The question of organisational functioning in the ICC

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The ICC recently held an Extraordinary International Conference principally devoted to questions of organisation. We will return to the work of the Conference in the next issue of this Review, and in our territorial press. This being said, given that the questions treated bore a strong similarity to those we have had to deal with in the past, we consider it worthwhile to publish extracts of an internal document[1] (adopted unanimously by the ICC) which served as a basis for the combat for the defence of the organisation that we undertook in 1993-95, and which was described in the International Review n°82 on the 11th Congress of the ICC.

The activities report of the October 1993 IB[2] Plenum noted the existence, or the persistence, within the ICC of organisational difficulties in a large number of sections. The report for the 10th International Congress had already amply dealt with these difficulties. It had in particular insisted on the necessity for a greater international unity of the organisation, of a more vital and rigorous centralisation of the latter. The present difficulties prove that the effort realised by this report and the debates of the 10th Congress, while indispensable were still insufficient. The malfunctioning through the last period shows the existence within the ICC of latenesses, gaps in the comprehension of questions, a loss of sight of the framework of our organisational principles. Such a situation gives us the responsibility to go still further to the root of the questions that were raised at the 10th Congress. It means in particular that the organisation, the sections and all the militants examine once more, basic questions and in particular the principles that underpin an organisation that struggles for communism (...).

A reflection of this type took place in 81-82 after the crisis that had gripped the ICC (loss of half the section in GB, haemorrhage of 40 members of the organisation). The basis of this reflection was given by the report on the "Structure and functioning of the organisation" adopted by the extraordinary conference of January 1982. In this sense this document still remains a reference for the whole of the organisation.[3] The following text sees itself as a complement, an illustration and an actualisation (based on subsequent experience) of the text of 1982. In particular, it proposes to draw the attention of the organisation and the militants to the living experience not only of the ICC but also of other revolutionary organisations in history.

The importance of the problem in history

The question of the structure and functioning of the organisation has been posed at all stages of the workers' movement. Each time, the implications of such questioning have assumed the greatest importance. This is no accident. The question of organisation concentrates a whole series of essential aspects that are fundamental to the proletariat's revolutionary perspective:

  • the fundamental characteristics of communist society and of the relations between the members of the latter;
  • the being of the proletariat as a class which is the bearer of communism;
  • the nature of class consciousness, the characteristics of its development and deepening and extension within the class;
  • the role of the communist organisation in the coming to consciousness of the proletariat.

The consequences of the development of disagreements on organisational questions are often dramatic, even catastrophic for the life of political organisations of the proletariat. This is for the following reasons:

  • such disagreements are, in the last resort, the revelation of the penetration within the organisation of ideological influences foreign to the proletariat, coming from the bourgeoisie or petit-bourgeoisie;
  • more than disagreements on other questions they necessarily have implications for the functioning of the organisation, even affecting its unity, or existence;
  • in particular they tend to take a more personalised and thus emotional form.
Among the many historical examples of such phenomena, one can take two of the most famous:
  • the conflict between the General Council of the IWA and the ‘Alliance';
  • the split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks in the course of and following the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP in 1903.

In the first example, it is clear that the constitution within the IWA of the "International Alliance of Socialist Democracy" was a sign of petit bourgeois influence, which the workers' movement has been regularly confronted with since its beginning. It was thus no accident that the Alliance recruited principally from professions close to the artisans (the watchmakers of Jura in Switzerland for example) and in the regions where the proletariat was still weakly developed (as in Italy and particularly in Spain).

Moreover the constitution of the Alliance presented a particularly grave danger for the whole of the IWA to the extent that:

  • it was an "international within the international" (Marx) existing within and without the latter, which, in itself put its unity in question;
  • it was, moreover, clandestine, including for the IWA, since it proclaimed its dissolution while continuing to function;
  • it opposed the organisational conceptions of the IWA in particular its centralisation (it defended federalism) while being itself ultra-centralised around a "central committee" directed with an iron hand by Bakunin and imposing on its members "the most severe discipline founded on a total abnegation and the gift of oneself by each and every one" (Bakunin).

The Alliance was a living negation of the basis on which the International was founded. If the latter had fallen into the hands of the Alliance it would have been destroyed, and so Marx and Engels were right, at the Hague Congress of 1872, to propose and obtain the transfer to New York of the General Council. They knew that this transfer would lead the IWA towards a progressive extinction (in 1876) but, to the extent that it was condemned anyway following the crushing of the Paris Commune (which had caused a profound reflux in the class), they preferred this end to a degeneration which would have discredited all the positive work that had been accomplished between 1864-72.

Finally it must be noted that the conflict between the IWA and the Alliance had taken a very personalised form between Marx and Bakunin. The latter, who had only joined the IWA in 1868 (following the setback to his attempt at cooperation with bourgeois democrats within the "League of Peace and Liberty"), accused Marx of being the "dictator" of the General Council and thus the whole of the IWA.[4] This was completely false (its enough to read the proceedings of the General Council meetings and the International Congresses to be convinced of it). On the other hand Marx (rightly) denounced the intrigues of the secret chief of the Alliance, intrigues which were facilitated by the secret character of the latter and by the sectarian conceptions inherited from a past epoch of the workers' movement. It must be noted moreover that these sectarian and conspiratorial conceptions, coming from the charisma of Bakunin, favourised his personal influence on his followers and the exercise of his authority as a "guru". Finally the persecution of which he pretended to be victim was one of the means by which he sowed unease and won supporters among a certain number of ill-informed workers or those sensitive to petit bourgeois ideology.

One finds the same type of characteristics in the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks that took place from the beginning around organisational questions.

As it became obvious later, the approach of the Mensheviks was determined by the penetration of Russian Social Democracy, by bourgeois and petit-bourgeois ideologies (even if certain conceptions of the Bolsheviks were themselves the result of a bourgeois Jacobinist vision). In particular as Lenin noted "The bulk of the opposition has been formed by the intellectual elements of our party" which were one of the vehicles for petit-bourgeois conceptions on organisation.

In the second place, the conception of the organisation which the Mensheviks held at the 2nd Congress, and which Trotsky shared for a long time (although he was clearly separated from them, notably on the nature of the revolution in Russia and the tasks of the proletariat within it), turned its back on the necessities of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and carried within it the destruction of the organisation. On one hand, it was incapable of making a clear distinction between members of the party and sympathisers as was shown by the disagreement between Lenin and Martov, leader of the Mensheviks on point 1 of the statutes.[5] On the other hand and above all it was the expression of a past period of the movement (as the Alliance had been marked by the sectarian period of the workers' movement): "Under the name of the ‘minority' heterogeneous elements are regrouped in the Party who are united by the desire, conscious or not, to maintain the relations of a circle, previous organisation forms to the party. Certain eminent militants of the most influential old circles, not having the habit of organisational restrictions that the Party must impose, are inclined to mechanically confuse the general interests of the Party and their circle interests which can coincide in the period of circles". (Lenin, One step forward, two steps back). In particular through their petit-bourgeois approach these elements "...naturally raise the standard of revolt against the indispensable restrictions of the organisation and they establish their spontaneous anarchism as a principle of struggle ... making demands in favour of ‘tolerance' etc" (ibid).

