From Marx to the Third International, part iii
In the first article in this series, published in International Review n°118, we showed how the theory of decadence is at the very heart of historical materialism in Marx’ and Engels’ analysis of the evolution of modes of production. It is central to the programmatic texts of the organisations of the workers’ movement. In the second article, which appeared in International Review n°121, we saw how the organisations of the workers’ movement from the time of Marx, through the Second International and its marxist left to the Communist International, made this analysis the foundation of their understanding of the evolution of capitalism in order to be able to determine the priorities for the period. In fact, Marx and Engels always stated very clearly that the perspective of the communist revolution depended on the objective, historical and global evolution of capitalism. The Third International, in particular, made this analysis the general framework for its understanding of the new period that opened with the outbreak of World War I. All of the political currents that formed the International, recognised that the first global war marked the beginning of capitalism’s decadent phase. We continue here our historical survey of the main expressions of the workers’ movement by examining more closely the particular political positions of the Communist International on the national, parliamentary and union questions, for which the system’s entry into its phase of decline had important implications.
The First Congress of the Communist International was held from 2nd to 6th March 1919, at the height of the international revolutionary wave sweeping the great workers’ concentrations of Europe. The young soviet power in Russia had been in existence for barely two years. A major insurrection took place in Bulgaria in September 1918. Germany was at the height of social agitation, workers’ councils were being formed everywhere, a great insurrection had taken place in Berlin between November 1918 and February 1919. A Socialist Republic of Workers’ Councils had even been formed in Bavaria; tragically, it was only to survive from November 1918 to April 1919. A victorious socialist revolution was to break out in Hungary after the congress and resist the assaults of counter-revolutionary forces for six months from March to August 1919. Important social movements, following the atrocities of the war and the difficulties that arose afterwards, were shaking all the other European countries.
At the same time, following the treason of Social-Democracy, which took the side of the ruling class at the outbreak of war in August 1914, the revolutionary forces were in the process of reorganisation. New formations, emerging from the difficult process of decantation sought to safeguard the principles and the greatest achievements of the old parties. The conferences of Zimmerwald (September 1915) and Kienthal (April 1916), by regrouping all the opponents of the imperialist war, had contributed forcefully to this decantation and enabled the foundations of a new International to be laid.
In the previous article we saw how, following the outbreak of the First World War, this new International made capitalism’s entry into the new historic period its framework for understanding the tasks of the hour. We are now going to examine how this framework was worked out, explicitly or implicitly, in the elaboration of programmatic positions; we will also show how the speed of events and the difficult conditions of the time did not allow revolutionaries to draw out all the political implications of capitalism’s entry into its decadent phase as regards the content and the forms of the struggle of the working class.
The union question
When the First Congress of the Third International was held in March 1919, the first questions to confront the nascent communist organisations were those concerning the form, the content and the perspectives of the revolutionary movement which was developing just about everywhere in Europe. To the extent that the tasks of the hour were no longer progressive conquests in the framework of the development of ascendant capitalism, but the conquest of power faced with a mode of production that had shown its historic bankruptcy at the turn of century with the outbreak of World War I, the form taken by the class struggle evolved to correspond with its new content and objective. If organisation in unions – essentially economic organs regrouping a minority of the working class – was adapted to the objectives of the movement in the ascendant phase of capitalism, they were not adapted to the seizure of power. That is why the working class, starting with the mass strikes in Russia in 1905, created the soviets – or workers’ councils – which are organs regrouping all the workers in struggle, whose content is both economic and political and whose fundamental objective is to prepare for the seizure of power: “All that is needed is to find the practical form to enable the proletariat to establish its rule. Such a form is the soviet system with the dictatorship of the proletariat. Dictatorship of the proletariat – until now these words were Latin to the masses. Thanks to the spread of the soviets throughout the world this Latin has been translated into all modern languages; a practical form of dictatorship has been found by the working people. The mass of workers now understands it thanks to Soviet power in Russia, thanks to the Spartacus League in Germany, and to similar organisations in other countries…” (“Opening remarks” to the First Congress of the Communist International, in Founding the Communist International, proceedings and documents of the First Congress: March 1919, Pathfinder, p.47).
