3. False theories of the party

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The nature of the communist revolution, the characteristics of the growth of proletarian consciousness, the constitution of the proletariat into the dominant class… all these conceptions have been tackled in a very theoretical way. And we should ask what function this analysis serves. How can it help us to define the role of revolutionaries, to emphasise the differences between ideology and class consciousness? Does the nature of the communist revolution influence the intervention of communists? In fact is this not too academic a way to tackle the problem?

It is true that today revolutionaries find difficulty in theorising the concrete and complex process of the class struggle as it unfolds before their eyes. Their analyses still remain very general: too often they lack experience of and direct contact with the workers’ struggle. Fifty years of counter-revolution have lain heavily on the working class and today’s revolutionaries, after such a lengthy rupture with the revolutionary organisations of the past, are like children learning to walk. What went without saying for communists fifty years ago comes as a surprise to revol­utionaries today: what emerged from the daily practice and living intervention, the experience of the past, seems today an abstract, still vague conception. The active role of communists, their relation to the class, their effective intervention within struggles themselves… all this was put into practice and taken up in a concrete way by revolutionaries in the twenties. Revolutionaries who are today trying to revive this tradition still have much to learn. The view they have of the role of the party and its tasks still remains somewhat theoretical although it is true that the resurgence of class struggle in recent years has defined their responsibilities as a communist vanguard more concretely and more effectively than a thousand theoretical texts.

But in that case wouldn’t it have been sufficient to base the writing of this pamphlet on texts from the past? Why not start this section by scrupulously quoting the theses on the Party from the Communist International congresses? Isn’t Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? a good reference point? Unfortunately not.

In fact the theoretical texts on the party written by the Communist International in 1920-21 are not a true reflection of the practice of the Bolsheviks in 1917. They are a caricature, a deformation. They amplify on a theoretical level the confusions already present, notably in Lenin’s What is to be Done? If we have found it necessary to introduce the question of the role of revolutionaries with a global analysis of communism, of the coming to consciousness of the proletariat it is precisely because the general theoretical framework for the intervention of communists was not wholly clear for the workers’ movement of the Third International, nor even, subsequently, for the left fractions who struggled against the degeneration of the Communist International.

The reappropriation of the gains of the past does not mean copying verbatim the texts of the past, aping the revolution­ary organisations which preceded us. Reappropriating the experience of the past means also criticising it, drawing out its positive and negative lessons. The revolutionary wave of the Twenties, the reflux of struggle that followed it is an inexhaustible source of lessons. These lessons have allowed us to redefine more precisely the characteristics of the world revolution, of the process of coming to consciousness and of the self-organisation of the proletariat. It is these lessons that also allow us to better expose confusions that could, and still do, exist today on the role of the party and its relations with the working class.