Orientation Text 2001: Confidence and solidarity in the proletarian struggle, Part 2

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We are publishing below the second part of an orientation text submitted for discussion in the ICC in the summer of 2001, and adopted by our organisation’s Extraordinary Conference in March 2002.[1] The first part of this text was published in International Review n°111, and dealt with the following points:

-     The effects of the counter-revolution on the self-confidence and the traditions of solidarity of today’s proletarian generations.

-     The effects within the ICC of weaknesses in confidence and solidarity.

-     The role of confidence and solidarity in the rise of humanity.

4. The dialectic of the self-confidence of the working class: Past, present, future.

Since the proletariat is the first class in society with a conscious historical vision, it is understandable that the bases of its confidence in its own mission are also historical, incorporating the entirety of its process of coming to being. This is why, in particular, this confidence is based to a decisive degree on the future, and thus on a theoretical understanding. And this is why the strengthening of theory is the privileged weapon in overcoming the ICC’s congenital weaknesses on the question of confidence. Confidence by definition is always confidence in the future. The past cannot be changed; therefore there is no question of confidence being directed towards it.

Every ascendant, revolutionary class bases confidence in its specific mission not only on its present strength, but also on its past experiences and achievements, and on its future goals. Nevertheless, the confidence of the revolutionary classes of the past, and the bourgeoisie in particular, was mainly rooted in the present - in the economic and political power it had already gained within the existing society. Since the proletariat can never possess such a power within capitalism, there can never be such a predominance of the present. Without the capacity to learn from its past experience, and without a real clarity and conviction in relation to its class goal, it can never gain the self-confidence to overcome class society. In this sense the working class is, more than any other before it, an historical class in the full sense of the word. The past, present and future are the three indispensable components of its self-confidence. No wonder therefore that Marxism, the scientific weapon of the proletarian revolution, was called by its founders historical or dialectical materialism.

a) This pre-eminent role of the future does not at all eliminate the role of the present in the dialectic of the class struggle. Precisely because the proletariat is an exploited class, it needs to develop its collective struggle for the class as a whole to become aware of its real strength and future potential. This necessity for the whole class to gain confidence is a completely new problem in the history of class society. The self-confidence of the revolutionary classes of the past, which were exploiting classes, was always based on a clear hierarchy within that class and within society as a whole. It was based on the capacity to command, to submit other parts of society to their own will, and thus on the control over the productive and the state apparatus. Indeed, it is a characteristic of the bourgeoisie that even in its revolutionary phase it got other social strata to do the fighting for it, and that once in power it “delegates” more and more of its tasks to paid servants.

The proletariat cannot delegate its historic task to anybody. This is why the class must develop its self-confidence. And it is why confidence in the proletariat is always necessarily confidence in the class as a whole, never just in one part of the class.

Because it is an exploited class the proletariat’s confidence has a fluctuating and even erratic character, ebbing and flowing with the movement of the class struggle. Moreover, revolutionary political organisations are themselves profoundly affected by these ups and downs, to the extent that the way they organise, regroup and intervene in the class largely depends on this movement. And as we know, in periods of profound defeat only tiny minorities have been able to maintain their confidence in the class.

But these fluctuations in confidence are not only linked to the vicissitudes of the class struggle. As an exploited class, the proletariat may fall victim to a crisis of self-confidence at any moment, even in the heat of revolutionary struggles. The proletarian revolution “constantly interrupts itself in its own course, coming back to what apparently has already been achieved, in order to begin with it again” etc. In particular it “always shrinks back again and again in face of the undefined enormity of its own intention” as Marx said.A

The Russian Revolution of 1917 shows clearly that not only the class as a whole, but also the revolutionary party can be affected by such waverings. In fact, between February and October 1917, the Bolsheviks went through several crises of confidence in the capacity of the class to fulfil the tasks of the moment. Crises which culminated in the panic which gripped the Bolshevik Central Committee in the face of the insurrection.

The Russian Revolution is thus the best illustration of why the deepest roots of the confidence of the proletariat, as opposed to that of the bourgeoisie, can never lie in the present. During those dramatic months, it was above all Lenin who embodied the unswerving confidence in the class without which no victory is possible. And he did so because he never for a moment abandoned the theoretical and historical method that is the hallmark of Marxism.