In the third place the spirit of the circle and the individualism of the Mensheviks led them to the personalisation of political questions. The most dramatic point of the congress, which created an irreparable gulf between the two groups, was that of the nomination to the different responsible positions of the party, and in particular to the Editorial Board of Iskra, which was considered as the party's real political leadership (the Central Committee being concerned essentially with organisational questions). Before the congress this editorship was composed of six members: (Plekhanov, Lenin, Martov, Axelrod, Starover (Potressov) and Vera Zassoulich). But only the first three were real editors, the latter three did practically nothing, or were content to send articles.[6] In order to go beyond "the spirit of the circle" which animated the old editorship, and particularly its three least committed members, Lenin proposed to the Congress a formula permitting the nomination of a more appropriate Editorial Board without this appearing as a motion of distrust towards the three militants: the Congress elected an Editorial Board restricted to the three members who could later co-opt other militants in agreement with the central committee. Whilst this formula had been accepted initially by Martov and the other editors, the latter changed his mind at the end of the debate which had opposed him to Lenin on the question of the statutes (and which brought out the fact that these old comrades risked losing their positions): he asked (in fact Trotsky proposed a resolution in this sense) that the old Editorial Board of six members be "confirmed" by the congress. It was eventually Lenin's proposition that was carried and provoked the anger and lamentations of those who became Mensheviks (minority). Martov "in the name of the majority of the old Editorial Board" declared: "Since a committee of three has been elected, I declare in the name of my three comrades and myself that no one amongst us will join it. Personally I take it as an insult to be a candidate for this function and the simple supposition that 1 would consent to work there would be considered by me as a stain on my political reputation."

For political considerations, Martov substituted the sentimental defence of his old friends, victims of the "state of siege in the party", the defence of "slighted honour". For his part, the Menshevik Tsarev, declared: "How can the non-elected members of the editorhip behave if the congress no longer wants them to participate in the editorship?". The Bolsheviks denounced the conspiratorial way of presenting the problems.[7] Later the Mensheviks refused and sabotaged the decisions of the congress, boycotting the central organs elected by the latter and launching systematic personal attacks against Lenin. For example, Trotsky called him ‘Maximillian Lenin', accusing him of wishing to "take on the role of the incorruptible" (Robespierre) and of instituting a "Republic of Virtue and Terror'" (Report of the Siberian delegation). One is struck by the resemblance between these accusations launched by the Mensheviks against Lenin and that of the Alliance against Marx and his "dictatorship", Faced with this attitude of the Mensheviks, the personalisation of political questions, the attacks which took him as the target and the subjectivity of Martov and his friends, Lenin replied: "When I consider the approach of the friends of Martov after the congress (...) 1 can only say that it is unworthy of members of the party, destroying the party ... And why? Originally because one is unhappy with the composition of the central organs, because objectively it is only this question which separates us, subjective appreciations (like offence, insult, expulsion, being put to one side, stigmatising, etc.) which are nothing but the fruit of wounded self-love and a sick imagination. This imagination and this wounded self-love lead straight to the most shameful gossip: without having taken knowledge of the activity of the new centres, nor having seen them at work, gossip is spread on their ‘deficiencies', on the ‘iron fist' of Ivan Nikiforovitch etc (...) This is the last and difficult step for Russian Social Democracy to take, from the circle spirit to the party spirit; from the petit-bourgeois mentality to the consciousness of  revolutionary duty; from gossip and the pressure of circles, considered as means of action, to discipline" ("Report on the Second Congress of the RSDLP", Works, vol.7).

Organisational problems in the history of the ICC

As with the other organisations of the proletariat (...) the ICC has been affected by organisational difficulties similar to those we have just dealt with above. Among these difficulties we can mention the following moments:

  • 1974: the debate on  centralisation in the group Révolution Internationale (the future section of the ICC in France),  the formation and departure of the "Berard tendency".
  • 1978: the formation of the "Sam-MM tendency" which founded the GCI in 1979.
  • 1981: the crisis of the ICC, the formation and departure of the "Chenier tendency".
  • 1984: appearance of the minority which, in 1985 constituted a "tendency" then left the ICC to form the EFICC (so-called "External Fraction of the ICC").
  • 1987-88: difficulties in the Spanish section leading to the loss of the Northern section.
  • 1988: dynamic of contestation and demobilisation in the Paris section, brought out by the 8th Congress of RI (Révolution Internationale, the ICC's section in France) due to the weight of decomposition in our ranks.

(...) From these moments of difficulty one may identify, despite their differences, a series of common characteristics which connect them to the problems encountered before in the history of the workers movement:

  • the weight of petit-bourgeois ideology, particularly individualism;
  • putting into question the unitary and centralised framework of the organisation;
  • the importance taken by personal and subjective questions.

It would take too long to review all these difficult periods. We must be content to bring out the characteristics that have always been present in them to different degrees.

a) The weight of petit-bourgeois ideology

This weight is clear when we examine what became of the tendency of 1978: the GCI has fallen into a sort of anarcho-Bordigism, exalting terrorist actions and distrusting the struggles of the proletariat in the advanced countries while glorifying imaginary proletarian struggles in the Third World. Moreover, in the dynamic of a group of comrades who formed the EFICC, we have identified striking similarities with those that animated the Mensheviks in 1903 (see the article "External Fraction of the ICC" International Review no45) and in particular the weight of the intellectual element. Finally, in the dynamic of contestation and demobilisation which affected the Paris section in 1988, we have brought out the importance of the weight of decomposition as a factor stimulating the penetration of petit-bourgeois ideology in our ranks, particularly under the form of "democratism" (...).

b) Putting in question the unitary and centralised framework of the organisation

This is a phenomenon we have encountered in a systematic and marked way during the different organisational difficulties of the ICC:

  • The starting point of the dynamic, which led to the "Berard tendency", was the decision of the section of Paris to create an organisation commission. A certain number of comrades, particularly the majority of those who had militated in the Trotskyist group "Lutte Ouvrière" saw in this embryonic central organ a "grave threat of bureaucratisation" for the organisation. Berard ceaselessly compared the OC to the Central Committee of LO (the organisation of which Berard had been a member for several years), identifying RI with this Trotskyist organisation, an argument which had a strong impact on the other comrades of his "tendency" given that all of them (except one) had come from LO.
  • At the time of the crisis of 1981, a vision developed (with the contribution of the suspicious element Chenier, but not just him) which considered that each local section could have its own policy as far as intervention was concerned, which violently contested the IB and the IS (reproaching them with their position on the left in opposition and of provoking a Stalinist degeneration) and who, while defending the necessity of central organs, attributed to them the role of a mere post box. (...).
  • In the whole dynamic that led to the formation of the EFICC the putting in question of centralisation came out, but under a different form, notably to the extent that 5 out of the 10 members of the "tendency" were on the IB, It was essentially by repeated acts of indiscipline vis-à-vis the latter, but also in relation to other expressions of the organisation, that it was put into question: a sort of aristocratic attitude, certain members of the tendency considered that they were "above the law". Confronted with the necessary discipline of the organisation, these militants saw a "Stalinist degeneration", adopting the arguments of the Chenier tendency that they had combated three years before.
  • The difficulties encountered by the section in Spain in '87-'88 were directly linked to "the problem of centralisation"; the four new militants of the San Sebastian section entered into a contestationist dynamic with the section in Valencia which played the role of central organ. Within the "Basque" section a certain number of disagreements and political confusions existed, notably on the question of unemployed committees, confusions which revealed in good part the leftist origins of certain elements of this section. But instead of the disagreements being discussed in the organisational framework they were the occasion for the putting forward the policy of "an Englishman's (or in this case a Spaniard's) home is his castle", and the rejection on principle of all the orientations coming from Valencia. Following this dynamic the section in Spain lost half its forces (...)
  • In the dynamic of contestation and demobilisation that developed in 1988 in the section in France and particularly in Paris, the putting in question of centralisation was expressed essentially against the central organ of the section. The most elaborated form of this putting in question was expressed by a member of the organisation who had developed in both texts and in behaviour an approach close to anarcho-councilism. In particular, one of the first contributions put forward a critique of the central organs and defended the idea of a rotation in the nomination of militants within these organs.

