16th ICC Congress: Preparing for the class struggle and emergence of new communist forces

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The ICC held its 16th Congress in the spring. As it says in our statutes, “the International Congress is the sovereign organ of the ICC”. This is why, as we always do after such meetings, we have a responsibility to the working class to give an account of it and draw out its main orientations. [1]

The work of this Congress took as its central concern the revival of the working class struggle and the responsibilities this confers on our organisation, in particular as we are confronted with the development of a new generation of elements seeking a revolutionary political perspective. At the same time the Congress obviously discussed the military barbarism being unleashed by a capitalist system that faces an insurmountable economic crisis. Specific reports on the crisis and imperialist conflicts were presented, discussed and adopted by the Congress. The essential elements of these reports are contained in the resolution on the international situation, which is being published in the International Review and on our website.

As this resolution reminds us, the ICC analyses the current historical period as being the final phase of the decadence of capitalism, the phase of decomposition in which bourgeois society is rotting on its feet. As we have argued on numerous occasions, this decomposition derives from the fact that, faced with the irremediable historical collapse of the capitalist economy, none of the two antagonistic classes in society, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, have been able to impose their own response: world war for the first, the communist revolution for the second. These historical conditions determine the essential characteristics of the life of bourgeois society today. In particular, it’s only in the analytical framework of decomposition that we can really understand the permanence and aggravation of a whole series of calamities which are currently assailing humanity: in the first place, military barbarism, but also phenomena like the ineluctable destruction of the environment or the terrible consequences of ‘natural disasters’ like the tsunami last winter. The historical conditions linked to decomposition also weigh heavily on the proletariat as well as on its revolutionary organisations and are one of the major causes of the difficulties encountered by our class and by our organisation since the beginning of the 90s, as we have shown in previous articles (see in particular IR 62).

The revival of the class struggle

The 15th Congress recognised that the ICC had overcome the crisis it went through in 2001, in particular because it had understood this as a manifestation of the deleterious effects of decomposition in our own ranks. It also recognised the difficulties which the working class continued to experience in its struggles against the attacks of capital - above all, its lack of self-confidence.

However, since this Congress, held in the spring of 2003, and underlined by the plenary meeting of the ICC’s central organ in the autumn of that year, “the large-scale mobilisations of the spring of 2003 in France and Austria represent a turning point in the class struggles since 1989. They are a first significant step in the recovery of workers’ militancy after the longest period of reflux since 1968” (See IR 119).

Such a turning point was not a surprise for the ICC since its 15th Congress had already announced this perspective. The resolution on the international situation adopted by the 16th Congress made this more precise: “The struggles of 2003-2005 have the following characteristics:

- they have involved significant sectors of the working class in countries at the heart of world capitalism (as in France 2003);

- they have been preoccupied with more explicitly political questions; in particular the question of pensions raised in the struggles in France and elsewhere poses the problem of the future that capitalist society holds in store for all of us;

- they have seen the re-emergence of Germany as a focal point for workers’ struggles, for the first time since the revolutionary wave;

- the question of class solidarity has been raised in a wider and more explicit way than at any time since the struggles of the 80s, most notably in the recent movements in Germany

The resolution also notes that the different expressions of the turning point in the balance of class forces have been accompanied by “the emergence of a new generation of elements looking for political clarity. This new generation has manifested itself both in the new influx of overtly politicised elements and in the new layers of workers entering the struggle for the first time. As evidenced in certain important demonstrations, the basis is being forged for the unity between the new generation and the ‘generation of 68’ – both the political minority which rebuilt the communist movement in the 60s and 70s and the wider strata of workers who have been through the rich experience of class struggles between 68 and 89”

The ICC’s responsibility faced with the emergence of new revolutionary forces

The other essential preoccupation of the 16th Congress was thus to make sure our organisation is capable of living up to its responsibilities faced with the emergence of these new elements moving towards the class positions of the communist left. This was expressed in particular by the activities resolution adopted by the Congress: “The fight to win over the new generation to class positions and militantism is today at the heart of all of our activities. This applies not only to our intervention, but to our whole political reflection, our discussions and militant preoccupations”.

This work of regrouping the new militant forces necessarily involves defending them against all the efforts to destroy them or lead them into a dead-end. This can only be done if the ICC knows how to defend itself against the attacks aimed at it. The previous Congress already recognised that our organisation had been capable of repelling the pernicious attacks of the IFICC [2], preventing it from attaining its declared goal – destroying the ICC or at least the greatest possible number of its sections. In October 2004 the IFICC waged a new offensive against our organisation by basing itself on the slanderous statements of a ‘Circulo de Comunistas Internacionalistas’ in Argentina, which presented itself as the continuator of the Nucleo Comunista Internacional, a group with whom the ICC had been developing discussions and contacts since the end of 2003. Lamentably, the IBRP made its own contribution to this shameful manoeuvre by publishing on its website, in several languages and for some months, one of the Circulo’s most hysterical and lying statements against our organisation. By reacting rapidly through documents published on our website, we repelled this assault, reducing our attackers to silence. The ‘Circulo’ was unmasked for what it was: a fiction invented by citizen B, a small-time adventurer from the southern hemisphere. This combat against the offensive of the ‘Triple Alliance’ of adventurism (B), parasitism (IFICC) and opportunism (IBRP) was also a combat for the defence of the NCI as the effort of a small nucleus of comrades to develop an understanding of the positions of the communist left in connection with the ICC [3].

Faced with this work towards the searching elements, the ICC must keep up a determined intervention. But it must equally give all its attention to the depth of argumentation it puts forward in discussions and to the question of political behaviour. The emergence of new communist forces must be a real spur, stimulating the energies and capacities for reflection not only of our militants but also of elements who were affected by the reflux in the class struggle after 1989:

The effects of contemporary historic developments (are)…. destined to repoliticise part of the generation from 1968 originally diverted and embittered by leftism. It has already begun to reactivate former militants, not only of the ICC, but of other proletarian organisations. Each of these manifestations of this fermentation represents a precious potential in the re-appropriation of class identity, the experience of struggle, and the historic perspective of the proletariat. But these different potentials cannot be realised unless they are brought together by an organisation representing the historic consciousness, the marxist method and the organisational approach which, today, only the ICC can provide. This makes the constant, long term development of the theoretical capacity, the militant understanding and the centralisation of the organisation crucial to the historical perspective

The Congress underlined the whole importance of theoretical work in the present situation: “The organisation can neither fulfil its responsibilities towards revolutionary minorities, nor those towards the class as a whole, unless it is capable of understanding the process preparing the future party in the broader context of the general evolution of the class struggle. The capacity of the ICC to analyse the evolving balance of class forces, and to intervene in the struggles and towards the political reflection in the class, is of long-term importance for the evolution of the class struggle. But already now, in the immediate term, it is crucial in the conquering of our leading role towards the new politicised generation ... The organisation must continue this theoretical reflection, drawing a maximum of concrete lessons from its intervention, overcoming schemata from the past”.

Finally, the Congress focused on the question summed up in the concluding paragraph of our platform: “Relations between the different parts of the organisation and the ties between militants necessarily bear the scars of capitalist society and therefore cannot constitute an island of communist relations within capitalism. Nevertheless, they 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”.

And such a requirement, like any other faced by a marxist organisation, demands theoretical reflection:

“Since questions of organisation and comportment are today at the heart of debates inside and outside the organisation, a central axis of our theoretical work in the coming two years will be the discussion of the different orientation texts and the contributions of the investigation commission, in particular the text on ethics. These issues bring us to the roots of the recent organisational crises, touch the very basis of our militant engagement, and are key issues of the revolution in the epoch of decomposition. They are thus destined to play a leading role in the renewal of militant conviction and in the recovery of the taste for theory and the marxist method of tackling each question with an historical and theoretical approach”.

Encouraging perspectives

The Congresses of the ICC are always enthusiastic moments for all the members. How could it be otherwise when militants from three continents and 13 countries, animated by the same convictions, come together to discuss all the perspectives of the historic movement of the proletariat? But the 16th Congress stimulated even more enthusiasm than most of the previous ones.

For nearly half its thirty years of existence, the ICC has worked in the context of a reflux in proletarian consciousness, an asphyxiation of its struggles and a delay in the emergence of new militant forces. For more than a decade, a central slogan for our organisation has been to ‘hold on’. This was a difficult test and a certain number of its ‘old’ militants did not pass it (in particular those who formed the IFICC and those who gave up the struggle during the crises we have been through during this period).

Today, while the perspective is becoming brighter, we can say that the ICC, as a whole, has overcome this ordeal. And it has come out of it the stronger. It has strengthened itself politically, as the readers of our press can judge (and we are receiving a growing number of letters of encouragement from them). But also a numerical strengthening, since there are already more new members than the defections that we experienced with the crisis of 2001. And what is remarkable is that a significant number of these new members are young elements who have not been through the whole deformation that results from being militants in leftist organisations. Young elements whose dynamism and enthusiasm is making up for the tired and exhausted ‘militant forces’ who have left us.

This enthusiasm present at the 16th Congress was quite lucid. It had nothing in common with the illusory euphoria which has affected other Congresses of our organisation (a euphoria which was often especially marked among those who have since left us). After 30 years of existence, the ICC has learned [4], sometimes painfully, that the road that leads to the revolution is not a highway, that it is tortuous and full of traps and ambushes laid by the ruling class for its mortal enemy, the working class, in order to divert it from its historic goal. The members of our organisation know very well today that it is not an easy thing to be a militant: that it demands not only a very solid conviction, but also a great deal of selflessness, tenacity and patience.

Understanding the difficulty of our task does not discourage us. On the contrary, it helps to make us more enthusiastic.

At this time there is a clear increase in the number of people taking part in our public meetings, as well as a growing number of letters from Greece, Russia, Moldavia, Brazil, Argentina and Algeria, in which contacts directly ask how to join the organisation, propose to begin a discussion or simply ask for publications – but always with a militant perspective. All these elements allow us to hope for the development of communist positions in countries where the ICC does not yet have a section, or the creation of new sections in these countries. We salute these comrades who are moving towards communist positions and towards our organisation. We say to them: “You have made a good choice, the only one possible if you aim to integrate yourselves into the struggle for the proletarian revolution. But this is not the easiest of choices: you will not have a lot of immediate success, you need patience and tenacity and to learn not to be put off when the results you obtain don’t quite live up to your hopes. But you will not be alone: the militants of the ICC are at your sides and they are conscious of the responsibility that your approach confers on them. Their will, expressed at the 16th Congress, is to live up to these responsibilities”.

ICC, 2/7/05.

[1] A more exhaustive account of the work of the Congress will be published in IR 122.

[2] The so-called ‘Internal Fraction of the ICC’, composed of longstanding militants of our organisation who began to behave like hysterical fanatics looking for scapegoats, as thugs and finally as informers.

[4] Or rather re-learned, since this is a lesson that communist organisations of the past were well aware of, in particular the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left from which the ICC claims descent.

Life of the ICC: