and derailing its struggle from the inside. To this end, the bourgeoisie prefers to use former organizations of the working class which have gone over to the bourgeois camp.

On the other hand, the inverse situation of a proletarian organization acting inside the camp of the bourgeoisie can never exist. This is the case for the proletariat, as for any oppressed class, because of the place it occupies in history as an exploited class which can never be an exploiting class.                      

This reality can therefore be summarized in the following succinct affirmations:                

-- there can, must, and will always be bourgeois political organizations acting within the proletariat;                     

-- there can never exist, as the whole historical experience shows, proletarian political parties acting inside the bourgeois camp.                     

2) This is not only true for structured political parties. It's also true for the divergent polit­ical currents which may arise from within these parties. While members of existing political parties can go from one camp to another and this in both directions (from the proletariat to the bourgeoisie and from the bourgeoisie to the prol­etariat), this can only be on an individual basis. By contrast, the collective passage of a political organism that is already structured or in format­ion in the existing parties can necessarily only take place in one direction: from parties of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, and never in the opposite direction: from bourgeois parties to the proletariat. That is to say those in no case can a collection of elements deriving from a bourgeois organization evolve towards class posit­ions without a clear break with any idea of main­taining a continuity with their previous collect­ive activity in the camp of the counter-revolution. In other words: within organizations of the proletariat, there can be formed and can develop tendencies which are moving towards the political positions of the bourgeoisie and which spread bourgeois ideology within the working class. But this is absolutely excluded in organizations of the bourgeoisie.

3) The explanation of the above points resides in the essential fact that the class which is economically dominant in society is also dominant on the political and ideological level. This fact also explains:

-- the influence exerted by the ideology of the bourgeoisie on the immense majority of the working class, an ideology from which, up until the revolution, the majority can only disengage itself in a very partial manner;                   

-- the vicissitudes and difficulties of the process whereby the class as a whole becomes aware of its interests and above all of its historic being, resulting in the constant movement of its struggles through partial victories and defeats which are expressed in advances and retreats in the extension of its coming to consciousness;                              

-- the obligatory and ineluctable fact that it is only a small minority of the class which is able to disengage itself sufficiently (but not totally) from the grip of the ruling bourgeois ideology to undertake the systematic and coherent theoretical work, to elaborate the political foundations needed to fertilize the process through which the class becomes conscious, and the development of the immediate and historical struggle of the class;     

-- the indispensable and irreplaceable function given to the minorities which the class secretes, a function which cannot be performed by individuals or by little intellectual clubs, but only by elements who have raised themselves to an understanding of the tasks for which the class, in the development of its struggle, has produced them. Only by giving itself a structure, by giving birth to a centralized political organization with a militant activity in the workers' struggle, can this minority, produced by the class, carry out its function of being an active factor, a crucible in which and with which the class forges the weapons it needs for its ultimate victory;                                                                              

-- the reason why opportunist and centrist currents can manifest themselves within the exploited, revolutionary class and in the organizations of this class, and only in this class and its organizations. In this sense, to talk about opportunism and centrism (in relation to the proletariat) in the bourgeoisie makes no sense, because a ruling class will never willingly renounce its privileges in favor of the class it exploits (this is precisely what makes it a ruling class).

4) There are two sources underlying the appearance of opportunist and centrist tendencies in the working class: the pressure and influence of bourgeois ideology and the difficult process of the maturation of consciousness in the proletariat. This is expressed in particular by the main characteristic of opportunism, which consists of isolating, separating the final goals of the proletarian movement from the means which lead to them, ending up opposing one to another, whereas in fact any calling into question of the means results in a denial of the final goal, just as a any calling into question of the final goal tends to compromise the proletarian character of the means used to attain it. Since these are permanent elements in the historic confrontation between    the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, it's clear that opportunism and centrism are dangers which threaten the class in a permanent way, both in the decadent period and the ascendant period. However, just as these two sources are linked together, they are also linked in the way they affect the movement of the class, to the general evolution of capitalism and the development of its internal contradictions. Because of this, the historic phenomena of opportunism and centrism express themselves in a different manner, with greater or lesser degrees of seriousness, according to moments of this evolution and this development. 