The rejection or contestation of centralisation has not been the only form of challenging the unitary character of the organisation during the different difficult moments we have mentioned. One must add a manifestation of the dynamic that could be described, as it was by Lenin in 1903, as a "circle" or even of a "clan". That is to say a  regroupment, even informal, of a certain number of comrades on the basis, not of political agreement, but on other criteria like personal affinities, discontent vis-a-vis this or that orientation of organisation or the contestation of a central organ,

In fact all of the "tendencies" which, up until now, have been formed in the ICC obey, more or less, such a dynamic. This is why they all have led to splits. It is something that we have raised each time: tendencies form themselves not on the basis of putting forward a positive alternative orientation to a position taken by the organisation, but as the collection of "discontents" who put their divergences in a common pot and try as a result to give themselves a certain coherence. On such bases, a tendency can give nothing positive to the extent that the dynamic does not consist in trying to reinforce the organisation through the greatest clarity possible, but expresses on the contrary, an approach (often unconscious) destructive of the organisation. Such tendencies were not the organic product of the life of the ICC and of the proletariat but on the contrary, express the penetration within it of foreign influences: in general petit-bourgeois ideology. Consequently, these tendencies appear like foreign bodies in the ICC; that is why they pose a danger to the organisation and why they almost inevitably led to a split.[8]

In some ways the "Berard tendency" had the most homogeneity. But the latter did not have a common understanding of the questions at their origin. This "homogeneity" was essentially based on:

  • the common origin (LO) of the members of the tendency who had converged spontaneously towards a similar approach and notably the rejection of centralisation;
  • the charisma of Berard, who was a very brilliant individual and whose interventions dazzled less experienced elements who as a whole, didn't understand much and who adhered "blindly" to his approach;
  • it is for this reason that one finds in this "tendency" very academic tendencies (...) at the same time as more activist elements, the "Communist Tendency" constituted after the split didn't survive the first issue of its publication.

Concerning the other "tendencies" in the ICC, each contained a bric-a-brac of positions:

  • Sam-MM Tendency: tendency for the rate of profit to fall as explanation of the economic crisis (Sam) plus proletarian nature of the state in the period of transition (Sam), plus a Bordigist vision of the role of the organisation (MM), plus overestimation         of the struggles in the Third World (Ric).
  • Chenier Tendency: rejection of the analysis of the left in opposition, plus assimilation of union organisations to organs of the class struggle, plus "Stalinist degeneration" of the ICC (plus the hidden manoeuvres of an individual perhaps in the service of the state).
  • EFICC Tendency: a non-marxist vision of class consciousness (ML) plus councilist weaknesses (JA and Sander), plus disagreements about the interventions of the ICC in actions led by the unions to immobilise the working class (Rose), plus rejection of the notion of centrism and opportunism (Macintosh).

Considering the diverse character of these tendencies, one can ask what their approach was really founded on.

At root there were undoubtedly incomprehensions and confusions on general practical questions as well as on organisational questions. But all the comrades who had disagreements on these questions did not adhere to these tendencies. On the other hand, certain comrades who, from the beginning had no disagreement "discovered" it en route in order to join the formation of a tendency (...). This is why its necessary to remind ourselves, as Lenin did in 1903, of another aspect of organisational life: the importance of "personal" questions and of subjectivity.

c) The importance of "personal" questions and of subjectivity

The questions concerning attitudes, behaviour, the subjective and emotional reactions of militants and the personalisation of certain debates, do not have a "psychological" nature but are eminently political. Personality, individual history, childhood, emotional problems etc do not allow us, either in themselves or fundamentally, to explain the aberrant attitudes and behaviour that certain members of the organisation may adopt at this or that moment. Behind such behaviour one always finds, directly or indirectly individualism or sentimentalism, that is manifestations of classes foreign to the proletariat: the bourgeoisie or the petit bourgeoisie. One can say, at most, that certain personalities are more fragile than others faced with the pressure of such ideological influences.

That doesn't mean that "personal" aspects may not play an important role in the life of the organisation as one can see in numerous instances:

  • Berard Tendency: It's enough to signal the fact that some days after the vote installing the Organisation Commission, to which Berard was opposed, the same Berard proposed to MC[9] the following deal: "I will vote in favour of the OC if you propose me for it, otherwise I will fight". MC sent Berard packing with a flea in his ear, but did not make it public in order not to "crush" Berard publicly and to allow the debate to go to the roots. Thus the CO only represented a danger of "Bureaucratisation" because Berard was not put on it. No comment!
  • Sam-MM Tendency: it was constituted by three groups (in part familial) whose "leaders" had different preoccupations but who all found themselves in contestation of the central organs. (...) Since "there isn't room for several male crocodiles in the same creak" (as the African proverb says) the three little crocodiles separated later: Sam split the first from the GCI to found the ephemeral "Fraction Communiste Internationaliste", later MM left the GCI to form "Movement Communiste".
  • Chenier Tendency: Personal conflicts and personalities were involved in the division of the British section into two groups who didn't talk to each other and who, for example, ate in different restaurants during general meetings of the section. The militants from abroad who came to these meetings were monopolised by one or other clan and treated to all sorts of gossip (...). In the end, the crisis was made even worse by all the manoeuvres of Chenier who systematically added oil to the fire.[10]
  • EFICC Tendency: Beside political divergences (which were disparate) one of the major sources of the route of the group of comrades who founded the EFICC, and explains in particular their incredible bad faith, was the wounded pride of some (notably JA and ML), little used to being criticised (by MC in particular) and the "solidarity" that their old friends wanted to show them (...). In fact when one studies the history of the second congress of the RSDLP, and lived through the affair of the "EFICC Tendency" one can only be struck by all the similarities between the two events. But as Marx said, "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, secondly as farce".

It is not only at the time of the formation of the ‘tendencies' that personal questions have played, in different ways, a very important role. Thus, at the time of the difficulties in the Spanish section from 87-88, there developed among the comrades of San Sebastian, who had been integrated on insufficiently solid political foundations and with a large degree of subjectivity, a very strong animosity to certain comrades in Valencia. This personalised road was accentuated notably by the unhealthy and twisted spirit of one of the elements in San Sebastian and above all by the agitation of Albar, animator of the Lugo nucleus, whose behaviour was similar to that of Chenier: clandestine contact and correspondence, denigration and calumnies, use of sympathisers to "work on" the comrade of Barcelona who finally left the ICC. (...)

This examination, inevitably too rapid and superficial, of the organisational difficulties encountered by the ICC in the course of its history reveals two essential facts:

  • these difficulties are not unique to it, but have existed throughout the history of the workers' movement;
  • it has been confronted with these types of difficulties repeatedly and frequently.

This last element must incite the whole organisation and all the comrades to study in depth the organisational principles which were honed at the time of the extraordinary conference in 1982 in the "Report on the structure and functioning of the organisation" and in the Statutes.

The principle points of the 1982 Report and the statutes

The cornerstone of the 1982 report is the unity of the organisation. In this document, this idea is firstly treated from the angle of centralisation before treating it from the angle of the relations between militants and the organisation. The choice of this order corresponded to the problems encountered by the ICC in 1981 where the weaknesses showed themselves by a challenging of the central organs and centralisation. Today, most of the difficulties confronted by the sections are not directly linked to the question of centralisation but much more to the organisational tissue, to the place and responsibilities of militants within the organisation. And even when difficulties concerning problems of centralisation do arise, like in the French section, they go back to the preceding problem. That is why, in the assessment of different aspects of the report of 1982, it is preferable to begin with the last point (pt 12) which rightly touches on the relationships between the organisation and militants.

Relations between the organisation and the militants

a) The weight of individualism

"A fundamental precondition for a communist organisation being able to carry out its task in the class is a correct understanding of the relations that should exist between the organisation and its militants. This is a particularly difficult question to understand today, given the weight of the organic break with past fractions and of the influence of elements from the student milieu in the revolutionary organisations after 1968. This has allowed the reappearance of one of the ball-and-chains carried by the workers' movement in the 19th century - individualism". (Report of 1982, point 12)

Today, it is necessary to add the weight of decomposition to these causes for the penetration of individualism in our ranks, identified a long time ago. In particular decomposition fosters atomisation and "each for himself". It is important that the whole organisation is fully aware of this constant pressure that rotting capitalism exercises in the heads of militants, a pressure which can only increase outside an open revolutionary period. In this sense the following points, which respond to the difficulties and dangers already encountered in the organisation in the past, are even more valid today. That obviously must not discourage us but on the contrary encourage us toward a still greater vigilance toward these difficulties and dangers.

b) The "fulfilment" of militants

"The same relations which exist between a particular organ (group or party) and the class exist between the organisation and the militant. And just as the class does not exist to respond to the needs of the communist organisation, so communist organisations don't exist to resolve the problems of the individual militant. The organisation is not the product of the needs of the militant. One is a militant to the extent that one has understood and adheres to the tasks and functions of the organisation.

"Following on from this, the division of tasks and of responsibilities within the organisation is not aimed at the ‘fulfilment' of individual militants. Tasks must be divided up in a way that enables the organisation as a whole to function in the most efficient way. While the organisation must as much as possible look to the well-being of each of its militants, this is above all because it's in the interests of the organisation that all of its ‘cells' are able to carry out their part in the organisation's work. This doesn't mean ignoring the individuality and the problems of the militants it means that the point of departure, and the point of arrival, is the capacity of the organisation to carry out its tasks in the class struggle" (ibid).

It is a point that we must never forget. We are in the service of the organisation, not the other way round. In particular, the latter is not a sort of clinic to heal the ills, notably psychological, that its members may suffer. That does not mean that becoming a revolutionary does not help to put the personal difficulties which everyone has into context, if not to overcome them altogether. Quite the contrary, becoming a fighter for communism means that one gives a profound significance to one's existence, far superior to that which other aspects of life may give (professional or family success, bringing up a child, scientific or artistic creation, all satisfactions which everybody can share and which anyway are denied to the greater part of humanity). The greatest satisfaction that a human being can experience in life is to make a positive contribution to the good of his fellows, of society and humanity. What distinguishes the communist militant and gives a sense to his life is that he is a link in the chain that leads to emancipation of humanity, its accession to the "reign of liberty" a chain which continues after his own death. Thus what each militant may accomplish today is incomparably more important than what the greatest genius could do, such as the discovery of the cure for cancer or an inexhaustible source of non-polluting energy. In this sense the passion of his commitment must allow him to overcome and go beyond the difficulties that each human being encounters.

That is why, faced with the particular difficulties that members of the organisation may encounter, the attitude that must be adopted is above all political and not psychological. It is clear that psychological givens may be taken into account to confront this or that problem affecting a militant. But that must be put in an organisational framework and not the reverse. Thus when a member of the organisation frequently fails to accomplish his tasks, the organisation must respond in a fundamentally political way and in accord with its principles of functioning, even if, obviously, it must be able to recognise the specificities of the situation in which the militant in question finds himself. For example, when the organisation is confronted with a militant who is sliding toward alcoholism, its specific role is not to play at psychotherapy (a role for which it has no qualification anyway and in which it risks being a "sorcerer's apprentice") but to react on its own terrain:

  • raising the problem to discuss within the organisation and with the militant concerned;
  • forbidding the use of alcoholic drinks in the meetings and activities of the organisation;
  • obliging each militant to arrive sober to the latter.

Experience has amply shown that this is the best way of overcoming this type of problem.

For the same reasons, militant commitment must not be seen as a routine like one can find in the workplace, even if certain tasks are not stimulating in themselves. In particular, it is necessary that the organisation divides these tasks, like all its tasks in general, in the most equitable way possible, in order that some are not burdened with work while others have practically nothing to do. It is important too that each militant banishes from his thoughts and behaviour any attitude of being a "victim" of the organisation, which treats him badly or gives him too much work. The great silence which, too often in certain sections, greets the call for volunteers to accomplish this or that task, is something shocking and demoralising particularly for young militants.[11]

c) Different types of tasks and work in the central organs

"Within the organisation there are no ‘noble' tasks and no ‘secondary' or ‘less noble' tasks. Both the work of theoretical elaboration and the realisation of practical tasks, both the work in central organs and the specific work of local sections, are equally important for the organisation and should not be put in a hierarchical order (it is capitalism which establishes such hierarchies). This is why we must completely reject, as a bourgeois conception, the idea that the nomination of a militant to a central organ is some kind of ‘promotion', the granting of an ‘honour' or a privilege'. The spirit of careerism must be completely banished from the organisation as being totally opposed to the disinterested dedication which is one of the main characteristics of communist militant activity" (ibid).

This affirmation doesn't apply only to the situation in 1981 in the ICC but has a general and permanent application.[12] In a way the phenomena of contestation in the ICC are often linked to a  "pyramidal" or "hierarchical" view of the organisation which is the same vision that sees accession to the responsibilities in the central organs as being a sort of "goal" for each militant (experience has shown that the anarchists are often excellent - so to speak - bureaucrats).