Nevertheless, the mass struggle of the proletariat is an indispensable moment in the development of revolutionary confidence. At the present moment it is the key to the whole historical situation. By permitting a re-conquest of class identity, it is the precondition for the class as a whole to re-assimilate the lessons of the past and redevelop a revolutionary perspective.

Therefore, as with the question of class consciousness, with which it is intimately linked, we must distinguish two dimensions of this confidence: the historical, theoretical, programmatic and organisational accumulation of confidence, represented by revolutionary organisations, and, more broadly, by the historic process of subterranean maturation within the class, and the degree and extension of self confidence in the class as a whole at any given moment.

b) The contribution of the past to this confidence is no less indispensable. Firstly because history contains irrefutable proofs of the working class’ revolutionary potential. The bourgeoisie itself understands the importance of these past examples for its class enemy, which is why it unceasingly attacks this heritage, and above all the October Revolution of 1917.

Secondly, one of the factors most likely to reassure the proletariat after a defeat, is its  capacity to correct past errors and to draw the lessons of history. As opposed to the bourgeois revolution, which goes from one victory to the next, the final victory of the proletariat is prepared through a series of defeats. The proletariat is thus able to transform past defeats into elements of confidence in the future. This was one of the main bases of the confidence that Bilan maintained in the depth of the counter-revolution. Indeed, the deeper confidence in the class is, the more courage revolutionaries have to mercilessly criticise their own weaknesses and those of the class, the less need they have of consoling themselves, the more they are characterised by sober lucidity and the absence of senseless euphoria. As Rosa Luxemburg repeated again and again, the task of revolutionaries is to say what is.

Thirdly, continuity, the capacity to pass on lessons from one generation to the next, has always been fundamental for the cultivation of mankind’s self-confidence. The devastating effects of the counter-revolution of the 20th century on the proletariat is the negative proof of this. It is therefore all the more important for us today to study the lessons of history, in order to pass on our own experience and that of the whole working class to the generations of revolutionaries who will follow us.

c) But it is the future perspective that offers the most profound basis for our confidence in the proletariat. That might seem paradoxical. How is it possible to base confidence on something that does not yet exist? But this perspective does exist. It exists as a conscious goal, as a theoretical construction, in the same way as the building to be constructed already exists in the head of the architect. Before building it in practice, the proletariat is already the architect of communism.

We have already seen that together with the proletariat as an independent force in history there appeared the perspective of communism: the collective ownership, not of the means of consumption, but of the means of production. This idea was the product of the separation of the producers from the means of production through wage labour, and of the socialisation of labour. In other words it was a product of the proletariat, of its position in capitalist society. Or as Engels put it in Anti-Dühring, the main contradiction at the heart of capitalism is that between two social principles, a collective one at the basis of modern production, represented by the proletariat, and an individual, anarchic one based on the private ownership of the means of production, represented by the bourgeoisie.

The communist perspective already arose before the proletarian struggle had revealed its revolutionary potential. What these events therefore clarified was that only the workers’ struggles can lead to communism. But the perspective itself existed beforehand. It was not mainly based either on the past or present lessons of the proletarian combat. And even in the 1840s, when Marx and Engels began to transform socialism from a utopia to a science, the class had not given much proof of its revolutionary might.

This means that from the onset theory was itself a weapon of the class struggle. And until the defeat of the revolutionary wave, as we have said, this vision of its historical role was crucial in giving the class the confidence to confront capital.

Thus, alongside the immediate struggle and the lessons of the past, revolutionary theory is an indispensable factor of confidence, of its development in depth in particular, but in the long run also in its extension. Since the revolution can only be a conscious act, it cannot be victorious unless revolutionary theory conquers the masses.

In the bourgeois revolution, the perspective was not much more than a projection of the mind of the past and present evolution: the gradual conquest of power within the old society. To the extent that the bourgeoisie developed theories of the future, they turned out to be crude mystifications which mainly had the task of inflaming revolutionary passions. The unrealistic character of these visions did not damage the cause they served. For the proletariat on the contrary, the future is the point of departure. Because it cannot gradually build its class power within capitalism, theoretical clarity is a most indispensable weapon.