5) While the entry of capitalism into its deca­dent phase, directly posing the necessity of the revolution, is a favorable condition that facilitates the maturation of consciousness in the working class, this maturation is not at all something automatic, mechanical, fated.

The period of the decadence of capitalism sees, on the one hand, the bourgeoisie concentrating all of its power of repression and perfecting its methods for imposing its ideology on the class; on the other hand, the consciousness of the proletariat goes through an important, urgent development, seeing that the historic alternative between socialism or barbarism is posed in an immediate manner, in all its gravity: history does not leave the proletariat an unlimited time. The period of decadence, posing the choice between imperialist war and proletarian revolution, socialism or barbarism, not only does not make opportunism and centrism disappear, but makes the struggle of the revolutionary currents against these tendencies even more sharp and bitter, in keeping with what's at stake in the situation.

6) As history has shown, the open opportunist current, because it situates itself on extreme, clear-cut positions, ends up, at decisive moments, passing definitively and irrevocably into the camp of the bourgeoisie. As for the current which situates itself between the revolutionary left and the opportunist right, a heterogeneous current constantly moving between the two and seeking to reconcile them in the name of an impossible organizational unity, it evolves according to the circumstances and vicissitudes of the struggle of the proletariat.

At the time of the oven betrayal of the opportunist current, if it coincides with a resurgence and upward movement of the class struggle, centrism can at the beginning represent a moment of passage by the working masses towards revolutionary positions. Centrism, as a structured current, organized in the form of a party, is, in favorable circ­umstances, destined to explode, its majority or a large part of it going over to the newly constituted organization of the revolutionary left, as occurred with the French Socialist Party, the Socialist Party of Italy, and the USPD in Germany in 1920-21, after the first world war and the victorious revolution in Russia.

By contrast, in a situation where the proletariat has gone through a series of major defeats, opening a course towards war, centrism is ineluctably condemned to be caught up in the spokes of the bourgeoisie and to go over to the enemy camp just like the open opportunist current.

With all the necessary firmness, the revolutionary party must be able to understand these two possible directions followed by centrism in different circumstances in order to be able to take up an adequate political attitude towards it. Not to recognize this reality leads to the same aberration as proclaiming the impossibility of the existence of opportunism and centrism within the working class in the period of the decadence of capitalism.

7) Concerning this last ‘theory', the whole history of the 3rd International and the Communist Parties is there to show its inanity, to demonstrate how absurd it is. Not only did opportunism and centrism appear within the revolutionary organization, but, strengthened by the defeats and retreat of the proletariat, centrism succeeded in dominating these parties and, after a merciless struggle over a period of years to beat down the oppositions and fractions of the communist left, in expelling the latter from all the Communist Parties. Having emptied these Parties of any class substance, it turned each one of them into organs of their respective national bourgeoisies.

The ‘theory' of the impossibility of opportunist and centrist currents existing within the proletariat in the period of decadence presupposes, in reality, that there is such a thing as a pure proletariat and pure revolutionary parties, absolutely and forever immunized and protected against any penetrations of bourgeois ideology. Such a ‘theory' is not only an aberration but is based on an abstract, idealist vision of the class and its organizations. It resembles the ‘Coue' method (consoling oneself by saying ‘I'm getting better every day') and resolutely turns its back on marxism. Far from strengthening the revolutionary current, it weakens it by obscuring this real danger which threatens it, by turning its attent­ion away from the indispensable vigilance against this danger.

The ICC must fight with all its energy against such ‘theories' in general, and within its own ranks in particular, because they only permit centrism to camouflage itself behind a radical phraseology, which, by vaunting its programmatic ‘purity', can only isolate revolutionary organizations from the real movement of the struggle of their class.