Basing itself on the experience of the Russian revolution and the widespread appearance of workers’ councils in all the insurrections in Europe, the Communist International, at its First Congress, was strongly aware that large-scale working class struggles would no longer take place in the union framework but in that of the new unitary organs, the workers’ soviets: “Victory can be considered assured only when not only the urban workers, but also the rural proletarians are organised, and organised not as before – in trade unions and cooperative societies – but in soviets” (Lenin’s speech on the theses on bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat at the First Congress of the CI, ibid, p.163). Besides, the main lesson drawn by the First Congress of the Third International is that, in Lenin’s words, “spreading the soviet system is a most important task”: “But I think we should not present the problem in this way after nearly two years of revolution; we should rather adopt concrete decisions because for us, and particularly for the majority of the western European countries, spreading the soviet system is a most important task (…) I want to make the practical proposal that a resolution be adopted in which three points shall be specifically mentioned. First: One of the most important tasks confronting the western European comrades is to explain to the people the meaning, importance, and necessity of the soviet system (…) Third: We must say that winning a communist majority in the soviets is the principal task in all countries in which Soviet government is not yet victorious” (ibid p.160-163).
Not only did the working class create new organs of struggle – the workers’ councils – adapted to the new objectives and content of the struggle in the decadence of capitalism, but the First Congress also made it clear to revolutionaries that the proletariat must also confront the unions, which had passed, lock, stock and barrel, into the camp of the bourgeoisie, as is evident from the reports of the delegates from the different countries. Thus Albert, the delegate from Germany said in his report that: “What is significant for us is that these factory councils completely eclipsed the trade unions, which until then had been highly influential in Germany, but had been in league with the scab unions, had forbidden the workers to strike, consistently opposed their public actions, and stabbed them in the back at every opportunity. Since November 9 these trade unions have been completely bypassed. Since then, all struggles for better wages have been led without and even against the trade unions, which had not won a single one of the workers’ wage demands” (“Report on Germany”, ibid, p.56). It was the same with Platten’s report on Switzerland: “The Swiss trade union movement suffers the same diseases as the German (…) The Swiss workers recognised early on that they could better their material conditions only by proceeding directly into struggle, regardless of the union statutes, under the direction not of the old trade union federation but of leadership they elected themselves. A workers’ congress was held and a workers’ council formed (…) The workers’ congress was founded despite the opposition of the trade union federation…” (“Report on Switzerland”, p.60-61). This reality, of an often violent confrontation between the workers’ movement organised in councils and the unions, which had become the last rampart to safeguard capitalism, is an experience which runs through the reports of all the delegates to one degree or another.
The reality of the powerfully counter-revolutionary role of the unions was news to the Bolshevik Party: in his report on Russia, Zinoviev could still say that “The second form of worker’ organisation in Russia is the trade unions. They developed differently here than in Germany: they played an important revolutionary role in the years 1904-1905, and today are marching side by side with us in the struggle for socialism (…) A large majority of trade union members support our party’s positions, and all decisions of the unions are made in the spirit of those positions” (“Report on Russia”, ibid, p.64). Similarly, Bukharin, as writer and co-reporter on the platform which was to be voted, said “Comrades, it is my task to analyse the theses that we have proposed (…) If we were writing only for Russians, we would take up the role of the trade unions in the process of revolutionary reconstruction. However, judging by the experience of the German Communists, this is impossible, for the comrades there tell us that the position occupied by their trade unions is the complete opposite of the one taken by ours. In our country, the trade unions play a vital role in the organisation of useful work and are a pillar of Soviet power. In Germany, however, it is just the opposite” (ibid, p.121 and 128). This is hardly surprising when we understand that the unions did not really make their appearance in Russia until 1905 and that they were carried along in the wake of the soviets. When the movement ebbed after the failure of the revolution, the unions also tended to disappear; the relative weakness of the Tsarist state did not allow it to integrate them into itself, contrary to what occurred in the Western countries. At the time of the revolutionary wave in 1917, they were once again in the wake of the soviets.