Classical idealist philosophy always postulated that humanity lives in two different worlds, the material world, in which necessity rules, and the world of the mind or the spirit, in which freedom reigns.

Notwithstanding the necessity to reject the assumption of the two worlds to which, according to Plato and Kant, humanity belongs, it is nevertheless correct, that human beings live simultaneously in two different worlds (...) The two worlds, in which humanity live, are the past and the future. The present is the border between them. His whole experience lies in the past. (…) There is nothing in it he can change; all he can do is accept its necessity. Thus the world of experience, the world of recognition is also the world of necessity. It is different with the future. I do not have the least experience of it. It lies apparently free ahead of me, as a world which I cannot explore on the basis of knowledge, but in which I have to assert myself through action. (..) Acting always means choosing between different possibilities, and even if only between acting or not acting, it means accepting and rejecting, defending and attacking. (…) But not only the feeling of freedom is a precondition of action, but also given aims. If the world of the past is governed by the relation between cause and effect (causality), that of action, of the future, by purposefulness (teleology).B

Already before Marx, it was Hegel who theoretically resolved the problem of the relation between necessity and freedom, between the past and the future. Freedom consists in doing what is necessary, Hegel said. In other words, it is not by revolting against the laws of motion of the world, but through understanding them and employing them to his own ends that man enlarges his sphere of freedom. Blind is necessity only to the extent that it is not understood”.C Similarly, it is necessary for the proletariat to understand the laws of motion of history in order to be able to fulfil its class mission. It is Marxist theory, this science of the revolution, which gives the class the means, and with it the confidence, to understand and thus fulfil this mission. Thus, if the science, and with it the confidence, of the bourgeoisie was to a large extent based on a growing understanding of the laws of nature, the science and the confidence of the working class is based on the understanding of society and history.

As MC[2] showed in one a classic defence of Marxism on this question, it is the future which must predominate over past and present in a revolutionary movement, because this is what determines its direction. The predominance of the present invariably leads to vacillations, creating an enormous vulnerability for the influence of the petty bourgeoisie, the personification of vacillation. The predominance of the past leads to opportunism and thus the influence of the bourgeoisie as the bastion of modern reaction. In both cases, it is the loss of the long-term view that leads to the loss of revolutionary direction.

As Marx said: The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future.D

From this we must conclude that immediatism is the main enemy of confidence in the proletariat, not only because the road to communism is long and torturous, but also because this confidence is rooted in theory and the future, whereas immediatism is capitulation to the present, the worship of the immediate facts. Throughout history, immediatism has been the leading factor in the disorientation of the workers movement. It has been at the root of all the tendencies to put “the movement before the goal” as Bernstein put it, and thus to abandon class principles. Whether it takes the form of opportunism, as with the revisionists at the turn of the century or with the Trotskyists in the 1930s, or of adventurism as with the Independents in 1919 and the KPD in 1921 in Germany, this petty bourgeois political impatience always amounts to betraying the future for a bowl of lentils, to use the biblical image. At the root of this folly there is always a loss of confidence in the class.

In the historical ascent of the proletariat, past, present and future form a unity. At the same time, each of these “worlds” warn us of a specific danger. The danger concerning the past is that its lessons can be forgotten. The danger of the present is that of falling victim to the immediate, the surface appearances. The danger regarding the future is that of the neglect and the weakening of theoretical efforts.

This reminds us that the defence of and development of the theoretical arms of the working class is the specific task of revolutionary organisations, and that the latter have a particular responsibility to safeguard historical confidence in the class.

5. Confidence, Solidarity and the Party Spirit are never definitive acquisitions.

As we have said, clarity and unity are the main bases of confident social action. In the case of the international proletarian class struggle, this unity is of course but a tendency, which may some day be realised through a world wide workers council. But politically, the unitary organisations, which arise in struggle, are already the expression of this tendency. Even outside of these organised expressions, workers solidarity - even when expressed at an individual level - also manifests this unity. The proletariat is the first class within which there are no conflicting economic interests, and in this sense, its solidarity announces the nature of the society it is fighting for.