Moreover, you only have to see the reluctance in the organisation to relieve a militant of his responsibilities on a central organ, or the trauma that such a measure provokes when adopted, to understand that this isn't a false problem. It is clear that such trauma is a direct tribute paid to bourgeois ideology. But it is not sufficient to be fully convinced of this to be able to escape it totally. Faced with such a situation, it is important that the organisation and its militants fight everything which could encourage the penetration of such ideology:

  • members of the central organs must not benefit, nor accept, any particular privilege, notably the avoidance of tasks or the discipline which is valid for all members of the organisation;
  • in their behaviour, attitudes, their way of expressing themselves they should not make other comrades "feel" their membership of this or that central organ: such membership is not a medal to be arrogantly paraded, but a specific  task that must be assumed with the same sense of responsibility and modesty as all the others;
  • there is no "promotion by seniority" within the central organs, a sort of "career structure" as in bourgeois firms or administrations where their employee is supposed to climb the ladder to success through the hierarchy; on the contrary, the organisation in order to prepare its future, must be concerned to confer responsibilities even on the most global level, to young militants when they have shown their capacity to assume such responsibilities, (let us recall that Lenin proposed to integrate Trotsky, aged 22, to the editorship of Iskra, against the wishes of the "old hand" Plekhanov. We know what became of the one and the other);
  • if for the needs of the organisation, it is necessary or useful to replace a militant in the central organ, that must not be seen or presented as a sanction against the militant, like a sort of degradation or the loss of confidence in him; the ICC doesn't demand like the anarchists the rotation of tasks, nor does it recognise the life attachment of people to the same responsibilities like the Académie Française or the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

d) Inequalities between militants

"Although there do exist inequalities of ability between individuals and militants, and these are maintained and strengthened by class society, the role of the organisation is not, as the utopian communists thought, to pretend to abolish them. The organisation must try to ensure the maximum development of the political capacities of its militants because this is a precondition for its own strengthening, but it never poses this in terms of an individual, scholarly training, nor of an equalisation of everyone's education.

Real equality between militants consists in giving the maximum of what they can give for the life of the organisation (‘from each according to his means', a quote from St Simon which Marx adopted). The true ‘fulfilment' of a militant, as a militant, is to do all he can to help the organisation carry out the tasks for which the class has engendered it" (ibid).

The sentiments of jealousy, rivalry, competition or inferiority complexes which may appear between militants, and are linked to their inequalities, are typically the manifestation of the penetration of dominant ideology in the ranks of the communist organisation.[13] Even if it is illusory to think that one can chase such sentiments out of the heads of all members of the organisation, it is important however that each militant has the permanent concern not to be dominated by such sentiments in his behaviour and to fight them in the organisation.

Contestation is often the result of such sentiments and frustrations. In effect, contestation, when it applies to the central organs or to certain comrades supposed to have "more weight" than others (such as, precisely, the members of these organs) is typically the approach of militants or parts of the organisation which have "complexes" in relation to others. That is why it often takes the form of criticism for the sake of it (and not for what is said or done) towards whatever may represent ‘authority' (classic behaviour of an adolescent who revolts against the father). Like individualism, contestation is in exact symmetry with the other expression of individualism which is authoritarianism, the "taste for power".[14] It should be noted that contestation can also take silent forms, which are no less dangerous than the others, on the contrary, since they are more difficult to see. It may equally express itself by looking to take the place of whatever (militant or central organ) is contested: in substituting oneself one hopes to put an end to the object of their complexes.

Another aspect to understand in a period where new comrades are arriving is the expression of the hostility of some of the old militants fearing the new ones will "put them in the shade". Particularly if the latter show important political capacities. It is not a false problem: it is clear that one of the major reasons for Plekhanov's hostility towards Trotsky becoming one of the editors of Iskra was fear that his own prestige would be affected by the arrival of this extremely brilliant individual.[15] What was valid at the beginning of the century is still more so today. If the organisation (and its militants) are not capable of getting rid of, or at least neutralising these types of attitudes it will not be capable of preparing its future in the revolutionary combat.

Finally, concerning the question of "individual education" evoked in the report of 1982, it is equally important to be precise that the entrance into a central organ cannot be considered in any way as the means of "training" militants. The place where militants form themselves is their activity within the "base cells of the organisation" (statutes), the local section. It is fundamentally in this framework that they acquire and perfect, with the concern of making a better contribution to the life of the organisation, their capacities as militants (theoretical capacities, organisational or practical questions, sense of responsibility, etc). If the local sections are not capable of playing this role, it means that their functioning, their activities and discussions are not up to the level they should be. While it is necessary that the organisation regularly train new militants for the carrying out of the specific tasks of the central organs or of specialised commissions (for example, in order to be capable of facing up to the neutralisation of these central organs as a result of repression) it is never to satisfy any "need of formation" for the militants concerned but so as to allow the organisation as a whole to face up to its responsibilities.

e) Relations between militants

"The relations between militants, while they necessarily bear the scars of capitalist society, (...) cannot be in flagrant contradiction with the goal pursued by revolutionaries; and they must of necessity be based on that solidarity and mutual confidence which are the hallmarks of belonging to an organisation of the class which is the bearer of communism" (ICC Platform).

This means in particular that the attitude of militants to each other must be marked by fraternity and not by hostility. In particular:

  • the application of a political and organisational not a psychological approach towards a militant who experiences difficulties, must not be understood as the functioning of an impersonal or administrative machine; the organisation and the militants must know how to show, in such circumstances, their solidarity, while knowing that fraternity does not mean indulgence;
  • the development of sentiments of hostility of one militant to the other to the point that he considers him as an enemy shows the loss of sight of the organisation's raison d'être, the struggle for communism; it is the sign that it is necessary to re-appropriate the basic foundation of militant commitment.

Outside of this extreme case, which has no place in the organisation, it is clear that dislikes can never disappear totally within the latter. In the latter case the functioning of the organisation must not foster, but on the contrary attenuate or neutralise, such dislikes. In particular the necessary frankness, which must exist between comrades in struggle, is not synonymous with rudeness or lack of respect. Moreover, insults must be absolutely proscribed in relations between militants.

That said, the organisation must not see itself as a "group of friends" or as a collection of such groups.[16]

In fact, one of the grave dangers which permanently threatens the organisation, which put its unity in question and risks destroying it, is the constitution, even if it is not deliberate or conscious, of "clans". In a clan dynamic, common approaches do not share a real political agreement but rather links of friendship, loyalty, the convergence of specific personal interests or, shared frustrations. Often such a dynamic, to the extent that it is not founded on a real political convergence, is accompanied by the existence of "gurus", "leaders of the gang",[17] who guarantee the unity of the clan, and who may draw their power from a particular charisma, can even stifle the political capacities and the judgement of other militants as a result of the fact they are presented or present themselves, as "victims" of such or such policy of the organisation. When such a dynamic appears, the members or sympathisers of the clan can no longer decide for themselves, in their behaviour or the decisions that they take, as a result of a conscious and rational choice based on the general interests of the organisation, but as a result of the interests of  the clan which tends to oppose itself to those of  rest of organisation.[18]

In particular, all interventions which take a position that challenges a member of the clan (about what has been said or done) are seen as the "settling of personal scores" with him or the whole of the clan. Moreover, in such a dynamic, the clan often tends to present a monolithic front (it prefers to wash its dirty linen in the family) accompanied by a blind discipline, rallying without discussion to the orientations of the "gang leader".