This difference in the heritage of workers’ experience would, with the change in the dynamic of the revolutionary wave and the isolation of Russia (at this point no-one had yet said that the Bolshevik Party was the spearhead of the counter-revolution), weigh on the International’s ability to draw out and unify all the proletariat’s lessons and experiences internationally. The strength of the revolutionary movement, which was still considerable at the time of the First Congress, as well as the convergence of the experiences of all the delegates from the most developed capitalist countries on the union question, made this question one that remained open. Comrade Albert thus concluded on the union question for the praesidium as co-reporter on the platform of the CI as follows: “I come now to a very important question that the platform does not deal with, that of the trade union movement. We spent a lot of time on this question. We interviewed delegates from each country about their trade union movement, and concluded that since the proletariat’s situation in each country is completely different, it is impossible at this time to include in the platform an international position on this question (…) These are all conditions that vary from one country to the next, and we therefore believe it is impossible to offer the workers a clear international policy. For that reason we cannot resolve the question today. We must leave it up to each national organisation to develop a position on it” (ibid, p.144-145). In reply to the idea of revolutionising the unions, put forward by Reinstein, former member of the American Socialist Labor Party who was considered to be the delegate for the United States, Albert, delegate of the German Communist Party replied: “It would be easy to say they must be revolutionised, with revolutionary leaders replacing the Yellow ones. But that is not so easy to do, because all organisational structures in the unions are adapted to the old state apparatus and because a council system cannot be established on the basis of craft unions” (p. 144-145).
The end of the war, a certain “victory” euphoria in the victorious countries and the bourgeoisie’s ability, with the unshakable support of the Social-Democratic parties and the unions, to unleash a ferocious repression on social movements, at the same time as granting important economic and political concessions to the working class – such as universal suffrage and the eight hour day – made it possible, little by little, to stabilise the socio-economic situation in each country. This caused a progressive decline in the intensity of the revolutionary wave, which had emerged precisely in reaction to the atrocities of the war and its consequences. This exhaustion of revolutionary élan and the end of the deterioration of the economic situation, weighed very heavily on the revolutionary movement’s ability to draw the lessons of all the experience of struggle at the international level and to unify its understanding of all the implications of the change in the historic period for the form and content of the proletarian struggle. With the isolation of the Russian revolution, the Communist International was dominated by the positions of the Bolshevik Party which was increasingly forced, under the terrible pressure of events, to make concessions in order to try to gain time and to break out of the vice in which it was held. Three significant events in this regression took place between the First and the Second Congress of the Communist International (July 1920). Shortly before its Second Congress in 1920, the CI created a Red Trade Union International, in competition with the International of “yellow” trade unions in Amsterdam (linked to the treacherous Social-Democratic parties). In April 1920 the Executive Commission of the CI dissolved its Amsterdam Bureau for Western Europe, which polarised the radical positions of the parties in Western Europe against some of the orientations it defended, particularly on the union and parliamentary questions. And, lastly, Lenin wrote one of his worst works in April-May 1920, Left wing communism, an infantile disorder in which he incorrectly criticised those he called the “leftists”, and who were precisely those expressions of the left which expressed the experiences of the most concentrated and advanced bastions of the European proletariat. Instead of pursuing the discussion, the confrontation and unification of the different experiences of the proletarian struggle internationally, this turn in perspective and position opened the door to a withdrawal to the old positions of the radical Social-Democrats.
Despite the increasingly unfavourable course of events, the Communist International showed in its Theses on the union question, adopted at the Second Congress, that it was still capable of theoretical clarification. Thanks to the confrontation of experiences of struggle in all countries and the convergence of the lessons on the counter-revolutionary role of the unions, it gained the conviction that, despite the contrary experience in Russia, they had passed to the side of the bourgeoisie during World War I: “During the war most of the trade unions proved themselves to be part of the military apparatus of the bourgeoisie, assisting the exploitation of the working class and spilling the blood of the proletariat in the interests of capitalist profit. In the same way and for the same reasons international Social-Democracy showed itself, with few exceptions, to be an organisation serving the interests of the bourgeoisie and restraining the proletariat, rather than a weapon of the revolutionary proletarian struggle” (“The Trade Union Movement, Factory Committees and the Third International” in Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the first four Congresses of the Third International, Hessel, p.106). Similarly, and contrary to their experience in Russia, the Bolsheviks accepted that from now on the unions would play an essentially negative role, constituting a powerful brake on the development of the class struggle since they were contaminated by reformism in the same way as Social-Democracy.