However, the most important and permanent expression of class unity is the revolutionary organisation and the programme it defends. It is consequently the most developed embodiment of confidence in the proletariat - and also the most complex.

As such, confidence is at the very heart of the construction of such an organisation. Here, confidence in the proletarian mission is directly expressed in the confidence in the political programme of the class, in the Marxist method, in the historic capacity of the class, in the role of the organisation towards the class, in its principles of functioning and in the confidence of the militants and the different parts of the organisation in themselves and in each other. In particular, it is the unity of the different political and organisational principles which it defends, and the unity between the different parts of the organisation which are the most direct expressions of confidence in the class: unity of purpose and of action, of the class goal and of the means of its achievement.

The two main aspects of this confidence are political and organisational life. The first aspect is expressed through loyalty to political principles, but also through the capacity to develop Marxist theory in response to the evolution of reality. The second aspect is expressed through loyalty to the principles of proletarian functioning and the capacity to develop a real confidence and solidarity within the organisation. The result of a weakening of confidence at either of these two levels will always be to put in question the unity - and thus the existence - of the organisation.

At the organisational level, the most developed expression of this confidence, solidarity and unity is what Lenin called the party spirit. In the history of the workers movement there are three famous examples of the achievement of such a party spirit: The German Party in the 1870s and 80s, the Bolsheviks from 1903 to the Revolution, and the Italian Party and the Fraction which emerged from it after the revolutionary wave. These examples will help to show us the nature and dynamic of this party spirit, and the dangers which menace it.

a) What characterised the German Party at this level was that it based its mode of functioning on the organisational principles worked out by the First International in the struggle against Bakuninism (and Lassalleanism); that these principles were anchored throughout the party through a series of organisational struggles; and that in the combat for the defence of the organisation against state repression a tradition of solidarity between the militants and the different parts of the organisation was forged. In fact, it was during this “heroic” period of clandestinity that the German party developed the traditions of uncompromising defence of principles, of theoretical study and organisational unity which made it the natural leader of the international workers movement. The daily solidarity within its ranks was a powerful catalyst for all of these qualities. But by the turn of the century, this party spirit was almost completely dead, so that Rosa Luxemburg could declare that there is more humanity in any Siberian village than in the whole of the German party.E Indeed, long before its programmatic betrayal, the disappearance of this solidarity announced its coming betrayal.

b) But the banner of the party spirit was carried on by the Bolsheviks. Here again we find the same characteristics. The Bolsheviks inherited their organisational principles from the German Party; anchored them in each section and each member through a series of organisational struggles; forged a living solidarity through years of illegal work. Without these qualities, the Party could never have stood the test of the revolution. Although between August 1914 and October 1917 the party suffered a series of political crises, and even had to react repeatedly to the penetration of openly bourgeois positions within its ranks and its leadership (i.e. support for the war in 1914 and after February 1917), the unity of the organisation, its capacity to clarify divergences, to correct its errors and to intervene towards the class was never put in question.

c) As we know, long before the final triumph of Stalinism the party spirit was in full retreat within the Party of Lenin. But once again, the banner was carried forward, this time by the Italian Party, and afterwards by the Fraction in the face of the Stalinist counter-revolution. The party became the inheritor of the organisational principles and traditions of Bolshevism. It developed its vision of party life in the struggle against Stalinism, later enriching it with the vision and method of the Fraction. And this was done under the most terrible objective conditions, in the face of which once again a living solidarity had to be forged.

At the end of World War II, the Italian Left in turn abandoned the organisational principles that had been its hallmark. In fact, neither the semi-religious parody of collective party life developed by post-war Bordigism, nor the federalist informalism of Battaglia Comunista, have anything to do with the organisational life of the Italian Party under Bordiga. In particular, the whole conception of the Fraction has been abandoned.

It was the French Communist Left which took up the heritage of these organisational principles, and of the struggle for the party spirit. Today it falls to the ICC to perpetuate this heritage and to give it life.

d) The party spirit is never a definitive achievement. Those organisations and currents of the past that best embodied it, each went on to completely and definitively lose it. (…)

In each of the examples given, the circumstances under which this party spirit disappeared were very different. The experience of the slow degeneration of a mass party, or of the integration of a party into the state apparatus of an isolated workers’ bastion, may never be repeated. But there are nonetheless general lessons to be drawn. In each case:

-      The party spirit disappeared at an historical turning point: in Germany between ascendant and decadent capitalism, in Russia with the retreat of the revolution, and for the Italian Left between revolution and counter-revolution. Today it is the entry into the phase of decomposition which threatens the existence of the party spirit.