It is a fact that certain members of the organisation may acquire, as a result of their experience, of their political capacities or of the correctness, verified by practice, of their judgments, a greater authority than that of other militants. The confidence that other militants accord them spontaneously, even if they are not immediately sure of sharing their point of view, is a normal thing in the life of the organisation. It can even happen that the central organ, or even some militants, ask that they be accorded a temporary confidence when they cannot immediately produce all the elements to firmly establish their conviction, or when the conditions for a clear debate don't yet exist in the organisation. What is by contrast abnormal is to be definitively in agreement with such a position because comrade X put it forward. Even the greatest names of the workers' movement made mistakes. In this sense the adhesion to a position can only base itself on a real agreement for which the indispensable conditions are the quality and depth of the debates. That is also the best guarantee of the solidity and of the durability of a position within the organisation which cannot be put in question just because comrade X has changed his mind. The militants should not "believe" once and for all and without discussion what is said to them even by a central organ. Their critical thought must be constantly at work (which doesn't mean that they must constantly criticise). This also confers on the central organs, as well as the militants who have the most "weight", the responsibility of not using at every turn and indiscriminately the "arguments of authority". On the contrary, they must fight any tendency to "tail-endism", to superficial agreements, without conviction and without reflection.

A clan dynamic may be accompanied by an approach which is not necessarily deliberate, of "infiltration", that is the designation of key positions in the organisation (like the central organs for example but not only) to members of the clan or to persons that they can win over. It is a current practice and often systematised within bourgeois parties and which a communist organisation, for its part, must firmly reject. It must be particularly vigilant on this subject. In particular, while in the nomination of the central organs "it is necessary to take account (...) of the capacity [of candidates] to work in a collective manner" (Statutes), it is important also to be careful in the choice of militants who will work in such organs, in order to ensure the least possible conditions for the appearance of a clan dynamic due to the affinities or personal links that may exist between the militants concerned. That is why the organisation must especially avoid, as far as possible, nominating two members of a couple to the same commission. A lack of vigilance in this domain could have particularly injurious consequences, as such for the political capacities of the militants or the organ as a whole. At best, the organ in question, whatever the quality of its work, may be resented by the rest of the organisation as a mere "gang of friends", which would result in a significant loss of authority. At worst, this organ may end up behaving like a particular clan, with all the dangers that this implies, or even being totally paralysed by the conflicts between clans within it. In either case it is the existence of the organisation itself that could be affected.

Finally, a clan dynamic constitutes the ground upon which practices closer to those of the bourgeois electoral game could develop rather than those of communist militantism:

  • campaigns of seduction of those they wish to win to the clan or to solicit their votes or support for such or such nomination to specific responsibilities.[19]
  • campaigns of denigration against those who may offend the clan, or who occupy "posts" coveted by members of the latter, or who may simply be an obstacle to its objectives

Warnings about the danger of behaviour foreign to communist militantism within revolutionary organisations, should not be considered as tilting at windmills. In fact, throughout its existence, the workers' movement has been frequently confronted with this type of behaviour, bearing witness to the pressure of the dominant ideology in its ranks. The ICC itself has clearly not escaped this. To think that it would be henceforth immunised against such scourges is not political clear-sightedness but religious faith. On the contrary, the growing weight of decomposition, to the extent that the latter reinforces atomisation (and thus the search for a cocoon) irrationality, emotional approaches, demoralisation can only increase the threat posed by such behaviour. And that must make us still more vigilant against the danger that this represents.

That doesn't mean that a permanent distrust between the comrades should develop. On the contrary: the best antidote against distrust is precisely the vigilance toward situations that best feed distrust. This vigilance must be exercised against all behaviour and any attitude that could lead to such dangers. In particular the practice of informal discussions between comrades, notably on questions touching the life of the organisation, if they are inevitable to a certain extent, must be limited as much as possible and in any case done in a responsible way. While the formal framework of the organisation, beginning with the local sections, is the most suitable for responsible proceedings and discussion as well as really conscious and political reflection, the "informal" framework is the one that leaves the most room to irresponsible attitudes, marked moreover by subjectivity. In particular, it is important to shut the door on any campaign of denigration of a member of the organisation (as of a central organ obviously). Vigilance against such behaviour must be exercised against oneself as much as against others. In this domain, as in many others, the most experienced militants, and particularly members of the central organs, must behave in an exemplary way, always considering the impact of what they say. And what they say is still more important and serious when we consider new comrades:

  • who, not knowing the victims of denigration well, may easily take what is said literally;
  • who risk being moulded by this type of behaviour or be sickened and demoralised by the image that it gives of the organisation.

To conclude this part on the relations between the organisation and the militants, it is necessary to emphasise and remember that the organisation is not the sum of its militants. In the historic struggle for communism, the collective being of the proletariat gives rise to, as part of itself, another collective being, the revolutionary organisation. Communist militants are those who dedicate their lives to make it live and progress, and defend this collective and unitary being that their class has entrusted them with. All other conceptions, notably that of the organisation as a sum of militants, are influenced by bourgeois ideology and constitute a mortal danger to the existence of the organisation.

It is only from this collective and unitary vision of the organisation that one can understand the question of centralisation.

The centralisation of the organisation

This question was at the centre of the activities report presented to the 10th International Congress. Moreover, the difficulties, which most sections are confronted with, don't directly concern the question of centralisation. Finally, when one clearly understands the question of the relations between the organisation and its militants, it is much easier to understand that of centralisation. That's why this part of the text will be less developed than the preceding part and will be composed largely of extracts from fundamental texts to which will be added comments made necessary by the incomprehension which have developed recently.

a) Unity of the organisation and centralisation

‘'Centralism is not an optional or abstract principle for the structure of the organisation. It is the concretisation of its unitary character. It expresses the fact that it is one and the same organisation which takes positions and acts within the class" (The 1982 Report, point 3). "In the various relations between the parts of the organisation and the whole, its always the whole which takes precedence (...) We must absolutely reject the conception according to which this or that part of the organisation can adopt, in front of the organisation or of the working class, the positions or attitudes which it thinks correct instead of those of the organisation which it thinks incorrect (...) if the organisation is going in the wrong direction, the responsibility of the members who consider that they defend the correct position is not to save themselves in their own little corner, but to wage a struggle within the organisation in order to help put it back in the right direction" (Ibid,. point 3).

"In a revolutionary organisation the whole is not the sum of the parts. The latter are delegated by the whole organisation to carry out a particular activity (territorial publications, local interventions), and are thus responsible in front of the whole for the mandate they have been given." (Ibid., point 4).

These brief reminders from the report of 1982 show clearly that insistence on the question of the unity of the organisation is the principal axis of the document. The different parts of the organisation can only be conceived as parts of a whole, as delegations and instruments of this whole. Is it necessary to repeat once more that this conception must be permanently present in all parts of the organisation?

Only on the basis of this insistence on the unity of the organisation does the report introduce the question of the congress (which is not relevant here) and the central organs.

"The central organ is a part of the organisation and as such responsible to it, when it meets at its Congress. However it's a part whose specificity is that it expresses and represents the whole, and because of this the positions and decisions of the central organ always take precedence over those of other parts of the organisation taken separately." (point 5),

" ... the central organ is an instrument of the organisation, not the other way round. It is not the summit of a pyramid as in the hierarchical and military view of revolutionary organisation. The organisation is not formed by a central organ plus militants, but is a tight, unified network in which all its component parts overlap and work together. The central organ should rather be seen as the nucleus of the cell which co-ordinates the metabolism of a living organic entity." (ibid).