However, the terrible pressure of events – the reversal in the revolutionary wave, the socio-economic stabilisation of capitalism and the isolation of the Russian revolution – led the CI, under the impetus of the Bolsheviks, to hold on to the old radical Social-Democratic positions rather than complete the political deepening necessary to understand the changes in the dynamic, content and form taken by the class struggle in the decadent phase of capitalism. Unsurprisingly, we can see a clear regression in the programmatic theses which were adopted at the CI’s Second Congress, despite the opposition of many communist organisations and not least of the representatives of the most advanced fractions of the Western European proletariat. So, without any argumentation and in complete contradiction to the general orientation developed at the First Congress and to the concrete reality of the struggle, the Bolsheviks defended the idea that “Though, during the war, the trade unions influenced the working masses in the interests of the bourgeoisie, they are now instruments for the destruction of capitalism” (ibid, p.107)! This assertion was immediately strongly qualified but the door was now open to all the tactical expedients of “re-conquering” the unions, putting their backs to the wall or developing a united front tactic, etc., all on the pretext that communists are still a minority, that the situation is more and more unfavourable, that it is necessary to “be with the masses”, etc.
The evolution of the position on the union question, which we have briefly outlined above, was similar in many details for the other political positions of the Communist International. Having made important advances and theoretical clarifications, it regressed with the retreat in the revolutionary wave internationally. It is not for us to set ourselves up as judges of history and award good and bad marks but to understand a process in which each took part with their strengths and weaknesses. Faced with growing isolation and under the pressure of the retreat in social movements, each party tried to adopt an attitude and positions determined by the specific experience of the working class in each country. The predominant influence of the Bolsheviks in the Communist International, the active factor in its constitution, was gradually transformed into a hindrance to clarification, crystallising its positions essentially on the experience of the Russian revolution alone.
The parliamentary question
The position on parliamentary politics, like that on the union question, developed from a tendency towards clarification, including the theses on parliamentarism adopted at the second congress of the CI to a second period marked by a tendency to withdraw from these theses. But even more than the union question, which we have concentrated on in this article, the parliamentary question was seen in the framework of the evolution of capitalism from its ascendant to its decadent phase. So, we can read in the theses of the Second Congress that: “The struggle for communism, however, must be based on a theoretical analysis of the character of the present epoch (the culminating point of capitalism, its imperialist self-negation and self-destruction, the uninterrupted spread of civil war etc.) …The attitude of the Third International to parliament is determined not by new theoretical ideas, but by the change in the role of parliament itself. In the preceding historical epoch parliament was an instrument of the developing capitalist system, and as such played a role that was in a certain sense progressive. In modern conditions of unbridled imperialism parliament has become a weapon of falsehood, deception and violence, a place of enervating chatter. In the face of the devastation, embezzlement, robbery and destruction committed by imperialism, parliamentary reforms which are wholly lacking in consistency, durability and order lose all practical significance for the working masses… At the present time parliament cannot be used by the Communists as the arena in which to struggle for reforms and improvements in working-class living standards as was the case at certain times during the past epoch. The focal point of political life has shifted fully and finally beyond the boundaries of parliament. … The comparative unimportance of this question [revolutionary parliamentarism] should always be kept in view. Since the focal point of the struggle for state power lies outside parliament the questions of proletarian dictatorship and mass struggle for its realisation are, obviously, immeasurably more important than the question of how to use the parliamentary system” (“The Communist Party and Parliament” in Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos p.97-99, our emphasis in bold). Unfortunately these theses were not coherent with their own theoretical underpinnings since, despite these clear statements, the Communist International did not draw out all the implications inasmuch as it required all the Communist Parties to make “revolutionary” propaganda in the parliamentary tribune and elections.