-      The illusion that past achievements can be definitive prevented the necessary vigilance. Lenin’s Infantile Disorder is a perfect example of this illusion. Today the overestimation of the ICC’s organisational maturity contains the same danger.

-      It was immediatism and impatience that opened the door to programmatic and organisational opportunism. The example of the Italian Left is particularly striking, since it is historically closest to us. It was the desire to at long last extend its influence and to recruit new members which prompted the Italian Left in 1943-45 to abandon the lessons of the Fraction, and the Bordigist ICP in 1980-81 to abandon some of its programmatic principles. Today the ICC in turn is faced with similar temptations linked to the evolution of the historic situation.

-      This abandonment was the expression, at the organisational level of a loss of confidence in the working class, which inevitably expressed itself at the political level also (loss of programmatic clarity). This has never to date been the case with the ICC as such. But it has always been the case with the different “tendencies” which split off from it (like the EFICC or the “Paris circle”, which have abandoned the analysis of decadence).

In the past months, it is above all the simultaneity of a weakening of our theoretical efforts and vigilance, a certain euphoria in relation to the progress of the organisation and thus a blindness towards our failings, and the resurgence of clanism which reveal the danger of the loss of the party spirit, of organisational degeneration and theoretical sclerosis. The undermining of confidence within our ranks and the inability to make decisive steps forward in the development of solidarity have been leading factors in this tendency, which potentially can eventually lead to the programmatic betrayal or to the disappearance of the organisation.

6. No Party Spirit without Individual Responsibility


After the struggle of 1993-96 against clanism, attitudes of suspicion towards the political and social relationships between comrades outside of the formal framework of meetings and mandated activities began to emerge. Friendships, love relationships, social ties and activities, gestures of personal solidarity, political and other discussions between comrades were sometimes treated in practice as necessary evils, in fact as the privileged terrain of the development of clanism. As opposed to this, the formal structures of our activities began to be considered as in some way offering a kind of guarantee against the return of clanism.

Such reactions against clanism themselves revealed an insufficient assimilation of our analysis, and a disarming in the face of this danger. As we have said, clanism partly emerged as a false response to the real problem of lack of confidence and solidarity within our ranks. Moreover, the destruction of the relations of mutual confidence and solidarity between comrades that did exist was largely the work of clanism, and the precondition for its further development. It was first and foremost clanism which undermined the spirit of friendship: real friendship is never directed against third persons, and never excludes mutual criticism. Clanism destroyed the indispensable tradition of political discussions and social links between comrades by converting them into “informal discussions” behind the back of the organisation. By increasing atomisation and demolishing confidence, by irresponsibly and excessively intervening in the personal lives of comrades while socially isolating them from the organisation, clanism undermined the natural solidarity which must be expressed in the organisation’s “duty to concern itself” with its militants’ personal difficulties.

It is impossible to fight clanism using its own weapons. It is not suspicion towards the full development of political and social life outside of the formal framework of section meetings, but real confidence in this tradition of the workers movement that makes us more resilient against clanism.

Underlying this unjustified suspicion of the “informal” life of a workers organisation is the petty bourgeois utopia of a guarantee against the circle spirit, which can only lead to the illusory dogma of a catechism against clanism. Such an approach tends to convert the statutes into rigid laws, the right of view into surveillance, and solidarity into an empty ritual.

One of the ways in which the petty bourgeois fear of the future expresses itself is through a morbid dogmatism that appears to offer protection against the danger of the unforeseen. This was what led the “old guard” of the Russian Party constantly to accuse Lenin of abandoning the principles and traditions of Bolshevism. It is a kind of conservatism that undermines the revolutionary spirit. Nobody is exempt from this danger, as is shown by the debate in the Socialist International on the Polish Question, where not only Wilhem Liebknecht, but, to some extent, Engels also adopted this attitude when Rosa Luxemburg asserted the necessity of calling into question the old position of support for Polish independence.