Rejected resolution on

Centrism and proletarian political organizations

1) Academic debate on the question of centrism is impossible. As a concept, centrism was born and has developed in the workers' movement in the face of the necessity to demarcate the pol­itical forces present in the class struggle, in particular with a view to the constitution of class parties in the present epoch of wars and revolutions. It is no accident if this question is today posed, once again, in the ICC, in a period where decisive class confrontations are on the horizon, and so also the perspect­ive of a new class party: on the reply to this question will depend the nature of the party tomorrow, and the attitude of revolutionary groups today in preparing this perspective. The practical experience of the 3rd Internat­ional's tragic collapse, followed by the fiasco of the so-called ‘4th International', the theoretical framework of the nature of the working class, the decadence of capitalism, and state capitalism as capitalism's mode of existence in the present period, provide the proletariat with all the necessary material for criticizing the concept of centrism and its implications.

2) Because of its condition within capital­ism as an exploited and revolutionary class that bears within it capitalism's destruction, the proletariat is constantly subjected to two contradictory tendencies:

-- its own movement towards consciousness of its situation and of its historical destiny;

-- the ideological pressure of the dominant bourgeoisie, which tends to destroy its consciousness.

These two irreconcilable tendencies determine the uneven character of the class struggle, which goes through successive advances or revolutionary attempts, and retreats or counter­revolutions, and in which there appear vanguard minorities organized in groups, fractions or parties, called on to catalyze the class' movement towards its consciousness.

The proletariat can only have one conscious­ness: a revolutionary consciousness; but, because it is born in bourgeois society, and can only liberate itself when it disappears as a class, its consciousness is a developing pro­cess, never completed in capitalism, permanent­ly confronting the bourgeois ideology that impregnates the whole of society.

This situation determines the dynamic of the proletariat's political organizations: either they fulfill their function of developing class consciousness against bourgeois ideology, and are situated practically in the proletarian camp, or they succumb to bourgeois ideology, and are integrated practically into the bourg­eois camp.

3) The demarcation of camps among political organizations is itself a developing historic­al process, determined by the objective condi­tions of the development of capitalism and of the proletariat within it. Since the beginn­ing of the workers' movement, a process of decantation has occurred this has progressive­ly shrunk and demarcated the proletarian terrain.

At the time of the 1st international, the development of capitalism was still characterized, even in the heart of Europe, by the introduction of large scale industrial product­ion and the formation of the industrial proletariat from the declining artisans and the dispossessed peasantry. At this stage of the development of the proletariat and of its consciousness, the frontiers of the workers' movement could still contain such dissimilar currents as Bakuninist anarchism and Proudhon­ism, issued from the petty bourgeois and peasant past, Blanquism, anchored in the Jacobin intelligentsia, Mazzinism with its program of radical republicanism, and marxism, the developed expression of the revolutionary proletariat.

At the time of the 2nd International, the end of the period of national revolutions and of the childhood of the industrial proletar­iat had considerably reduced the frontiers of the workers' movement, by obliging the prolet­ariat to constitute itself as a distinct polit­ical party, in opposition to all the bourgeois and petty bourgeois currents. But the necessity of struggling for reforms within ascendant cap­italism, the coexistence of the ‘minimum' and ‘maximum' programs during this period, allow­ed certain currents like an anarcho-syndicalism, centrism and opportunism to exist in the prol­etarian political camp alongside revolutionary marxism.

In the present epoch of capitalist decadence, in the era of state capitalism, of the integr­ation of the mass parties and trade unions into the cogs of the state capitalist machine, of the impossibility of reforms in a situation of permanent crisis and of the objective nece­ssity of the communist revolution - an epoch opened by the first world war - the proletar­ian political camp is definitively limited to revolutionary marxism. The different opportun­ist and centrist tendencies, with their pro­gram of parliamentarism and legalism, with their strategy of attrition, based on the mass parties and trade unions, have passed irrevocably into the capitalist camp. The same is true of any organization that abandons in any way the terrain of the world revolution, as was to be the case for the 3rd International with the adoption of ‘socialism in one country', and for Trotsky­ism with its ‘critical' support for the second world war.