The national question
The Manifesto adopted by the First Congress of the Communist International was particularly clear-sighted on the national question, announcing that in the new period opened by the First World War: “The national state which gave a mighty impulsion to capitalist development has become too narrow for the further development of productive forces”. In consequence “This renders all the more precarious the position of small states, hemmed in by the major powers of Europe and scattered through other sections of the world”. To the extent that the little states were themselves constrained to develop their own imperialist policies: “These small states, which have arisen at different times as fragments chipped from bigger ones, as so much small change in payment for various services rendered and as strategic buffers, retain their own dynasties, their own ruling cliques, their own imperialist pretensions, their own diplomatic intrigues (…) the number of small states has increased; out of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, out of portions of the former Czarist empire, new states have been carved, which were no sooner born than they flung themselves at one another’s throats over the question of state boundaries”. Taking account of these weaknesses in the context of a system which had become too narrow for the expansion of the productive forces, national independence was described as “illusory”, leaving the small nations no choice but to play the game of the great powers and sell themselves to the highest bidder in the world inter-imperialist relations: “their phantom independence rested on the selfsame thing as the equilibrium of Europe: the uninterrupted antagonism between the two imperialist camps. The war has disrupted this equilibrium. By giving at first an enormous preponderance to Germany, the war compelled the small states to seek their salvation under the magnanimous wings of German militarism. After Germany was crushed, the bourgeoisie of the small states, together with their respective patriotic “Socialists,” turned their faces to the victorious Allied imperialism and began seeking guarantees for their continued independent existence in the hypocritical points of the Wilsonian program (…) The Allied imperialists are meanwhile preparing such combinations of small powers, both old and new, as would be bound to themselves through the hold of mutual hatreds and common impotence” (Manifesto of the Communist International to the Workers of the World).
This clarity was unfortunately abandoned from the Second Congress onwards with the adoption of the Theses on the national and colonial questions since it was no longer considered that all nations, however small, were forced to conduct an imperialist policy and tie themselves to the strategy of the great powers. In fact nations were divided into two groups “…an equally clear distinction between the interests of the oppressed, dependent and subject nations and the oppressing, exploiting and sovereign nations…” (“Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and the Colonial Questions”, Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos, p.77) implying that “Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International has the obligation (…) of supporting every liberation movement in the colonies not only in words but in deeds (…) Those Party members who fundamentally reject the conditions and Theses laid down by the Communist International are to be expelled from the Party” (“Theses on the Conditions of Admission to the Communist International”, p.94 and 97). Furthermore, and contrary to what was correctly stated in the Manifesto of the First Congress, the national state was no longer considered as “too narrow for the further development of productive forces” since “Foreign domination obstructs the free development of social forces; its overthrow is therefore the first step toward a revolution in the colonies” (“Supplementary Theses on the National and Colonial Questions”, in Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress, 1920, p.220). At this level we can see that the abandonment of the deepening of the implications of the analysis of the entry of the capitalist system into decadence progressively leads the Communist International to the slippery slope of opportunism.
We have no wish to claim that the Communist International had a full and complete understanding of the decadence of the capitalist mode of production. As we will see in the next article, the Third International and all its component parties were, to one degree or another, certainly conscious that a new epoch had been born, that capitalism had served its time, that the task of the hour was no longer the winning of reforms but the conquest of power, that the capitalist system had become obsolete and that the class which represented it, the bourgeoisie, had become reactionary, at least in the central countries, etc. It was one of the weaknesses of the CI that it was not able to draw out all the lessons of the new period, which had opened with the First World War, on the form and the content of the proletarian struggle. Rather than the strength and weakness of the CI and its component parties, this weakness was above all the fruit of the general difficulties encountered by the movement as a whole: the profound division of revolutionary forces at the moment of the treason of Social-Democracy and the necessity for rebuilding them in the difficult conditions of the war and the immediate post-war period; the division between the victorious and defeated countries which did not provide favourable conditions for the generalisation of the revolutionary movement; the rapid regression of the movements and struggles as each country showed a greater or lesser ability to stabilise the economic and social situation after the war; etc. This weakness could only grow and it fell to the left fractions which detached themselves from the CI to continue the work that remained to be carried out.
1. “The Second International did its share of useful preparatory work in preliminarily organising the proletarian masses during the long, ‘peaceful’ period of the most brutal capitalist slavery and most rapid capitalist progress in the last third of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. To the Third International falls the task of organising the proletarian forces for a revolutionary onslaught against the capitalist governments, for civil war against the bourgeoisie of all countries for the capture of political power, for the triumph of socialism!” (Lenin, November 1914).
2. See our recent articles on this subject in International Review n120 (“The revolutionary nature of the working class. 100 years ago: the 1905 revolution in Russia, part 1”) and International Review n122 (“The soviets open a new period in the history of the class struggle”).
3. “In the epoch of capitalist decay the economic struggle of the proletariat is transformed much more quickly into political struggle than in the epoch of peaceful capitalist development. Any large-scale economic conflict can develop into open revolutionary struggle, directly confronting the workers with the question of revolution” (“The trade union movement, factory committees and the Third International” thesis 7, in Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the first four Congresses of the Third International introduced by Bertil Hessel, p.109). “Workers’ struggles for wage increases, even where successful, do not result in the anticipated rise in living standards, because the rising prices on all consumer goods cancel out any gains. The living conditions of workers can only be improved when production is administered by the proletariat instead of the bourgeoisie” (“Platform of the Communist International”, ibid p.42).
4. Thus Feinberg’s report for Britain insists that: “The trade unions relinquished gains won in long years of struggle, and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress [TUC] concluded a ‘civil peace’ with the bourgeoisie. But life – the intensified exploitation, the food price increases – forced the workers to defend themselves against the capitalists, who were taking advantage of the ‘civil peace’ to further their own exploitative ends. The workers had no choice but to demand higher wages and to back up this demand with strikes. The TUC General Council and the leaders (until then) of the movement, who had promised the government that they would keep the workers in check, sought to restrain the movement and disavowed the strikes. But the strikes went ahead ‘unofficially’.” (“Report on Britain”, ibid, p.106-107). Similarly, concerning the United States, Reinstein’s report showed: “I would only stress here that the American capitalist class was practical and shrewd enough to create for itself a useful and efficient lightning rod by developing a large antisocialist union organisation under the leadership of Gompers… Gompers… is more like an American Zubatov. [Zubatov was the organiser of the “yellow unions” on behalf of the Tsarist police] He was and remains a determined opponent of the socialist perspective and of socialist goals. And yet he passes for a representative of a large workers’ organisation, the American Federation of Labor, which is founded upon the myth of harmony between capital and labor and which cripples the power of the working class and thus prevents it from successfully fighting back against capitalism in America” (“Report on the United States”, ibid, p.76). Kuusinen, the delegate for Finland, spoke in the same sense in the discussion on the platform of the CI: “An objection could be raised to the passage where the revolutionary unions and cooperatives are discussed. In Finland we have neither revolutionary unions nor revolutionary cooperatives, and we very much doubt even the possibility of there being any in our country. The structure of unions and cooperatives there convinces us that after the revolution the new social order could be better established without these unions than with them, even if they were founded on a new basis” (ibid p.132).
5. See p.140-141 Founding the Communist International, proceedings and documents of the First Congress: March 1919. This delegate proposed a resolution for the platform expressing this view, which was rejected by the congress.
6. Lenin went so far as to write “From all this follows the necessity, the absolute necessity, for the Communist Party, the vanguard of the proletariat, its class-conscious section, to resort to changes of tack, to conciliation and compromises with the various groups of proletarians, with the various parties of the workers and small masters”.
7. “…the second and immediate objective, which consists in being able to lead the masses to a new position ensuring the victory of the vanguard in the revolution, cannot be reached without the liquidation of Left doctrinairism, and without a full elimination of its errors” (Lenin, in Left-wing communism, an infantile disorder).
8. The following thesis continues “The old trade-union bureaucracy and the old forms of trade-union organisation are obstructing this change in every possible way.”
9. “The Second Congress of the Third International considers as not correct the views regarding the relations of the Party to the class and to the masses, and the non-participation of the Communist Parties in bourgeois parliaments and reactionary unions (which have been emphatically repudiated in the special resolutions of the present Congress), which are defended in full by the KAPD and also partially by the “Communist Party of Switzerland”, by the organ of the East European secretariat of the Communist International Kommunismus in Vienna, and by several of our Dutch comrades; also by certain Communist organisations in Britain, as for instance the Workers’ Socialist Federation, and by the IWW in America, the Shop Stewards’ Committees in Britain, etc.” (“Theses on the Fundamental Tasks of the Communist International” in Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, p.141-142).
10. Having gone into some detail on the union question, we cannot do the same for the parliamentary question in the framework of this article on decadence. We refer French speaking readers to our collection of articles Mobilisation électorale – demobilisation de la classe ouvrière republishing two studies of the question which appeared in Révolution Internationale n°2, February 1973, entitled “Les barricades de la bourgeoisie” and in Révolution Internationale n°10, July 1974, entitled “Les élections contre la classe ouvrière”. The latter appeared in English in World Revolution n°2, November 1974, as “Elections: the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie”.