In reality, clanism, precisely because it is an emanation of unstable, intermediary layers without any future, is not only capable, but actually condemned to take on ever changing forms and characteristics. History shows that clanism not only takes the form of the informalism of the boheme and the parallel structures much loved by the declassed, but is equally capable of using the official structures of the organisation and the appearance of petty bourgeois formalism and routinism in order to promote its parallel policies. Whereas in an organisation where the party spirit is weak and the spirit of contestation is strong, an informal clan has the best chance of success, in a more rigorous atmosphere, where there is a strong confidence in the central organs, a formalistic appearance and the adaptation of the official structures can perfectly correspond to the needs of clanism.

In reality, clanism contains both sides of this coin. Historically, it is condemned to vacillate between these two apparently mutually exclusive poles. In the case of Bakunin’s policy we find both of them contained in a “higher synthesis”: the absolute individual anarchist freedom proclaimed by the official Alliance, and the blind confidence and obedience demanded by the secret Alliance:

Like the Jesuits, but with the goal, not of the servitude but of the emancipation of the people, each of them has renounced his own will. In the Committee, as in the whole organisation, it is not the individual which thinks, wants and acts, but the whole”, writes Bakunin. What characterises this organisation, he continues, is “the blind confidence offered it by known and respected personalities”.F

It is clear which role social relationships are called on to play in such an organisation: “All feelings of affection, the mollycoddling sentiments of closeness, friendship, love, thankfulness have to be suffocated in him through the sole cold passion of the revolutionary task.”G

Here, we see clearly that monolithism is not an invention of Stalinism, but is already contained in the clannish lack of confidence in the historic task, collective life and proletarian solidarity. For us, there is nothing new or surprising in this. It is the well known petty bourgeois fear of individual responsibility which nowadays drives countless highly individualistic existences into the arms of diverse sects, where they can cease to think and act for themselves.

It is truly an illusion to believe that one can combat clanism without the individual members of the organisation taking up their responsibilities. And it would be paranoiac to think that “collective” surveillance could substitute for individual conviction and vigilance in this combat. In reality, clanism incorporates the lack of confidence both in real collective life and in the possibility of real individual responsibility.

What is the difference between discussions between comrades outside of meetings, and the “informal discussions” of clanism? Is it the fact that the former, but not the latter is reported to the organisation? Yes, although it is not possible to formally report every discussion. More fundamentally, it is the attitude with which such a discussion is conducted, which is decisive. This is the party spirit that we all have to develop, because no one will do it for us. This party spirit will always remain a dead letter if militants cannot learn to have confidence in each other. Equally there can be no living solidarity without a personal commitment of each militant at this level.

If the struggle against the circle spirit depended solely on the health of the formal collective structures, there would never be a problem of clanism in proletarian organisations. Clans develop because of the weakening of vigilance and the sense of responsibility at the individual level. This is why part of the Orientation Text of 1993[3] is devoted to the identification of the attitudes against which each comrade must arm him or herself. This individual responsibility is indispensable, not only in the struggle against clanism, but for the positive development of a healthy proletarian life. In such an organisation, the militants have learnt to think for themselves, and their confidence is rooted in a deep theoretical, political and organisational understanding of the nature of the proletarian cause, not in the loyalty to or fear of this or that comrade or central committee.

The new course must begin with everyone in the apparatus - from the simple functionary to the highest ones - feeling that nobody anymore can terrorise the party. Our youth must conquer the revolutionary slogans, absorb them into their flesh and blood. They have to conquer their own opinion and a face of their own, and be able to fight for their own opinion with a courage flowing from a deep conviction and an independent character. Out of the party with passive obedience, the mechanical orientation towards those in charge, with un-personality, crawling and careerism! A Bolshevik is not only a disciplined being, no, he is a person who goes to the roots of things and forms his own solid opinion and defends it in struggle not only against the enemy, but also in his own party”.H 

And Trotsky adds: “The greatest heroism in military affairs and in the revolution is the heroism of truthfulness and of responsibility”.I

Collective and individual responsibility, far from being mutually exclusive, depend on and condition each other.

As Plekhanov argued, the elimination of the role of the individual in history is connected to a fatalism that is incompatible with Marxism.

While some subjectivists, out to endow the ’individual’ with the greatest possible role in history, have refused to recognise mankind’s historical development as a law-governed process, some of their more recent opponents, who have tried to bring out in higher relief the law-governed nature of that development, have evidently been prepared to forget that history is made by people and that the activities of individuals cannot therefore but be significant in history”.J

Such a rejection of individual responsibility is also connected to petty bourgeois democratism, to the wish to replace our principle of “from each according to his ability” with the reactionary utopia of the equalisation of members in a collective body. This project, already condemned in the 1993 Orientation Text, is a goal neither of the organisation today, nor of the future communist society.

One of the tasks we all have is to learn from the example of all the great revolutionaries (the famous ones and all the nameless combatants of our class) who did not betray our programmatic and organisational principles. This has nothing to do with any cult of the personality. As Plekhanov concluded in his famous essay on the role of the individual:

It is not only to the ‘Beginners’ alone and not only to ‘great’ men that a broad field of activity lies open. It awaits all those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to love their fellow men. The concept of greatness is a relative one. In the moral sense, any man is great who, to quote from the New Testament, ‘lays down his life for his friends’”.J

By way of conclusion

From this it follows that the assimilation and deepening of the questions we began to discuss more than a year ago is a major priority today.

The task of consciousness is to create the political and organisational framework best favouring the cultivation of confidence and solidarity. This task is central to the construction of the organisation, this most difficult art or science. At the basis of this work is the strengthening of the unity of the organisation, this most “sacred” principle of the proletariat. And as with every collective community, its precondition is the existence of common rules of behaviour. Concretely, the statutes, the texts of 1981 on the function and functioning of the orgnisation, and of 1993 on the organisational tissue already give the elements of such a framework. It is necessary to come back repeatedly to these texts, but above all when the unity of the organisation is in danger. They must be the point of departure of a permanent vigilance. It is necessary to more deeply assimilate them, their spirit and the method they represent.

At this level, the main misconception which must be overcome within our ranks is the idea that these questions are easy and straightforward. According to this approach, it is enough to declare confidence for it to already exist. And since solidarity is a practical activity, it is enough to “just go and do it”. Nothing could be further from the truth! The construction of the organisation is an extremely complicated and even delicate enterprise. And there is no other product of human culture as difficult and as fragile as confidence. Nothing else is harder to construct and easier to destroy. This is why, in the face of this or that lack of confidence by this or that part of the organisation, the first question that must always be posed is what must be done collectively to reduce distrust or even fear within our ranks. As for solidarity, although it is “practical” and also “natural” to the working class, this class lives in bourgeois society and is surrounded by factors working against such solidarity. Moreover, the penetration of alien ideology leads to aberrant conceptions on these questions, such as the recent attitude of considering the refusal to publish the texts of comrades to be an expression of solidarity, or to consider a “home-grown psychological” explanation of the origins of certain political divergences in the personal lives of comrades[4] (…)

In particular in the struggle for confidence, our watchword must be prudence and once again prudence.

Marxist theory is our principle weapon in the struggle against loss of confidence. In general, it is the privileged means of resisting immediatism and defending a long-term vision. It is the only possible basis of a real, scientific confidence in the proletariat, which in turn is the basis of the confidence of all the different parts of the class in themselves and each other. Specifically, only a theoretical approach allows us to go to the deepest roots of organisational problems, which must be treated as theoretical and historical issues in their own right. Similarly, in the absence of a living tradition on this question, and of the absence to date of the ordeal by fire of repression, the ICC must base itself on a study of the past workers movement in the conscious and voluntary development of a tradition of active solidarity and social life within its ranks.

If history has made us particularly vulnerable to the dangers of clanism, it has also given us the means to overcome it. In particular, we must never forget that the international character of the organisation, and the instalment of information commissions are the indispensable means of restoring mutual confidence in moments of crisis when this confidence has been damaged and lost.