This last image is fundamental in the comprehension of centralisation. It alone, in particular, allows a full comprehension of why in a unitary organisation there can be several central organs having different levels of responsibility. If one considers the organisation as a pyramid, where the central organ is the summit, we would be confronted by an impossible geometric figure: a pyramid having a summit and composed by pyramids each having their own summit. In practice, such organisation would be as aberrant as this geometric figure and couldn't function. It is the administrations and enterprises of the bourgeoisie which have a pyramidal architecture: for the latter to function, the different responsibilities are necessarily distributed from top to bottom. This is not the case for the ICC which has central organs elected at different territorial levels. Such a mode of functioning precisely corresponds to the fact that the ICC is a living entity (like that of a cell in an organism) in which different organisational moments are the expression of a unitary totality.

In such a conception, which is expressed in a detailed way in the statutes, there shouldn't be conflict, or opposition between different structures of the organisation. Disagreements may obviously arise anywhere in the organisation, but that is part of its normal life. However, if disagreements end up in conflicts this means that somewhere this conception of the organisation has been lost, and in particular a pyramidal vision has been introduced which can only lead to opposition between different "summits". In such a dynamic, which leads to the appearance of several "centres", and therefore to an opposition between them, it is the unity of the organisation which is put in question, and thus its very existence. (...)

If the questions of organisation and of functioning are of the highest importance, they are also the most difficult to understand.[20] Much more than other questions, their comprehension is linked to the subjectivity of militants and they can constitute an important channel for the penetration of ideologies foreign to the proletariat. As such they are questions which, par excellence, are never definitively acquired. It is therefore important that they are the object of sustained vigilance on the part of the organisation and all its militants. (...)

14th October, 1993


[1] A brief note should be made on the translation of this text. An organisation spread across 13 countries and 4 continents undertakes an enormous task of translation, both for its press and its internal bulletins. Given the pressures of time, internal documents often suffer in terms of their readability or strict adherence to grammatical rules. While we have done our best to render this text legible and intelligible, we ask our readers' indulgence for any violence we may have done to the language of Shakespeare in reproducing this text.

[2] Like the 2nd International and the Communist International, the ICC has an international central organ composed of militants from the different territorial section, the International Bureau (IB). This meets in regular plenary sessions (IB plenum) and between these meetings, there is a permanent commission, the International Secretariat(IS), that assures the continuity of its work

[3] "Even less than other fundamental texts of the ICC, those of the extraordinary conference are not to be buried in the bottom of a drawer or tinder a pile of papers. They must he a constant reference for the life of the organisation." (Activities Resolution of the 5th Congress of the ICC)

[4] It didn't prevent him either from referring to the hated characteristics of Jews and Germans: "Its a collection ( ... ) of all the absurd and dirty tales that the most perverse wickedness of German and Russian Jews, his friends, his agents, his disciples [of Marx] (...) have propagated against us, but above all against me ( ... ) You remember the article of the German Jew (NI Hess in the Reveil), reproduced and developed  by Borkheim and other German Jews of the Volkstaat?" (Reply of Bakunin to the circular of the General Council of March 1872 on the "Alleged splits in the International"). It must equally be noted that Bakunin, who the anarchists present as a kind of irreproachable and fearless hero had shown a good dose of hypocrisy and duplicity. Thus at the moment when he began to intrigue against the general council and against Marx, he wrote to the latter: "I will now do the same as you have for the past twenty years (...) My fatherland is now the International, of which you are one of the principle founders. You can see then, my friend, that 1 am your disciple and proud to be so". (22.12.1868)

[5] Formulation defended by Lenin: "A member of the party is someone who agrees with its programme and support., the party materially as well as working personally in one of its organisations". Formulation proposed by Martov (and adopted by the Congress thanks to the vote of the Bund): " a member of the party is someone who agrees with its programme and supports the party both materially and in working under the control and direction of one of its organisations."

[6] It is significant that these 3 militants, including Plekhanov who joined the Mensheviks some months after the Congress, were social chauvinists during the war, and opposed to the 1917 revolution. Only Martov adopted an internationalist position but he took a position against the power of the Soviets

[7] Here is the response of the Bolshevik Roussov (cited and saluted by Lenin in One step forward, two steps back): "In the mouth of revolutionaries one hears peculiar things which are in sharp disagreement with the notion of party work, of the ethic of the party (...) in placing ourselves within this point of view which is foreign to the party, petit-bourgeois, we find ourselves at each election with the question whether Petrov has been replaced by Ivanov ( ... ) Where will that lead us comrades? If we are together here its not to make agreeable speeches to each other, or exchange pleasantries but to create a party, we cannot accept this point of view. We have to elect delegates and it is not a question here of a lack of confidence in those who are un-elected; the only question is to know it is in the interest of the cause and if the person elected is fit for the designated post." In the same pamphlet Lenin recalled the stakes of this debate: "The struggle of the petit-bourgeois spirit against the party spirit, of the worst ‘personal considerations' against political function, wretched speeches against the elementary notions of revolutionary duty, here is the struggle around point 6 and 3 at the thirtieth session of our congress". (Lenin's emphasis)

[8] On several occasions, certain comrades in disagreement with the orientations of the ICC on organisational matters have affirmed that this systematically "tragic" destiny of the tendencies we have known reveals a weakness of our organisation, and notably an erroneous policy of the central organs. On this question it is appropriate to point out the following elements:

- the appearance of a tendency (we are talking of a real tendency based on "clearly expressed positive and coherent positions and not on a collection of points of opposition and recriminations" - as the statutes say) is not in itself a "positive" phenomenon: such a phenomenon is at best "the manifestation of an immaturity of the organisation" as the statutes also say;

- the only positive character of a tendency is to permit the most clear and coherent elaboration of an alternative orientation to that of the majority of the organisation when it appears, in the course of the debates in the latter, when such an orientation is emerging: that is why, in general, tendencies are constituted at the approach of congresses in order to present, on one or several points on the agenda, texts and amendments defending a different orientation to that which appears in the documents submitted to the congress by the central organ;

- in this sense, a tendency is all the more necessary when the orientation given by the central organ is erroneous or insufficient. However , until now, while the central organs of the ICC (and notably the IS) may make mistakes, the latter have been, in general, limited and/or corrected by the central organs themselves rapidly enough.

- the latter, which is true of the past, must not be understood as the expression of a sort of infallibility of these central organs for the future: on the contrary it is the responsibility of the whole organisation and of all the militants to maintain a permanent vigilance with regard to the orientations, positions and activities of these central organs.

- Consequently, one cannot say that it is a proof of the specific weakness of the central organs if the organisation hasn't known, until now, a real tendency

- However, this fact reveals in effect the existence in the whole of the organisation of a certain number of incomprehensions and weaknesses, and notably a certain superficiality in the agreement given to the orientations elaborated by the ICC at its congresses and territorial meetings: it is a problem which has often been raised by the central organs in their activity reports, but it is not in their capacity to resolve them by themselves; its the whole of the organisation and all the militants who must do it.