4) The question that revolutionary marxism must ask itself, faced with the historical phenomenon of opportunism and centrism, is not whether or not proletarian organizations are threatened by the penetration of bourgeois ideology, but how to understand the particular conditions in which the latter could give rise to the existence of currents distinct both from revolutionary marxism and from the bourgeoisie. The workings class and its organizations - however clear they are - are by their very nature always penetrated by bourgeois ideology. This penetration takes on the most varied forms, and it would be serious­ly underestimating it to search out only one of its forms. The outcome of the combat be­tween class consciousness and bourgeois ideol­ogy in an organization is either the develop­ment of the former against the latter, or the destruction of the former by the latter. In the epoch of capitalist decadence, when class antagonisms are expressed in a clear-cut manner, this means: either the development of the revolutionary program or capitulation to the bourgeoisie.

The possibility of a ‘third path' during ascendant capitalism - ie the existence of' currents and positions that were neither truly bourgeois nor truly revolutionary within the workers' movement - was the result of the room left by an expanding capitalism for the proletariat's permanent struggle to improve its living conditions within the system, with­out it putting the latter into danger. Opport­unism - the policy that sought immediate success to the detriment of principles, ie the preconditions of the final success - and centrism - a variation of opportunism, trying to reconcile the latter with a reference to marxism - developed as political forms of the reformist disease that gangrened the workers' movement during this epoch. Their objective basis lay, not in any fundamental differentiation of economic interests within the prol­etariat, as Lenin's theory of the ‘workers aristocracy' put it, but in the permanent apparatuses of the trade unions and mass parties, which were tending to become institut­ions within the framework of the system, integrated into the capitalist state, and separated from the class struggle. When capitalism entered its period of decadence, these organizations moved definitively into the capitalist camp, and with them went the reformist, opportunist and centrist currents.

Henceforth, the immediate alternative posed for the working class is revolution or counter-rev­olution, socialism or barbarism. Reformism, opportunism and centrism have lost all objective reality inside the workers' movement, since their material base - the winning of reforms and immediate successes without any struggle for the revolution, and the corresponding mass organizations - no longer exists. All policies that aim at immediate success while distancing themselves from the revolution have become, from the proletarian point of view, an illusion and not an objective reality, they represent a direct capitulation to the bourgeoisie, a counter-revolutionary policy. All the historical examples of such policies in the epoch of decadence, such as the Commun­ist International's ‘going to the masses', show that, far from leading to immediate success, they lead to complete failure, the betrayal of organizations and the defeat of the revolution in the case of the CI. This does not mean that any proletarian organization that degenerates passes over immediately as such to the bourgeoisie; outside the crucial moments of war and revolution, capitulation to the bourgeoisie may be partial and progressive, as the history of Bordigism shows. But this does not change the general characteristic of the process, the permanent contradiction between revolution and counter-revolution, the denaturation of the first into the second, without passing by ideologies of an intermediary type, as were opportunism and centrism.

5) The thesis developed by Trotsky in the 1930s, and taken up again today by the ICC, according to which opportunism and centrism represent in their essence the penetration of bourgeois ideology, defined simply in terms of ‘political behavior' (lack of firmness in principles, hesitation, attempts to reconcile antagonistic positions), within the organizations of the proletariat, is a radical departure from marxism's historical materialist method:

-- from materialism, because it stands reality on its head by considering political currents as the result of behavior, instead of considering behavior the result of political curr­ents, defined by their relationship to the class struggle;

-- from history, because it replaces the whole general evolution of the proletariat and its organizations by fixed categories of particul­ar types of behavior, which are unable to explain this historical evolution.

Its consequences are disastrous for a whole series of essential aspects of the revolution­ary program:

(1) By placing the origins of the weaknesses of the proletarian organizations in a hesitat­ing behavior, it opposes to this another behavior - will to action - and so bases its perspective on determination, a deviation typical of Trotskyism in the 1930s.

(2) Applied to the epoch of capitalist decad­ence, it leads to the rehabilitation into the proletarian camp, of the ‘centrist' current, and thereby of the Social-Democracy after its participation in WW1 and the crushing of the post-war revolution, of Stalinism after the adoption of ‘socialism in one country', and of Trotskyism after its participation in WW2; in other words, to the abandoning of the objective criterion of internationalism, of participation in war or revolution to demarcate the proletar­ian and the bourgeois camps; to the recognition of nationalist positions - such as ‘socialism in one country' for Stalinism, or the Trotsky­ist ‘critical support' for imperialist war - as expressions of the proletariat.

(3) As a result, it alters, amongst other things, all the lessons drawn from the revolut­ionary wave, and justifies, however critically, the policy of opening the 3rd International to the counter-revolutionary elements and parties of the Social-Democracy, thereby constituting a serious danger for the revolution and the party of tomorrow.

(4) In the final analysis, it implies a call­ing into question of the revolutionary nature of the proletariat and of its consciousness, since, if centrism designates all cohabitation of contradictory positions, then the proletar­iat and its organizations are always and by nature centrist, since the proletariat necessarily drags with it the marks of the society in which it exists, of bourgeois ideology, while at the same time affirming its revolutionary project.

6) The truth of a theory lies in practice. The application of the concept of centrism by the 3rd International in the formation of the communist parties of Europe, and by the Trotsky­ist Left Opposition in the formation of the so-called ‘4th International', provides the defin­itive historical demonstration of its bankrupt­cy in the epoch of capitalist decadence. Its lack of clarity on the henceforward bourgeois nature of ‘centrism' led the CI into a policy of compromise with the counter-revolutionary Social-Democratic tendencies and parties, by opening the doors of the International to them, as was the case in Germany where the KPD had to amalgamate with the USPD, or in France, where the PCF was formed with the SFIO which had participated in the ‘Sacred Union' during the war. In the same way, Trotsky's conception of centrism dragged him into a voluntarist policy of building a new International and of entryism into the counter-revolutionary Social Democracy. In both cases, these policies accelerated the deaths of the CI and of Trot­skyism in a spectacular way.

The fact that the communist lefts continued to use the term ‘centrism' and ‘opportunism' is in no way a proof of their adequacy, but an expression of the Left's difficulty in immed­iately drawing all the theoretical lessons of the experience they had just been through. The Lefts were at least clear on the main point, ie the counter-revolutionary function assumed by the currents described as ‘centrist', but their analysis was weakened by their resort to concepts applicable to the degeneration of the 2nd International. As witnesses, we can call the untenable positions of Bilan on the dual­ity between Stalinism's (proletarian) ‘nature' and (counter-revolutionary) ‘function' after 1927, and on the description of the USSR as a ‘proletarian state' right up to WW2.

7) An organization's class nature is determ­ined by the historical function that it fulfils in the class struggle, for an organization does not emerge as a passive reflection of a class, but as one of its active organs. Any criterion based solely on the presence of workers (as for Trotskyism) or of revolution­aries (as for the ICC today) within an organization, to determine its class nature, is derived from idealist subjectivism and not from historical materialism. The passage of a proletarian organization into the camp of the bourgeoisie is essentially an objective phenomenon, independent of the consciousness that revolutionaries may have of it at the time, because it means that the organization confronts the proletariat as part of the objective, adverse conditions of capitalist society, and that it thus escapes from the subjective action of the proletariat. The continued presence of workers, and even sometimes temporarily of revolutionary fract­ions within it, is in no way contradictory with this fact, since the function that it then fulfils for the bourgeoisie is precise­ly that of controlling the proletariat.

There exist decisive historical criteria that mark the passage of an organization into the capitalist camp: the abandonment of internation­alism, the participation in war or counter­revolution. For the Social Democracy, and the trade unions, this passage took place during WW1, for the CI with the adoption of ‘socialism in one country', for the Trotskyist current during WW2. Once this passage has taken place, the organization is definitively dead for the proletariat, since henceforward, the principle that Marx put forward against the capitalist state, of which it is now a part, must be applied to it: it cannot be conquered, it must be destroyed.

The death of an International means the simul­taneous betrayal of all or the majority of the parties of which it is comprised, through the abandoning of internationalism and the adoption of a nationalist policy. But because these parties are each integrated into a national capitalist state, exceptions may exist, deter­mined by specific national conditions, as was the case in the 2nd International. These exce­ptions, which were not repeated during the collapse of the 3rd International with the unanimous adoption by the CPs of Stalinist nationalism, in no way disprove the general rule, nor the necessity for these parties to break completely with the policies of their one-time ‘fraternal' parties. For a certain time, there may continue to exist within the latter revolutionary currents or fractions which have not managed to understand immediate­ly the change in situation, and which are led later on to break with the party that has gone over to the counter-revolution: this was the case with the Spartakists in Germany, first in the SPD and then in the USPP. This process has nothing in common with the impossible birth of a proletarian organization from a bourgeois organization: these parties break organizationally with the party that has gone over to the bourgeoisie, but represent the programmatic continuity of the old party from which they were born. This expresses the general phenom­enon of the lag of consciousness behind object­ive reality, which appears even when these fractions have left the party: thus, even though all the left fractions had been exclud­ed from the CI by 1927, the Italian fraction continued to analyze the CI and the CPs as proletarian until 1933 and 1935 respectively, and a large minority within it continued to defend the reference to the CP after the analysis of the latter's death in 1935.

8) The subjectivist method that takes the continued presence of revolutionaries within an organization as a criterion of its class nature completely disarms revolutionaries in the formation of the party. For revolutionaries fight to the end to keep a party for the prol­etariat, and if their mere presence within it is enough to save the party for the proletar­iat, this means there can be no reason for them to break with an organization until they are excluded. This circular reasoning boils down to leaving the initiative to the enemy. On the one hand, it encourages the over-hasty condem­nation of a party in the case of an early ex­clusion, but on the other, it paralyses revol­utionaries in the opposite case where a party that has gone over to the bourgeoisie is ready to keep revolutionaries within it as a warranty of its ‘working class' appearance, as was the case with the USPD and a whole series of Social Democratic parties in the revolutionary movement at the beginning of the century. By suppressing the objective criteria of parties' class nature, it also suppresses the objective necessity of the formation of the revolutionary party. And so the circle is closed: the theory of centrism produces the ‘centrism' that it claims to describe and combat, and thereby engenders itself in a vicious circle which can only lead to the conclusion that the working class and its consciousness are centr­ist by nature.

9) When it arrives at these conclusions, the theory of centrism as a permanent disease with­in the workers' movement appears for what it is: a capitulation to the bourgeois ideology that it claims to combat, a refusal to draw the lessons of historical experience, an alteration of the revolutionary program. The rejection of this theory, the continuation of the marxist analysis of the lessons of the past and the conditions of the class struggle in the present epoch on the basis of the work of the communist lefts, and the recognition of the impossibility of centrism in this epoch, is the opposite of a disarmament of the revol­utionary organization faced with bourgeois ideology; it is its indispensable armament for combating this ideology in all its forms, and for preparing the formation of a real revolut­ionary party.

[1] ‘Less better but better' was a term figuring in the activities resolution of the 5th Congress of ICC (cf IR 35).

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