The old Liebknecht said about Marx that he approached politics as a subject to be studied.K As we have said, it is the enlargement of the zone of consciousness in social life which frees humanity from the anarchy of blind forces, making confidence, making solidarity, making the victory of the proletariat possible. In order to overcome the present difficulties, and solve the questions posed, the ICC must study them. Because, as the philosopher said: “Ignorantia non est argumentum” (“Ignorance is not an argument”, from Spinoza: Ethics)

ICC, 15/06/2001.

Notes from the original

A. Marx: 18th Brumaire.

B. Kautsky: ibid.

C. Hegel: Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences.

D. Marx: 18th Brumaire.

E. Rosa Luxemburg: Correspondence with Konstantin Zetkin.

F. Bakunin: Appeal to the Officers of the Russian Army.

G. Bakunin: The Revolutionary Catechism.

H. Trotsky: The New Course.

I. Trotsky: On Routinism in the Army and Elsewhere.

J. Plekhanov: On the Individual’s Role in History.

K. Wilhelm Liebknecht: Karl Marx.



[1] For more details about this conference, see the article “The struggle for the defence of organisational principle” in International Review n°110. The footnotes have been added to the original text to help the reader. Those which figured in the original are to be found at the end.

[2] MC is our comrade Marc Chirik, who died in 1990. He experienced the 1917 revolution directly in his home town of Kishiniev (Moldavia). At the age of thirteen, he was already a member of the Communist Party of Palestine, but was excluded because he disagreed with the positions of the Communist International on the national question. He emigrated to France, where he joined the French Communist Party before being expelled at the same time as the members of the Left Opposition. He became a member first of the (Trotskyist) Ligue Communiste and then of Union Communiste, which he left in 1938 to join the Italian Fraction of the International Communist Left (ICL), since he agreed with the latter’s position on the Spanish civil war against that of Union Commnuiste. During the war and the German occupation of France, the ICL’s International Bureau led by Vercesi considered that there was no purpose in the fractions’ continuing their work. MC however pushed for the reconstitution of the Italian Fraction around a small nucleus in Marseilles. In May 1945, he opposed the decision of the Italian Fraction’s conference to dissolve the fraction, its militants joining the recently formed Partito Comunista Internazionalista as individuals. He joined the French Fraction of the Communist Left which had been formed in 1944, and which had then taken on the name of the Gauche Communiste de France (GCF). In Venezuela from 1964, then in France from 1968, MC played a decisive role in the formation of the groups which were to create the ICC, bringing to them all the political and organisational experience he had gained in the various organisations of which he had been a member. Our comrade’s political biography is treated in more detail in our pamphlet La Gauche communiste de France, and in two articles published in the International Review n°65 and 66.

MC’s text which is mentioned here, is a contribution to an internal ICC debate entitled “Revolutionary marxism and centrism in present reality and in today’s debate in the ICC”, and published in March 1984.

[3] The text referred to here is “The question of organisational functioning in the ICC”, published in the International Review n°109.

[4] This passage refers in particular to events which we have already recounted in our article “The struggle for the defence of organisational principle” (International Review n°110), which gives an account of the March 2002 Extraordinary Conference and the organisational difficulties which led to its being called: “It has never been a problem for the ICC that some parts of the organisation should criticise a text adopted by the central organ. On the contrary, the ICC and its central organ have always insisted that every disagreement or doubt should be expressed openly within the organisation in order to reach the greatest possible clarity. The attitude of the central organ towards disagreements has always been to answer them as seriously as possible. But in the spring of 2000, the majority of the IS adopted a quite different attitude from what had been its habit in the past. For this majority, the fact that a tiny minority of comrades criticised a text of the IS could only spring from a spirit of opposition for opposition’s sake, or from the fact that one of them was affected by family problems while another was suffering from depression. One argument used by the IS members was to say that the text had been written by a particular militant, and would have had a different reception had it been the work of a different author. The response to the arguments of the comrades in disagreement was therefore not to put forward counter-arguments, but to denigrate the comrades or even to try to avoid publishing their texts on the grounds that they would “spread crap in the organisation”, or that comrades who had been affected by the pressure brought to bear on them would not be able to stand the pressure of responses by other ICC militants to these texts. In short, the IS developed a completely hypocritical policy of stifling debate in the name of ‘solidarity’”.

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