[9] MC was a comrade who had militated since the revolutionary wave that followed the First World War. He was excluded from the French Communist Party at the end of the 20s as a Left oppositionist and militated in different organisations of the Communist Left, notably the Italian Fraction from1938. He was the principle founder of the French Communist Left, the political ancestor of the ICC. He died in December 1990 (see the articles on this subject that we published in International Review n°65 and n°66)

[10] "It wasn't Chenier who founded the tendency and the crisis, but the latent crisis in the ICC permitted Chenier to catalyse and manipulate it for motivations which, if they could not be fully seen, were more a question of pathological ambition than politics. The commission can reply neither in one sense nor the other to the question if his actions obeyed orders from the outside - as several witnesses have suggested - but it can affirm that he was a deeply suspicious and hypocritical element, perfectly capable of serving any cause looking to destroy from the inside the whole organisation in which be was able to infiltrate." (Report of the Inquiry Commission). For the comrades who don't know this period of the life of the ICC, one can give several illustrations of the behaviour and personality of Chenier:

- in secret correspondence and in the wings, he worked on the feelings of comrades and pushed them to "go into action" in the meetings of the organisation while he himself was particularly  moderate and conciliatory in these same meetings;

- with the members of the organisation he was always very fraternal, charming even, because he wished to enrol them in his tendency, because lie tried to dissipate any mistrust on the part of those who, in the wings, he had made the worst calumnies;

- he used women as an instrument of his manoeuvres: he pushed his companion K into the arms of JM a founder member of WR and who had a large influence amongst the comrades of the section; playing on the heart strings, he sent orders to K to carry out his manoeuvres ; moreover, he seduced Jo, ex-companion of JM, who came to join him in Lille and who he put to work (notably in translating into English his public or secret documents and as an agent amongst her friends in GB) and who he threw into the street when he no longer needed her, in other words when his attempted putsch in the British section was thwarted.

This is the sort of person the ICC had the weakness to let into its ranks by lack of vigilance. It should be noted that this element became a member of the French section's Executive Commission, and it is not absurd to think that, if he had not been unmasked rapidly enough, he would even have become a member of the International Bureau.

[11] In a text written in 1980, comrade MC already raised this question: "I won't waste my time on this type of recrimination because I find it indecent. When one knows a little of the lives of revolutionary militants, not only in exceptional moments, like war or revolution, but in ‘normal'  life, when one thinks for example of the lives of the militants of the Italian Fraction in the 30s, all immigrants a good part of whom were deported, illegal, unskilled workers, unemployed and with unstable work and housing, with children (without any family support) who, often, went hungry, these militants continued their activity in these conditions 20, 30, 40 can only find the complaints and recriminations of certain ‘critiques' purely and simply indecent. In place of jeremiads, we must be aware that the group and the militants live today in exceptionally favourable conditions. Until now we haven't known repression, nor illegality, nor unemployment, nor major material difficulties. That's why today, even more than in other conditions. the militant has not to make demands of a personal character, but to always offer the most he can give, without waiting for an invitation". (MC "Revolutionary organisation and the Militant" 1980)

[12] "It is nonsensical to see the nomination of comrades to commissions as a ‘promotion` and to consider it as an honour and a privilege. To he nominated to a commission is a supplementary responsibility and many comrades would like to he liberated from it. In so far as that is not possible, it is important that they carry it out as conscientiously as possible. It is very important not to replace this real question of accomplishing well the tasks which have been conferred on them with another, false, typically leftist question: the quest for honorary positions" (MC 1980).

[13] "The proletarian vision is otherwise. Because it is a historic and the last class of history, its vision tends to be global and in the latter the diverse phenomena are only aspects, moments of a whole. That's why the proletarian militant is not conditioned by: ‘what position do 1 occupy', nor motivated by any individual ambition. Whether it is writing, theoretical questions, or typewriting, printing a leaflet, demonstrating in the street, or selling the paper that other comrades have written, it's always the same militant, because the action he participates in is always political and whatever the particular activity, it comes from a political choice and expresses his sharing of this unity, to the political body: the political group". (MC 1980)

[14] "1t is not only the fact of the division between theoretical work and practical work, between theory and practice, between the leadership which decides and the base which carries out, which is the manifestation of the division of society into antagonistic classes, but equally the intellectual obsession which is preoccupied with this fact, expressing the inability to go beyond this level, situating still on the same level simply turning the coin over, but conserving it nonetheless." (ibid)

[15] It was the proof that Pleckhanov was being won by bourgeois ideology (he who had written the excellent book on the ,role of the individual in history): in the final analysis the difference of attitude between Lenin and PIeckhanov on this question prefigured, in a certain way, the attitude they would have faced with the revolution of the proletariat

[16] "In the second half of the 60s, small circles of friends, were constituted by elements for the  most part very young with no political experience, living in the student milieu. On the individual level their existence seemed purely accidental. On the objective level - the only one where a real explanation can be found - these circles corresponded to the end of the post-war reconstruction, and the first signs that capitalism was returning to the open phase of its permanent crisis, giving rise to a resurgence of class struggle. Despite what the individuals composing these circles might have thought, imagining that their group was based on friendship, the attempt to realise their daily life together, these circles only survived to the extent that they were politicised, became political groups, and accomplished and assumed their destiny. The circles who didn't become conscious of this were swallowed up and decomposed in the leftist or modernist swamp or disappeared into nature. Such is our own history. And it is not without difficulties that we have survived this process of transformation from a circle of friends into a political group, where unity based on affection, personal sympathy, the same life style, gave way to a political cohesion and a solidarity on a conviction that one is engaged in the same historical combat: the proletarian revolution (...) One must not confuse the political organisation that we are with the cherished communities of the student movement, where the only raison d'être is the illusion of some discontented individuals that together they can overcome the constraints that decadent society imposes and mutually realise their personal life." (MC 1980).

[17] We have some difficulty in translating the original French expression "chef de bande", which may mean either a gangster boss or the leading figure in a group of friends. The expression "gang leader" should here be taken in the latter sense (translator's note).

[18] " a bourgeois organisation, the existence of divergences is based on the defence of this or that orientation to manage capitalism, or more simply on the defence of this or that sector of the dominant class or this or that clique, orientations or interests which sustain themselves in a durable way and which must he conciliated by an ‘equal sharing' of posts between the representatives. In a communist organisation, by contrast, the divergences don't express the defence of material or personal interests or particular pressure groups, but are the translation of a living and dynamic process of clarification of problems which pose themselves to the class and destined, as such, to be re absorbed with the deepening of the discussion and in the light of experience". (Report of 1982, point 6).

[19] "On this question, it is important that the practice of invitations to meals or personal gatherings has a sense of responsibility. Comrades getting together around a good meal may be a good occasion to reinforce the links between members of the organisation and develop sentiments of fraternity between them, overcoming the atomisation which today's society engenders (notably amongst the more isolated comrades). However it is necessary to be sure that this practice is not turned into ‘clan politics':

- by selective invitations with the objective of winning the friendship and confidence of those who could join the clan or ‘influential group';

- by discussions which aggravate the cleavages within the organisation, undermining the confidence between militants and groups of militants".

[20] A revolutionary of the stature of Trotsky had, on numerous occasions, shown that he didn't understand these questions well. Enough said!

Life of the ICC: 


Heritage of the Communist Left: