The role of revolutionaries, then, is all the more fundamental because they are taking part in the ripening of a revolution which, for the first time in history, will lead a social class to take up the reins of its own destiny. Humanity is getting ready to take leave of its pre-history, and it is no easy business!
For it is only from its organisation and its consciousness that the proletariat will draw sufficient strength to carry out a revolution that looks like a miracle, but is in fact no more than a necessary historical step. Since, sadly, the ruling ideas of society are those of the ruling class, the proletariat will not grasp its awareness of this historic task in a day. This is why the presence and intervention of revolutionaries is so vital. They act with the aim of homogenising this awareness. And if they evolve as a living part of their class, and not as spectators foreign to it, as tourists, this is precisely because class consciousness allows no separation between theory and practice, between economic and political struggle. It draws its strength from the lifeblood of the proletarian struggle. It is not an ideology, that demands specialists of thought, philosophers and such-like performing monkeys, but the proletariat’s living and collective affirmation of itself as a conscious revolutionary class.
We have tried to make all this more precise by situating the intervention of revolutionaries within the overall framework of the development of proletarian consciousness and of the communist revolution. But the objective bases for this intervention are not static. There is an evolution in historic periods and dynamics. Revolution is not always on the agenda; the balance of class forces is not always in favour of one or the other of the social adversaries; the class struggle undergoes flux and reflux. Revolutionaries do not, therefore, always dispose of the same strength to carry out their tasks, nor must they count on always having the same echo in their class, no matter what the period. Their analysis of the period is fundamental, and should allow them to evaluate correctly the objectives of their activity. There is a whole evolution between the communist party with a direct impact in the class, and the left fraction drawing lessons from a counter-revolutionary period. It is the objective conditions of the moment, and the level of class struggle, that determine the orientation of revolutionary work. Without being empirical, revolutionaries are compelled to take their stand on this material base; unless they are to sink into voluntarism, they cannot cheat the wheel of history. Their task is to accelerate those revolutionary tendencies that do appear, and to sharpen the proletariat’s subjective preparation for the seizure of power.
What is the period we are in today, and what are the present tasks of revolutionaries?
To answer this question, we must study the workers’ struggles that have taken place in recent years. Their vitality and combativity confirm better than would a thousand speeches the change in period since the end of the 1960’s. The reconstruction period reached an end during those years. The crisis reminds the proletariat of the sad reality of this rotten and senile system. The slow degradation of its living conditions pushes it to refuse austerity, and to set off once more down the path of struggle. After 50 years of ferocious counter—revolution, the direction of history points once more towards revolution. The workers’ strikes and other combats are so many spanners in the works of capital’s war machine.
It is within this historical framework that we have seen the appearance of groups, organisations, circles, etc., as the proletariat tries to grasp an awareness of its final goal. The ICC was formed on the crest of the wave of class struggle between 1968—73. But it has been politically and organisationally strengthened during a dip in the wave. For a historical course towards revolution, a rising, movement of workers’ combativity, does not develop mechanically in a straight line. The class struggle is a living process; it goes through ups and downs, flux and reflux. During this period of relative calm in the social struggle, from 1974—78, the ICC set itself two fundamental objectives within its long—term perspectives:
1. Contributing to the growth in proletarian consciousness through a systematic intervention in struggles and in the political milieu.
2. Preparing the construction of the party.
Contributing to the development of class consciousness
“Since 1968, the class struggle has shown at various times, a high level of combativity, especially in Italy, Poland, and Spain. But at the same time, these struggles have been notable for the ease with which the bourgeoisie has successfully derailed, diverted and defeated them. Although at certain times the workers directly confronted the unions and the left, (Italy 1969, Portugal 1974) what is more striking in the evolution of the class struggle in the last few years is the enormous capacity of capital to re-conquer the terrain it had initially lost (…) This situation can only be transcended through the development of the defensive struggles launched by the workers against the effect of the worsening crisis of capitalism. It is in this process that the power of the bourgeoisie will be gradually weakened, as the proletariat forges its own weapons of struggle. The lag that exists between the development of the consciousness of the class in response to the deepening of the present economic crisis does not fatally condemn the proletariat’s historical mission to failure. The general perspective remains class war and not imperialist war. However, comparing the present level of consciousness within the proletariat to what it will need to understand in the revolutionary period shows how much ground the workers have yet to cover on the road toward the final revolutionary confrontation.” (C.G., ‘The Tasks of Revolutionaries’, World Revolution 18)
This is the global framework within which revolutionaries can at present envisage their intervention. Participation in the growth of proletarian consciousness has today become a primary task. All the more so since the working class has been preparing since 1978-79 to confront its enemy head on. The shock will be a violent one. Even if it does not overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie (we are still at the first confrontations between the classes), the clash is likely to be decisive.
The recent strikes and violent demonstrations in the North of France, the strikes in Britain, the US, Poland, Germany, Bolivia, Morocco etc, are a good indication of the end of the 1974—78 reflux and the new blast of workers’ combativity. The worsening of the bourgeoisie’s economic and political crisis, the erosion of the left parties’ and trade unions’ influence, are very favourable ground for the resurgence of the struggle. The bourgeoisie’s economic and social foundations, its values and its ideological lies, are rotten to the core.
But in contrast to the blind laws of the capitalist system, the workers’ struggle tends towards a conscious mastery of its evolution. The crisis may sharpen the workers’ anger and incite them to refuse its growing misery, austerity, and unemployment. But the link between the deepening of the crisis and the class struggle is not a mechanical one. The present strike movement may see a new reflux. The workers, seeing no perspective before them, may be discouraged. From this moment, the bourgeoisie may counter—attack, defeat the workers’ resistance, disarm their struggle, and in the end crush every form of resistance. The course may then switch dangerously towards imperialist war.
This is why revolutionaries’ intervention must not be underestimated, or delayed. The proletariat must be able to draw the lessons of its past experience. It must be able to prepare its future struggles. It must set out its general political perspectives. This is why the proletariat has armed itself with revolutionary organisations. The slightest delay in carrying out these tasks risks compromising the present course towards class confrontation. The present resurgence of workers’ struggles, and the continued gap between the crisis and the level of class consciousness, demands that revolutionaries participate more and more directly in the combats of the class.
Preparing the constitution of the party
“At the present time, one of the essential objectives of a communist group must be to go beyond the ‘handicrafts’ level of activity and organisation which generally mark its first steps in the political struggle. The regular carrying out of its tasks of publication, distribution, discussion and correspondence with other groups and individuals must be at the centre of its concerns. This means that the organisation has to have rules of operation and specific organs which allow it to act not as a sum of dispersed cells but as a single body with a balanced metabolism… But the most fundamental aspect of strengthening the organisation of revolutionaries is the regroupment of the weak communist forces existing in the world today, so that they don’t have to face up to the great class confrontations brewing in society in a scattered, dispersed way.” (C.G. ‘The Tasks of Revolutionaries’, World Revolution 19)
The resurgence of the struggle since 1968 has been marked by a renewed interest in communist ideas, and the appearance of revolutionary groups, elements, and organisations. Faced with the dispersal and confusion of these elements, the role of the clearest organisations must be the constitution of a coherent international pole of regroupment, the strengthening of a centre for the regroupment of revolutionary energies.
This is today, the context for holding open and fraternal discussions between different communist groups and organisations.
The organisation of international conferences matches this concern. We are not going to construct an international party today. However, as from today, we must give ourselves this perspective because we are faced with the objective necessity for revolutionaries to intervene more and more systematically in their class, and to prepare for the construction of the world communist party.
We know that, as Marx puts it, “humanity only ever sets itself tasks it can carry out, and we always see that the task appears where the conditions for its material realisation are fully formed, or being created.” Today, the objective conditions of the communist revolution are once again ready. The First World War set the historical stage for the communist revolution. But since 1968, the objective conditions for the revolution have been posed. Today we can say that we are ineluctably approaching the alternative of ‘war or revolution’, ‘socialism or deepening barbarism’. But there is no element of fate in the evolution of the course of history.
“Although socialism is a historical necessity, because of the decadence of bourgeois society, the socialist revolution is not a concrete possibility at every moment. Throughout the long years of the counter-revolution the proletariat was defeated, its consciousness and its organization too weak to be an autonomous force in society.
Today, on the other hand, the course of history is moving towards a rise in proletarian struggles. But time presses; there is no fatality in history. A historical course is never ‘stable’, fixed for all time. The course towards the proletarian revolution is a possibility that has opened up, a maturation of the conditions leading to a confrontation between the classes. But if the proletariat doesn’t develop its combativity, if it doesn’t arm itself with the consciousness forged in its struggles and in the contributions of the revolutionaries within the class, then it won’t be able to respond to this maturation with its own creative and revolutionary activity. If the proletariat is beaten, if it is crushed and falls back into passivity, then the course will be reversed and the ever—present potential for generalized war will be realized.
Today the course is towards the development of the class struggle. Because the working class isn’t defeated, because all over the world it is resisting the degradation of its living conditions, because the international economic crisis is wearing down the dominant ideology and its effects on the class, because the working class is the force of life against the cry of ‘viva la muerte’ of the bloody counter-revolution — for all these reasons, we salute the crisis which, for a second time in the period of capitalist decadence, is opening the door of history.” (J.A. ‘The Course of History’, International Review 15)
And it is for the same reasons that we insist on the intervention of revolutionaries and their regroupment at a world level. We have an immense responsibility. We must stimulate discussion in our ranks, without losing ourselves in sterile quarrels and sectarian anathemas. Time is running short and the bourgeoisie’s weapons are well honed. The union prison, localism, nationalism… so many traps to avoid, so many mystifications to tear down.
Only an international intervention of revolutionaries can, as from today, begin the work of demystification, and set clear perspectives for the workers’ struggles. Only a regroupment of communist forces can lay the foundations for a revolutionary proletarian party, a vital instrument in the success of the communist revolution.
“And now, comrades, we have reached the point where we can say: we have come back to Marx, we have come back under his banner. Today, we declare in our programme: the proletariat has no immediate tasks other than to make socialism a truth and a fact, and to destroy capitalism from top to bottom.
Socialism has become a necessity not only because the proletariat can no longer live under the conditions that capitalism reserves for it, but also because we are all threatened with extinction if the proletariat does not fulfil its class duty and realise socialism.” (Rosa Luxemburg, ‘Our Programme and the Political Situation’, founding congress of the KPD(S), 1918)