The Miners' struggle:
the need for autonomous organisation against the unions
Although this review has been printed after the NUM's decision to call for a return to work, the article on the miners' strike was written 4 months earlier. Since the general outlines of the strike, which we've analysed in this article, remain valid, and moreover, are confirmed by the (provisional) outcome of the struggle, we've decided to publish this text anyway without reactualising it. We'll complete it by drawing up, in a separate leaflet, the balance-sheet of this strike, because the proletarian struggle, in spite of this severe setback, goes on, be it through different means. Undoubtedly, the consequences of this strike will be numerous for the struggles to come. Not only negatively though: more precisely concerning the bourgeois nature of the unions, especially of radical unions and on the rank-and-file level, we'll do everything in our power so that this most crucial lesson from the miners' strike will never be forgotten!
In Brazil, hundreds of thousands of starved proletarians spread over cities and started looting: they attacked shops, storehouses, trains,.. In Spain, steelworkers clashed violently with police. In Tunisia, in Morocco, in Algeria, in Egypt, in Belgium, in Holland... the proletariat has been refusing, for reasons which are fundamentally identical, the measures governments have taken against them. All these struggles, even though they are limited and contingent, are expressions of the proletariat's tendency to universally organise itself against capital.
The miners' strike that has been going on for many months now is part of this world-wide proletarian attempt to refuse and oppose the impeccable logic of the dominant system.
We have to analyse this struggle as such, which means we have to put all actions, all violence, all organisational attempts into their general framework, i.e. the total comprehension of the communist perspective.
In the first part of this article, we'll analyse the positive elements of the miners' strike, its characteristics that constitute a step forward considering today's balance of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. But must of all, we want to analyse the general weaknesses of this strike. In opposition to many groups who think their role is only to be able to explain weaknesses (for this reason they analyse each particular struggle "in itself" without linking it to the historical communist movement), which finally comes down to accepting the status quo under pretext that weaknesses can only be bypassed when all workers have become conscious of them, we claim that our internationalist solidarity with all proletarian movements must express itself through the pitiless criticism of their weaknesses. It is only through this criticism (with all its practical implications) that we can try not to be as powerless as before in front of always the same enemies, of always the same deadlocks. So one of our specific tasks must be to fight those weaknesses. More generally, to draw up the balance-sheet of historical as well as of today's struggles, in order to transform it into practical arms for tomorrow's struggles, is one of the fundamental tasks of revolutionary militants. This way we can also see that weaknesses are not specific to one or another struggle, be it on a national level, but that they are determined by the world-wide and historical balance of forces between the two classes. The weaknesses of each particular struggle are a materialisation of the general state of non-preparation of our class; if a particular struggle is not radical enough to bypass the general weaknesses, it not only reproduces but also reinforces them!
After nine months of struggle many miners are realising that they haven't got much more to lose in this system of wage-labour; on the contrary, through struggle, and in spite of all hardship that comes with it, they have experienced relationships, activities based on class solidarity instead of humiliating bourgeois competition.
Another important feature of this struggle is its massiveness. The strike has spread to all pits, to all areas, except for some (F.i. Nottinghamshire). It spread because of spontaneous class-solidarity (based on the class-interests all workers have in common) actively organised during the first few weeks of the strike - when the NUM had not yet recognised the strike on the national level - by miners who efficiently picketed indistinctly on mines and factories of other sectors. Later on these pickets were replaced by union organised pickets, disorganising and confining the strike (see later on), but nevertheless the strike remained massive, and on some occasions managed to draw workers from other sectors into action, despite the unions' efforts to prevent this. Workers of other sectors recently have been showing signs of discontent and militancy (hospitals, railway workers), but this mobilisation from more or less large sectors of the working class remains far below the level it reached during the 1979 strike-wave.
The attempt of Dockers to come out on strike twice already (July, August) each time sabotaged by the unions, is most clearly the sign of workers' solidarity. By trying to join this movement and making it more massive, other workers not only reinforce the miners' pressure on the NCB, on the unions and on the government, but they also take advantage of the uncomfortable position of the bourgeoisie which is scared to death at the thought of a general paralysis of production. Thatcher, usually so firmly opposed to all concessions, all of a sudden recommended important rises of wages to directors of other working class sectors (steel, railways,...). This shows that the proletariat's strength lies in the generalisation of its struggles to all working class sectors. But a fundamental condition for all generalisation, as the first few weeks of the strike showed us, is the autonomous organisation of the working class, a condition which today is -nearly- completely absent from the strike. This allowed the NUM to take a -nearly- full control of the strike.
The strike, at its very beginning, started in spite of the unions (Yorkshire and Scotland). Unlike last year when the NUM openly and directly sabotaged wildcat strikes (involving l5,000 miners) in Scotland (Polmaise Pit, Solsgirth, Comrie and Seafield), this time one week after the start of the strike the unions decided to officialise it, be it, at that moment, only in the most militant areas. At that stage, Yorkshire miners started picketing every Nottinghamshire pit, trying to get miners there to come out on strike also. But the NUM's backing the strike in Yorkshire only and the deal worked out between the unions whereby Yorkshire miners wouldn't picket Nottinghamshire in return for a "2 day strike" of Nottinghamshire miners until a ballot was held, demobilised pickets and allowed for the NCB and the government to use this most precious time to bring in 8.000 policemen. The following Monday the Nottinghamshire coalfields were under police control. This is how the NCB was enabled to keep 38 pits working!!!
This shows clearly that even if we are separating -in this article- the different aspects of the strike so as to analyse in detail the specific role of each bourgeois party (left, right, unions, police, media, NUM's counterinformation...) - and also for the sake of the clearness of our explanations - we must never forget that all these aspects are linked together organically, because they are determined by the same class reality, by the same need for maintaining the system of wage-slavery.
Each party can play a specific role, specific roles (repressive, conciliatory, civil, military, informative,..). But also each party, at any time, can play each role, all roles. For instance, the unions usually rely on the credit they have within the working class to put through their plans for austerity; as soon as the credit they have is melting away, they have to rely direct1y on their repressive capacities to continue to defend their interests and those of the capital. Many strikes have shown this, the unions in Eastern European countries (including Solidarnosc***) show this, and history has shown this. It is the class reality that determines their practice.
The NUM has been campaigning for "British coal", against pit closures, arguing that there were no "loss-making" pits. So workers shouldn't fight for their own class-interests, but should defend British coal, which comes down to defending the competitiveness of British coal against French, Belgian, Italian or Russian coal. The NUM's watchword "British coal!" synthesises the whole program of counter-revolution: accept to sacrifice yourself for the sake of the competitiveness of the national economy on the world market, and this logically will lead you to accept the sacrifice of your life to defend "your" bourgeoisie in the war that opposes you to other proletarians who are also sacrificing their lives for "their" bourgeoisie! In all countries, the bourgeoisie has been rationalising the steel, coal, cars,... production and this each time has required thousands of redundancies, speed-ups and wage-cuts. In France, in Italy and in Spain it has been the socialist governments that have been managing these measures of economic "purification"; each time they have had them accompanied by social measures (like extra training for workers or public works for young unemployed) trying to prevent workers' reactions against these attacks on their living-conditions.
The NUM, the NCB and the government are doing exactly this: they all three agree about the need for British coal to be of high quality and of low cost. But it is the NUM's specific role to get these productivity plans through (which include pit closures, whatever Scargill may say about it). In 1978 already, it was the NUM that put through the productivity deal in mines, through which bonus became a larger part of earnings, and so miners in richer areas, like Nottingham, earned up to L 100/week more than miners in poorer pits, like in Yorkshire or Scotland. This productivity deal is responsible for a lot of dissension amongst miners during today's strike.
Another of the NUM's keystones in its attacks on the strike is its propaganda about the need for a change of government. They're deviating the class opposition, between workers and bourgeoisie towards an opposition between the left and the right (this is also what all the fuss about Kadhafi is about). Apart from the productivity deal already mentioned, the Labour Party and the unions have shown on many occasions that they have nothing to begrudge the Conservatives for, on the contrary! Should we recall that when the Labour Party was in government, they managed to enforce the biggest proportional fall in the living standards of the working class since the beginning of the century; that, during their eleven years of rule, they closed 300 pits!!! Because of their influence on workers, their constant references to the cause and struggles of the working class, they are still more redoubtable enemies. Most of all, what the bourgeois class is aiming at, is that workers leave the grounds of autonomous class-struggle and abdicate in favour of bourgeois politics, i.e. that workers rely on bourgeois society and bourgeois parties rather than fight them! A change of government always constitutes an attack against the proletariat and its struggles, independently from which bourgeois fraction is coming to power. Just like when the bourgeois class was claiming a ballot on the strike, they didn't hope workers would reject the strike, but most of all, they wanted workers to place themselves from within capitalist society (unions, elections...).
The flying pickets set up in the beginning of the strike, proved to be very successful. Workers picketed indistinctly on all factories. The NUM soon realised that the only way to go against this was by submitting and at the same time transforming those pickets, i.e. by destroying them as a means to generalise and centralise the strike.
So they started denouncing pickets they did not control, they allowed money only to pickets they had organised, they started organising symbolic actions against scabs, mobilising thousands of strikers against a handful of scabs (who were not able to do any work in the mine anyway) while at the same time letting pass through many highly qualified workers (who did continue to work in the mine - maintenance and security) alleging they didn't belong to the NUM.
Picketing has descended into a ritual shoving of pickets against police; the struggle has become a show of clashes with cops, when the latter are sure to win because they are well prepared and well organised. Fellow-workers, instead of being solicited by pickets and being allowed to join in the struggle, are being transformed into mere supporters. The huge stocks of coal that pickets can use as an important arm (paralysing other factories, distribution of coal to other proletarians,...) were used by the NUM as a means to negotiate union solidarity from other factories, bargaining coal "for heating only"(!) against some act of "solidarity" (sometimes money, more often moral support!).
Union mass picketing has become a means to canalise workers' class anger into the deadlock of sterile confrontation with police. That's why Scargill had to justify certain acts of violence. He says he understands the violence miners use to defend themselves against police brutality (!); but when he denounces police violence and supports the miners defending themselves, it is only in the name of democracy, for the better sake of law and order. Each time miners have left this bourgeois ground of democracy, as they have on many occasions, and have started organising their violence, i.e. attacking police offensively, destroying State and NCB properties, then Scargill just like all other bourgeois denounced the vandals, the hooligans, the provocateurs, calling for police and justice to put a stop on this. Not only do unions claim efficient, well equipped police forces, not only do they militate for the constant improvement, i.e. the reinforcement of the whole judicial body, but all this, so they say, is for the sake of the working class. To turn each worker into a delator, into a potential cop watching his fellow-worker, denouncing each manifestation of insubordination: that's their ideal! They really are the watchdogs of capital!
Here, just like everywhere else, when they stand up for their interests, workers have to confront the cannibalism of society, organised centrally within the State. Not only do workers have to confront the violence of the State, all fractions united, but they also find in front of them the world-wide coalition of all bourgeois states!
During this strike, the State has mobilised all its forces against the working class. All parties, all unions, all police forces, all media, all specially trained riot-squads are on their feet 24 hours a day, trying to get miners to go back to work. We have already explained the role played by the unions in this struggle. We now want to insist on the role of the police and the media.
In order to deny and negate the class-character of society and of all conflicts that shake this world violently, capital has to deform, mystify and obscure the reality of today's commodity relationships constantly. The dominant ideology - mediated by all existing information channels, TV, papers, conferences,... - is a materialisation in thought of the terror the bourgeoisie imposes in practice on its class-enemy. All media, claiming to be organs of information on objective reality, on actual facts, on concrete events, on statistical data, pretend to allow for a true appreciation of reality. In fact, they are nothing else but the adequate vehicle - medium - to reflect a mystified world from which all social antagonisms have been evacuated. But in order to make class-reality disappear from social consciousness, it is not enough for the bourgeoisie to simply describe reality from a non-class point of view (point of view of the dominating system), it also has to simply hide (by not talking about it, by destroying all elements relative to this aspect of reality) the facts of class-struggle, especially when this reality is becoming more and more obvious through the aggravation of class-antagonisms (for instance, the anticommunist nature of war, the communist nature of workers' struggles).
Not one day goes by without all TV broadcasts, all papers spitting their filthy propaganda on our class struggle. All the fuss about some scabs continuing to work in some mines, about miners in other regions going back to work, all the campaigns on legal action as far as the preservation of the holy "right to work" of some scabs is concerned, all the filth and lies poured day after day on proletarians' attempts to resist and organise themselves against police action, all the propaganda about the threat of this struggle on the fate of the poor, of old people, of children, of hospitals and schools, all this serves only one aim, making workers go back to work! In front of this, the only reasonable reaction of miners has been to beat up press and TV hyenas!
At the same time those very reasonable gentlemen spit on all our attempts to organise our struggle and to radicalise it, they also try to deviate it from its proper objectives and to confine it to a conflict between different bourgeois fractions. Incapable of recognising the reality of our struggle, they can only see and interpret it as the difficulties of the unions to control their "rank and file". They, time after time, try to present our struggle as a conflict between the left and the right, or even as a dispute between miners, between those who want to work and those who want to strike! For sure we can count on sociologists' and psychologists' commitment to bourgeois society to find even more subtle explanations for our strike and our aggressiveness. More recently, the media have tried to transform our strike by depicting it as a conflict between the East and the West (about the NUM getting money from Libya and the Soviet Union). So the media, independently from the journalists' will to pursue untiringly the phantom of objectivity (the point of view objectively bourgeois!) necessarily and harmoniously completes the repressive role of police and unions.
With the lessons of the strikes of 1972 and 1974, and of the strike-wave of 1979 followed by the unemployed's riots of 1981, still fresh in its mind, the ruling class has been able to develop its understanding of workers' struggle, i.e. to more clearly seize the real objectives of workers' struggle as well as the different means of achieving them. They've been able, mainly because the union is keeping a strong hold on this strike and preventing miners from organising efficiently against repression, to use to the full their whole apparatus of repression, which they've been developing since the struggles five years ago, including the involvement of army forces, the intervention of special trained, riot-squads, and the use of modern electronics in this class war. When social peace is in danger, the essential nature of democracy becomes clear: crushing the class-enemy! Is there a clearer image of the true nature of democracy, than this daily ritual of scabs using their right to work, trying to get into the mines escorted by a few hundreds of riot police!!!
Police systematically have been establishing precise lists of all strikers (names, addresses, phone numbers, car numbers,...) so as to be able to phonetap miners and identify the more militant among them, to identify cars moving around the mining areas in the early morning hours and to break into miners' houses, knowing exactly who to find, who's been staying overnight, so as to arrest pre-emptively the more radical miners.
Each time workers have been arrested (7O00 of them have been since the beginning of the strike), they have been sentenced to pay huge fines in case they ever got caught again on picket lines. This way, the State is sure miners will think twice before joining picket lines again.
On top of that, the State has taken hostages amongst the strikers, imprisoning those miners who were particularly isolated from their fellow-workers, mainly because they've been caught in one of the many minoritarian and sometimes individual sabotage actions. Strikers have been unable, except for some specific cases, to counteract this and to react to the imprisonment of fellow-workers.
The State has used cavalry charges by club wielding mounted police, they've brought in riot-squads set up after the inner city riots, they've set up road blocks to prevent miners from leaving their home areas - for any reason! They have intimidated, beaten up and arrested miners trying to make their way to picket lines, they've imposed a military siege on many pit areas, cordoning off coalfields. At night, they've been going into pubs to arrest miners.
Should we add the "agents provocateurs", the informers they have used, the video cameras to film pickets and identify people later on, should we mention that they have "handcuffed, photographed and locked up miners for twenty-four hours, merely for being on a picket line"? (Sunday Times) This strike shows that democracy means to beat up strikers, to starve them, to kill them!
In today's miners' strike, since the very beginning workers have been placing all their faith in the actions of the NUM and of other unions to help them in their efforts to spread the strike. The whole episode of the NACODS "mobilisation" about getting paid for crossing picket-lines' illustrates just this when workers don't take into their own hands the organisation of their struggles, they remain at the mercy of the unions' intrigues. When the NACODS finally cancelled its strike threat, many miners became discouraged and even more passive. If the strike had been organised more actively by miners, like during the first few weeks, the scabs from the NACODS would never have been allowed to cross picket lines in the first place!
All calculations about how to use for one's own interests the contradictions between different bourgeois parties always fail to becomes true: on the contrary, they disorganise! When workers don't organise, don't act for themselves, directly against all bourgeois fractions, the only thing that's left for them to do is to implore the "aid" of humanists, democrats, progressists, leftists, Socialists and Communists (!) to protect them from the all-out State repression. Capital will be merciful towards its subjects but only on the condition that democracy reigns again, i.e. that workers, after having the most radical amongst them being terminated, "accept" to return to work for lower wages. Our class has witnessed this scenario all throughout the long history of its struggles.
In spite of the NUM' control on the strike, workers, to some extent, have been organising actions that the unions disavowed, especially as far as sabotage actions and attacks on police are concerned. The extent these actions have taken in recent months (and this will probably continue) indicates a growing dissatisfaction with the way the strike is going:
- there have been full scale riots, with arson attacks and with barricades being set up;
- there were attacks on police stations (at Hemsworth, Maltby, Armthorpe, Plexborough, Garv, Betws, Easington); during the Fitwilliam riot workers laid siege to a Police station to prevent police from arresting a miner, they later on destroyed NCB offices.
- there have been organised attempts to bypass the unions' set piece mass picketing, more particularly by workers ambushing police in guerrilla style operations (Silverwood pit near Rotherham)
- scabs have been efficiently intimidated, terrorised!
- on many occasions, there has been organised sabotage, ignoring union pleas to respect private and State property! "Vandals caused an estimated £ 250,000 damage at NCB offices at Cadeby, St.Yorkshire" while police didn't intervene "because of violence from pickets at Cadeby colliery opposite and other vandalism by strikers" (The Times, 20/11/84). In Liverpool, a transport company has been attacked! Pits have been flooded by miners (making them inexploitable for a long, long time, like Polkemmet pit in Scotland).
- the NCB has been reporting on "pickets wearing paramilitary uniform, building barricades and stoning any vehicle passing through". "Hit squads" have caused vast amounts of damage.
So miners have been trying on many occasions to organise themselves against the NCB, against police, but without ever attacking the NUM; actions have been organised parallelly to NUM's actions, never against them. That is the main reason why these actions have remained isolated, never have been centralised, in spite of their multiplication in recent months. This is criminal for the future of the strike, because it means the NUM will be able to remain in control of the struggle, "tolerating" these violent actions!
The future of the strike depends on the most militant workers' capacity to clearly designate the NUM, like all unions, as a class enemy and to take into their own hands the conduct of the struggle, i.e. to give clear directives, to designate clear objectives to strikers. This is essential, especially today, when more and more miners are getting pissed off about the way the strike is going, and need more than ever a clear centre of direction, of struggle. All proletarian efforts and actions must not remain scattered, and isolated (making it more easy for the unions and police to repress them and, by their filthy propaganda, to isolate them even further) but have to be united, centralised into one clear direction of confrontation with the whole State (unions, bosses, Labour, government and all bourgeois parties) and of generalisation of the struggle to all workers!
There is no need for waiting for all miners to agree on the true nature of the NUM; it is now that the most radical workers must organise themselves, on a national level, against the unions, and become a centre of struggle. All the proletarian actions we have mentioned have been assumed and organised by workers or groups of workers, in spite of the other miners' opinions about it! Those actions have been assumed by the most determined workers, because they are indispensable to the development of the strike. Today's development of the strike requires more than ever the autonomous organisation of strikers and the centralisation of all actions. This will also be a decisive condition for workers from other sectors to join the struggle.
"What Marx and Lenin emphasised about the state - that despite the formal democracy that it professes, its organisation makes it unsuited to serve as an instrument for proletarian revolution - applies equally to the trade-union organisations. Their counter-revolutionary strength cannot be destroyed or diminished by a change in personnel, by the replacement of reactionary leaders with left-wing or revolutionary people." (Gorter, p.6 of "Oppositionist" edition)
AUTONOMOUS ORGANISATION OF THE WORKING CLASS
GENERALISATION OF THE STRUGGLE TO ALL WORKING CLASS' SECTORS
SABOTAGE NATIONAL ECONOMY
After the struggle of steelworkers in France and Belgium, after the revolts in Tunisia and Morocco, in Brazil and South Africa... how could anyone continue to pretend that what's going on here only concerns us as far as coal goes, as far as Britain goes!
By going on strike against wage cuts, against redundancies, we call upon the whole working class to join our struggle because today all working class' sectors in all countries are facing similar attacks.
While the strike originally started as a refusal of tens of thousands of redundancies that the government still wants to impose, the unions try to transform the struggle into a support to the British economy! The unions just translated "no redundancies" into "coal for Britain" as if being exploited in coal-mines was better than being exploited in oil-refineries, or in... porridge factories!
The NUM demands a stop in coal imports, an increase in exports, a rise in coal investments, etc. but where the hell does all this take into account the interests of the workers!! We don't give a shit about the difficulties "they" have in managing their system!
The unions imprison the workers on the bourgeois field of competition (coal against oil, Britain against France), they check pickets so they won't move around too much (that's why the NUM allows money only to pickets it controls), they organise symbolic actions against scabs, transforming the struggle into a show of clashes with cops (when the latter are sure to win because they are well prepared and well organised), they prevent strikers from destroying stocks... That's how the unions prevent a real generalisation of our struggles, that's how they faithfully accomplish their duty as watchdogs of capital. How could a change at the head of the state possibly reduce our exploitation? What we want is not to bring down Thatcher so as to replace her by Scargill or by the Labour party; they all, Mitterand as well as Thatcher, as well as Reagan or Alfonsin impose the same anti-working class politics.
When Scargill says he wants to "generalise" our struggle, he is only trying to get new credit for his union, to overthrow Thatcher so as to put forward another alternative capable of imposing the sacrifices needed to save the British economy. They all just want to negotiate the price of our blood!
What we want is to destroy completely this system of wage-slavery! Comrades, to reinforce our struggle means to:
- ORGANISE OURSELVES AUTONOMOUSLY IN SPITE OF AS WELL AS AGAINST UNIONS
- GENERALIZE OUR STRUGGLE BY UNIFYING CLAIMS
- USE DIRECT ACTION SABOTAGING NATIONAL ECONOMY, DESTROYING STOCKS, EFFICIENT INTIMIDATION OF SCABS...
- GENERALIZE OUR STRUGGLE BY MASSIVE PICKETTING OF ALL FACTORIES OF ALL SECTORS
Internationalist Communist Group
Address: B.P.54 - Bruxelles 31
1060 BRUXELLES - Belgium
Read "Communism", our central review in English (available in London).
CLASS WAR PRISONERS' AID
For eleven months the miners have been on strike against the destruction of their jobs and communities.
For eleven months the State has used all the means at its disposal to try to break the strike - media lies, money and force.
Despite constant claims that the strike is over, despite bribes for scabs and the use of far more expensive fuels, despite the massive police presence in pit towns, mass arrests, oppressive bail conditions, curfews, etc., the miners have refused to bow down before the bulldozer of profitability.
There have been thousands of arrests and numerous long prison sentences for struggling against the imposition of poverty.
We support all those imprisoned for supporting their communities, their standard of living and their colleagues, and we are collecting money for them and their families.
When the occupying police force in Fitzwilliam, North Yorkshire, tried to arrest a well-known miner, he refused to co-operate and a riot ensued. All sections of the working class joined in, building burning barricades from material and vehicles (including cranes) taken from the pit. The police captured nine people. Despite the Yorkshire NUM's attempts to sabotage solidarity with the prisoners (including taking away the Fitzwilliam branch minibus) the Fitzwilliam Prisoners Aid Committee have continued to give active support to their imprisoned comrades.
Like many other prisoners, miners and other working class people nicked in connection with the miners' strike are inside for trying to resist poverty, for crimes against capitalist property and its enforcers. To segregate them as political prisoners would be to isolate them from the rest of the working class. The divisions between different sections of workers and between the employed and the unemployed must be broken down on both sides of, and across, the prison walls. As long as there are prisons for those who resist, we are all enslaved, and as long as there is poverty of dole for those who demand better pay and conditions, we will all be pushed down into poverty.
Only working class solidarity can free the prisoners. The liberation of the working class is the task of the working class ourselves.
If you wane to help the class war prisoners, come to our weekly meetings, Thursday 6:30 pm at 355 Holloway Rd. London N7, or send donations to Box CWPA at the same address.
Any cheques should be made payable to: "Max Holz Committee".
Everywhere, in all States, the repression measures are directed against all the people, all the social activities that disturb "public security", which means the normal course of production and the circulation of commodities. Millions of imprisoned workers are kept in the State's prisons as hostages, to ensure the bourgeois order.
Flying pickets, wild strikes, sabotage actions... all manifestations of strength by the proletariat are condemned by regulations such as the "right to strike", the "right to work", etc. They are considered as "bandit activities" or as some provocateurs' work. All workers' associations are at the mercy of the new "anti-terrorist" repression measures of the bourgeois State. In front of all these bourgeois terrorist campaigns, which direction must the counter-repression measures and the solidarity with/between the imprisoned proletarians take?
The bourgeoisie has only taken the heavy and cumbersome chains away from the slaves while it has submitted the entire humanity to the meshes of capitalist production and in the same time the reclusion, the imprisonment, the social exclusions have reached their ultimate development. The State repression has become institutional, permanent and normal thanks to the subtle game of Justice which gives it its apparent exteriority, exclusivity and segregation.
The repression, which is present at all degrees in prisons (isolation, close watch, persecutions, tortures...) has become the guarantee of the general interest! To impose itself to the citizens, to the "free people", as the code of behaviour, the society of commodities needs the speeches of the priests, of the democrats and the humanists, but also needs spaces and special places to learn "freedom", to re-educate to the "civic values", to intimidate and exclude all the unhealthy elements, all the "social misfits"... all those who are suspected of not respecting the laws and rules of the merchant society. Prisons are not only used to withdraw the trouble-makers generated by society but also to persuade the "sane", the "good" and "honest" people of their privilege to live in the best possible world...
Prisons are a necessary condition for the existence of "the best possible world", the prisoner is nothing but the counter-image of the "free man" without which he wouldn't know the price of his freedom, the virtue of his morals and the equity of social Justice!!!
The guardians of peace cannot be but armed guardians: the guarantee of "freedom" depends on the efficiency of the reclusion places... Such is the unbearable and contradictory reality of civil bourgeois society, codified in the penal right and achieved by Justice, its tribunals and its prisons.
It is not in the name of "God's will" but in the name of laws that the bourgeoisie does inflict the measures required for the functioning of civilised society to the working class.
All the proletarians thrown in jails are subject to the most extreme proletarisation and undergo the yoke of the interests of Capital reproduction in some intense social conditions of oppression: reclusion, persecutions (alimentary, sexual...), political and social isolation, total submission, etc.
All of them are used as hostages of the bourgeoisie, entrusted with serving as examples, with terrorising the proletarians who still have the privilege to choose where they are going to sell their working force.
Situating the question of prisoners outside the bourgeois content and against the criterions of innocence or guilt, of justice or injustice as defined by the bourgeoisie itself means in no way to idealise the prisoners and the delinquents, nor to find them in a position of being radical and special revolutionary proletarians, but it means giving to the struggle the fundamental axis on which we must build the proletarian answer to the repression and organise the struggle of all imprisoned workers.
We never situate our criterions of solidarity with the prisoners according to their degrees of criminality, guilt or honesty. Those criterions are initiated by the torturers.
For us the most important thing is to establish a class line between the prisoners and the jailers based on a practice of common reaction against the repression, the persecutions (for example through prisoner associations; through putting prisoner solidarity in direct connection with the taking over and the participation in the various requirements of the struggle against repression; through the fight against repentant denouncers and pressions on the scabs and on the over-zealous warders...).
When the State imprisons, tortures and kills systematically, the bourgeois denounce the errors of management, the illegitimacy of a government, the seizure of a "fascist", a "militarist", a "bureaucratic" clique. When "red terrorists", "hooligans", "subversive" proletarians are imprisoned, tortured or killed, the bourgeois only see a side-slip of democracy, produced by the imperfections of the system and by the unconsciousness of some "trouble-makers".
So the bourgeoisie formally adapts itself to the proletarian claim of freeing the imprisoned militant but it falsifies the sense of that claim and its power completely.
When it claims a special statute for "political prisoners", when it defends the "rights of political prisoners", the bourgeoisie exalts "political prisoners" to some category apart, whose social practice and interests are opposed to the other proletarians' and whose defence has nothing to do with the proletarian interests.
So the "common criminals" are considered as victims of the vice, the perversion and the selfishness that dominate them, while "political prisoners" (in default of being the victims of those victims whose evils they try to remedy) are considered as the victims of Authority, of the lack of tolerance, the lack of democracy, of the rigour and the heaviness of the State.
The first ones deserve their punishment and have no perspective but to expiate and venerate the courage and the loyalty of their big "political" brothers.
The second ones are the scapegoats, the martyrs, the "free-thinkers" and deserve, while waiting for the amnesty, a privileged lot. For the bourgeoisie's survival, for the maintenance of pacific coexistence between fractions of the bourgeoisie and between bourgeoisie and proletariat, it is necessary to admit philosophical, political, religious, economic or social "opposition" in the society, which undergoes a permanent reform and, through its contradictions, brings about an unceasing class struggle.
The political prisoners recognised by States and by their humanist' organisations are the victims of that permanent overthrow, the victims of the State limits of tolerance towards its reformers. The political statute of prisoners has the function of providing the proletarians with martyrs of the revolutionary faith, martyrs of the people's cause, of the struggle for "work, peace and freedom": they represent the injustice that falls down on the men of good will, who, here below, believe in a quiet development of progress and who, in front of the capitalists' difficulty in facing the crisis, propose remedies : new governments, news plans of reorganisation... in order to conciliate the class conflicts, to recompose the nation, etc. There is consequently no political statute neither for the combative proletarians nor for the communist militants condemned because of their class belonging and actions. Only those who disown the reasons for their condemnation have the right of getting that statute: all the democrat rascals, the unionists... who only preach for the liberty of being exploited.
The champion of the organisations defending the political statute for prisoners, the famous Amnesty International, supplies by itself the whole anti-proletarian meaning of the political prisoners' statute. In order to benefit from the support of this organisation, one must not "have done anything against the security of the State and never have used violence".
Falling in with the defence of the human bourgeois rights, and so invariably on the side of the bourgeois State, this organisation takes a direct part in the very democratic repression against the proletariat... By organising the spectacular defence of the "innocent" victims of the social injustice, it contributes to the killing of thousands of proletarians "guilty" of having violently fought against the abject capitalist exploitation of the proletariat. It is not only the division between "common criminals" and "political prisoners", "guilty" and "innocent", "defensible" and "not defensible" that the defenders of the political prisoners' statute claim and organise but also the division between "prisoners" and "free men".
Within a relation of force that is not in favour of the bourgeoisie, at a time of important class movements, the political amnesty is nothing but a juridical manoeuvre of the bourgeoisie trying to integrate what is happening in the street and what it cannot avoid (see the latest struggle in Bolivia and the liberation of hundreds of imprisoned workers), all this within the legal context of the democratic State, of the bourgeois policy.
The bourgeoisie's aim is clear: turning a relation of force that is in favour of its historical enemy into its contrary, by taking control of the situation. The amnesty can also achieve a reversal of the relation of force in favour of the bourgeoisie once a State has succeeded in imposing its power, its terror, the hostages are freed and this amnesty gives a new credibility, a new strength to the bourgeoisie.
It is only through a real action against the State, through the application of the working class terror, that the imprisoned and the "free men" defend and support the struggles in prisons. Any manifestation from "outside" showing that the prisoners haven't lost the "freedom" of the "free men" but that those "free men" reject the so-called individual and privative privileges by revolting himself and fighting against the State, its system of wage slavery, austerity and rigour: such manifestations give the prisoners the strength of not getting destroyed, broken, overwhelmed.
The dead are the evidence of its determination, the prisoners are its hostages, and, above all, it demonstrates to the petrified class the helplessness and the isolation, or worse, the incoherence and the irresponsibility of any revolutionary perspective. By imprisoning communist militants, combative proletarians, the bourgeois State fights the revolutionary movement on its ground. But if it is obvious that communist militants run the risk of repression, we must work in order not to give the State the possibility of restricting our struggle ground nor the initiative of suffocating us on its own ground by limiting the revolutionary activity to the support of imprisoned comrades (see the R.B. in Italy) and/or worse, the possibility to dislocate the proletarian organisations. How many "revolutionary" organisations do abandon the fight by joining some front of bourgeois organisations, by integrating and standing for campaigns of the democratic State, under a pretext of solidarity (to free their militants...)? How many organisations do find in the strength of the State some encouragement to preserve themselves by denouncing working class terrorism (which is directly a support to pacifism), or inversely believe that the best way to make common cause with their imprisoned comrades is to join armed struggle?
For all those reasons, we must do everything in our power to make sure that a minimum of militants be imprisoned and that a maximum escape from repression, so that the State will not be able to isolate us and to take the avant-garde of the movement as hostage.
We must criticise the irresponsibility of organisations that do not take elementary defence measures for their militants and for the other class militants: those who do not prepare some practical dispositions to give the militants the possibility of escaping from justice and to continue their revolutionary activity. At the same time we must criticise the erring ways of direct action, of working class violence by clarifying the proletarian struggle methods and by placing them in a general vision of the evolution of the struggle relation between classes. Apart from the case of revolutionary movements in which the class power imposes the liberation of imprisoned comrades and in which their interest is to claim for their actions, we know that the proletarian prisoner is most of the time alone in front of the State. In conditions as we live everywhere in the world today, an imprisoned militant finds himself in a situation similar to that of a revolutionary proletarian who is alone to continue the struggle in a sector being totally under Capital counter-revolutionary power (quiet factory, disciplined regiment...). His atomisation only expresses the general class atomisation and puts him on the ground of Capital. Therefore when a comrade falls in a time of such struggle, his interest is not to play the martyr or to revendicate his actions, but to deny them. His interest lies in using all possible ways to get out of prison: sickness, vice of procedure, use of humanitarian supports, use of the "U.N.O. refugee" statute, of "political refugee" statute, use of amnesty actions... This does not mean supporting the bourgeois institutions politically or the democratic campaigns or the reforms of justice. Nor does it mean making front with them. We must help the imprisoned militants, but we must know and say that it is not the class struggle ground but the ground of Capital. We can't say that such defence is a proletarian class struggle for it is only the extreme weakness of the class. Our main support is the organisation of the fight against repression on the basis of class struggle methods... The liberation of prisoners is not in itself a victory for the proletariat: it all depends on what class it reinforces. We cannot separate the prisoners' liberation and the methods used to that purpose. Concretely the first task is to destroy the wall of silence of the bourgeoisie, the State lies and the "anti-terrorist" propaganda that assimilate working class actions with gangsterism. And this means spreading all the information, all the manifestos, all calls for solidarity with imprisoned proletarian militants between the groups. It also means supporting the resistance actions of the imprisoned against repression by organising solidarity with the movements happening outside. The minimum to do while the prisoners have to keep their mouth shut in front of the judges, is, for the organisation', to defend their actions in front of the working class.
It is because the proletarian organs support the prisoners' working class actions that they can keep quiet in front of justice, risk less trouble and can keep confidence in the struggle for the destruction of all class violence.
During periods of social open fights, some struggle organs act against repression: this is where communists must act and develop some personal struggle methods: direct action, terrorism against the tormentors...
Let's take the examples of prisoners' struggles and resistance during the late years: successive occupations of roofs in France; strikes in Spain and Italy; riots, strikes and uproars against torture and imprisonment conditions in Italy; sieges of prisons and liberations by force, in opposition to amnesty, of prisoners in Argentina (at Villa Devoto prison in 1966) and lately in Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan...; liberation by force of Neapolitan proletarians who, imprisoned for their participation in important struggle movements consecutive to the earthquake, were liberated by a mobilisation, which central and anti-democratic watchword was: "we are all subversive"; and more other struggles in prisons in Turkey, Iran, Iraq... of which we have had very little echo...
If communist militants are constrained to have relations with some State procedures and/or if bourgeois democrats help to save the life of a few militants, no revolutionary militant can oppose himself to that; but what is inadmissible is when "revolutionaries" pay for their freedom by deserting the working class struggle and by joining their torturers' ranks.
There is a limit beyond which talking about class struggle and solidarity means bourgeois solidarity, defence of bourgeois perspectives and interests. The fact of consciously and voluntary getting into action together, towards one common social perspective, essentially contains the consolidation of solidarity relations between those who act in this movement, the class solidarity is the relation around which the proletarians associate and unite.
Solidarity is the dialectical relation of the communist militant in relationship with the revolutionary movement. An imprisoned militant who refuses to give any information about his comrades to his tormentors acts by solidarity with the working class struggle that exists beyond his own personal existence. And the revolutionaries who organise solidarity with him from the "outside" do it because his life carries the movement further, because the movement that is developing means "life" to this comrade. On the ground of democracy, there is no possibility for the proletarian solidarity to take place; the State doesn't tolerate any other community but its own, in which men are only what they return, in which men are but exchangeable value. The prisoners who are freed by the State and protected by its regulations only count as exchangeable money. The prison is a destruction tool used to dislocate the revolutionary movements. We must organise ourselves to escape from this but also to support any expression of life in the working class. We must organise ourselves outside and against all democratic "front" campaigns and reinforce, spread, preserve and develop any theoretical, practical, organisational contribution consolidating class solidarity. Today, some combative proletarians and militants are imprisoned: our task is to organise solidarity and to prepare the working class riposte against repression.
Constantly in search of extraordinary surplus value, the capitalists are always obliged to renew, to modernise their means of production in order to increase productivity. The increase in productivity comes essentially from a more continuous, more organised and more intense use of the productive forces, among which the most important one is the labour-power. As capital changes its methods of work, it changes labour-power as well as men themselves since it changes the relation of men to their work. For the workers, it always means an increase in the exploitation rate; first of all because the salaries are never related to the production of wealth; secondly because any increase in productivity means an increase in the labour intensity. Under capital, the use of new machines always brings along an increase in the division of work, a more severe, more scientific and more rational organisation of working time, which submits the proletarian to more severe controls, regulations and obligations. This means the 'dead times' chase, the struggle against absenteeism, the development of the mobility of the labour force, the continuous supervision, the acceleration of rates...
Facing the perpetual reinforcement of exploitation, a steady claim of the working class has always been and still is the reduction of working time. This is why the bourgeoisie tries to identify this proletarian claim with the "legal limitation of the working day" (without which the social work could not be made more intense and more productive of surplus-value) in order to change the workers' movement into a permanent reform of capital.
The legal reduction of the working time has nothing to do with a reappropriation of time by the workers and is only a formal reduction of the working time, which is only measured in terms of quantity by the chronometer without any care about its quality (intensity, density). This measure, far from being a step towards the emancipation of the proletariat, only aims at adapting the labour power, the living labour, to the new conditions of exploitation, to let the workers accept to be more and more dependent of the capitalist machines, to reinforce the division of their lives following the needs of capitalist production, making them, in their work and in their leisure, simple reproducers of surplus-value.
The reduction of working time as the expression of the proletariat's emancipation from its secular work slavery will only be real in a situation of hard struggles between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie where the working class tends to impose by force its own claims of destruction of capitalism.
It is therefore necessary to distinguish increase in productivity and intensification of work. Under capital, both concepts are bound because productivity cannot be increased without reinforcing the labour intensity and the exploitation of the proletariat. Under proletarian dictatorship, to the contrary, the increase in productivity will aim at reducing the labour intensity, reducing the exploitation of the proletariat.
Communism, because it does not need to accumulate capital and, to the contrary, answers human needs, because it will free the development of productive forces from the shackles of the capitalist mode of production, will reach a much higher productivity through the abolition of work.
Within the capitalist production, all commodities - including labour power - to be exchanged, have to be equalised, reduced to the same denominator, value or abstract work, whose measure is the social working time crystallised in it, necessary for their production or reproduction. Any good is therefore sold at its value (the law of supply and demand makes the prices oscillate around an average). Now precisely, the worker sells his labour power by the day while, for example, one hour of work would be sufficient to produce the value necessary for the reproduction of his own force; by working one hour a day, the worker would have produced enough goods to be exchanged against his means of survival (food, clothes, lodging...). The salary is the payment for this necessary work without which the proletarian would not be able to preserve or reproduce himself.
In this way, by paying the labour power at its value, the capitalist can appropriate himself the work performed during the rest of the hours of the day without owing anything to the proletarian since he respects the contract and the principle according to which any merchandise is sold at its value. This part of the work which is stolen by the bourgeoisie is called surplus-work; the value created during this surplus-work is called surplus-value; the rate between the necessary work and the surplus-work or between the salary and the surplus-value is called the rate of exploitation.
We have just seen the worker's day could be divided into two parts: the necessary work and the "surplus-work". The capitalist mode of production can only develop itself by reducing the necessary work and by increasing the "surplus-work". For the communists, the rate between necessary and surplus work is fundamental: not only the reduction of daily working time is compatible with the extension of surplus-work, but it is one of the elements used to extend this free work. In order to increase surplus-work, the capitalists have the possibility to lengthen the working day but the workers' struggle for the reduction of working time has been one of the elements that pushed the capitalists to increase surplus-work by reducing the necessary work (1).
"But when the surplus-value has to be produced by the conversion of necessary labour into surplus-labour, it by no means suffices for capital to take the labour process in the form under which it has been historically handed down, and then simply to prolong the duration of that process. The technical and social conditions of the process, and consequently the very mode of production must be revolutionised, before the productiveness of labour can be increased. By that means only can the value of labour power be made to sink, and the portion of working day necessary for the reproduction of that value be shortened." (MARX, Capital)
If a capital A, by new production techniques, can produce a larger amount of goods with less workers than its rival, it will have the possibility of selling its products at a lower price than its rival (it has to if it wants to sell the largest amount of goods), but, of course, at a higher price than their cost of production (less living work is crystallised in them and therefore less salary and more profit) until the value of identical commodities on the market decreases as a consequence of the generalisation of the production process and until the extraordinary surplus-value disappears. This is the process that pushes capitalists to find new technical innovations because it is only by winning rival markets that they can win this extraordinary surplus-value.
So every capitalist is forced to increase surplus-labour by reducing necessary-labour and therefore, increase productiveness and decrease the social work crystallised in each commodity and, in this way, decrease their value. This value decrease is also applicable to labour-power, which means a reduction of necessary labour. Temporarily, this decrease in the value of labour power gives the possibility to achieve an extraordinary surplus-value. But in this need for reducing necessary labour lies the basic contradiction of all the capitalist system, between the permanent processes of valorisation and devalorisation. Although the only source of profit, surplus-value, is nothing but the living labour included in any commodity, the increase in productiveness (or raising of the organic component of the capital) always means an increase in dead labour (technological development) or regard to living labour (labour power development). Hence the achievement of extraordinary surplus-value increasing the falling rate of profit.
One can therefore understand that the investment expenses grow continuously and tend to lower the profit rate (rate between profit and invested capital). In the same time, the constant decrease in the value of commodities causes an accelerated devalorisation of constant capital: buildings, machines. The redemption of these machines has to be made in an always shorter time; this requires a maximum production rate of the working forces: it is necessary to work the machines night and day to extract enough surplus-value and decrease the cost of labour power. This is why, under capitalist production, any increase in productiveness means an increase in the proletariat's subjection to the machines, to dead labour.
Productiveness today is the productiveness of capital. For capital, the interest does not lie in producing two goods instead of one for the sake of reducing man's labour to its half. What counts before all is that, in these two goods, a higher surplus-value will be produced to compensate the devalorisation of the commodities produced by half as much living labour. Any increase in productiveness causes a relative decrease in wages (compared to the quantity of wealth produced), a decrease in necessary work and an increase in surplus-work. The basic reality that the exploitation rate is relative because it is social and historical makes us understand the growing antagonism between proletariat and bourgeoisie and demystify the "social acquirements", the "increase in the standards of living", the "reduction of working time"...
In Belgium, for example, we can see in the statistics of the "Universite catholique de Louvain" that there has been a 11% cut in the working hours between l960 and 1973. But what the bourgeoisie will not tell is that this "progress" is due to the extraordinary rise in work productivity, which allows the workers to produce the same amount of goods in 1973 as in 1960 in only 43% of the working time they spent that year.
If this rise in work productivity had entirely benefited to the workers and had only been used to reduce the working time, it could have been reduced not by 11% but by 57%, which would mean a working time of less than 20 hours a week! (See the article "Maintien du pouvoir d'achat, un mot d'ordre reactionnaire". In Le Communiste No 4).
To limit the cost of new investments as much as possible, the capitalist is obliged to reduce the development of constant capital. To increase productivity, he will try, through technological developments, to intensify the work of the proletarians. This need for increasing the work intensity will force him to reduce the working time, not in order to reduce work but in order to increase it.
All the bourgeois who know a little about history admit these facts but do not see the irreversible class antagonism revealed by them. To the contrary, they only see them as excesses from a past that progress has definitively eliminated, from times that are through. 0ne of their big arguments is the reduction of the working day (16,14,12,10,8 hours). These are supposititiously absolute facts, that could convince the workers that capitalism is not such an inhuman system (they will then talk about the "leisure society", the "free times era" as a fair reward for so many years of efforts, services and work for capital. But this only shows the lies and dreams of the stupid bourgeois understanding that substitutes the ideal vision of its own class situation to the world's reality.
In the historical centres of accumulation and concentration of capital, the big cities (in South America, North America, Europe...), the legal working day effectively tends to be reduced, but this is due only to the fantastic development of productivity which allows capital to stabilise class struggle and force social peace through giving "advantages" to certain categories of workers, while in the same time they increase the rate of surplus-value extraction.
Complementarily, the only possibility of capitalist valorisation in deserted zones is to maintain a very long working day that can compensate the low organic composition of the capital, making the labour conditions of these workers look out of time.
In some parts of the U.S.A., for example, (which are a symbol for a "developed society"), the extraction of surplus value takes the form of slavery (see the article in "Comunismo" No 7 on the working conditions of the clandestine immigrants in Texas, Florida, Virginia...). The flourishing multinational food company "Gulf and Western" has its offices in ultra-modern buildings in New York where the employees work under the U.S. legal standards, and gets its raw materials in Haiti where everybody knows that sugar plantations are real slavery-camps (work without rest, miserable wages, military surveillance...).
But salaried work does not only reveal its penal servitude character in the USA: see the camps in Siberia, South Africa, Mauritania, Mali, as well as the concentrationary "communities" in Cambodia, China, Haiti... In all industrial centres, (non-declared) labour is an essential stabilising factor of the economic life. New York, Chicago, and Hong Kong all have their "sweatshops", and the crowd of home-workers: "after eight or nine hours of work in workshops, the employees take their piece of work home where they work on another five or six hours,... the work conditions in the workshops are unbelievable: it is not rare to see thirty sawing machines piled up in a small room without any airing nor opening but the front door" (Le Monde Diplomatique, March 1982). The "clandestine" dress-making workshops of Paris are well-known. The factories for children in Napoli and in Bangkok don't even surprise the bourgeois newspapers any more... "The number of children and teen-agers of less than 15 years who work throughout the world has increased in the last two years. Today we can count 55 millions of them, but experts state that this number is by far underestimated, compared to the real extension of the phenomenon (Le Monde, 10-11/5/1981, after an investigation of the International Work Office).
"Everywhere, the industrial subcontracting helps evacuating part of the workers from the big metropolitan industry... In Italy, the small industries, reanimated by the crisis, at the limit of legality and of clandestinity, are often considered as the basis of the "second Italian miracle". In Japan, recent investigations have shown that subcontracting is an essential key of the present success of Nippon products in the world market... Forms of home-work, subcontracting techniques and "sweating systems" that we thought had disappeared in the West, have a new development as controlled segments of big industry. Thus, the dispersed factory (or, as the Italians call it, the "diffuse industry") has to be analysed as a particularity of the new organisation of production." (Le Monde Diplomatique, January 1982).
By showing these facts as excesses of the capitalist system, or as remains of pre-capitalist societies, not only does the bourgeoisie extenuate their real importance but it also gives credibility to "normal", "legal" work. But in these "clandestine" workshops as well as in the "legal" factories, the same commodities are produced to valorise capital and in both cases the worker has to sell himself to survive. The needs of the proletarians working there are never satisfied: unemployment for example mainly touches the "official" industry workers, and it is the same bourgeois misery that feeds the black markets and industrial convict-prisons. For us, there is no real difference between the proletarian labour in New York and in the Siberia mines, it seems to us vital to assert the similitude of wage-slavery all over the world (see the article on "worker-aristocracy" in "Le Communiste" No 10/11).
Some bourgeois claim that the "historical" diminution of labour time is a materialisation of worker acquirements, an evidence that capitalism and socialism can coexist and that there can be a progressive way from one to the other. It is always dangerous for the bourgeoisie to alter labour time reductions it gave up under class struggle pressure without compromising the credibility of its social system (i.e., the 40 hours in France in 1936, the 8 hour day in "Soviet" Russia and in Germany after the revolutionary struggles of 1917-1923).
After the crushing of the revolutionary wave of the twenties in the name of the workers' well-being, the bourgeoisie had to increase productivity all of a sudden in order to increase the exploitation rate. The deep and violent changes in the organic composition of the capital (increase in constant capital in proportion to the variable capital) led to an exacerbation of competition and conflicts between the different accumulation centres of the capital. The valorisation of capitals meant taking the rival productive forces or destroying them. It is those mutual destruction, especially of labour power, the generalisation of work-camps to all the planet, following very closely the "social acquirements" of the working class movement.
In 1948, when the English parliament voted the first laws of limitation of the working day (the Factory Act), it was already to put an and to a worker agitation that threatened to turn into a civil war. After the 10 hours legislation that also brought a wage-cut of 25%, the "working class, declared as criminal, was struck by prohibition and put under the suspect law" (Marx - Capital). In the same way, in France, the reform promulgated after February 1848 "dictates at the same time to all workshops and manufactures, without distinction, the same limit to the working day (...) and puts as a principle what had been obtained in England only for minors and women" (Marx - Capital). But it was immediately followed by the bloody slaughter of June insurrection in Paris. With this link between "the constant pressure of the workers acting from outside" and the legal intervention, the bourgeois rapidly transformed the class struggle into a struggle for the conquest of rights and the social laws produced by the state to reform its own system as "social acquirements".
It was under the pressure of a possible proletarian revolt that the bourgeois class unified, in spite of the difficulty, in the State, which represents general interests. The laws reducing the working day appear when the division of work comes to the point of making all industries dependent one upon another and when it becomes vital for "everybody" to avoid social troubles due to the excesses of some behind- hand capitalists, when these troubles compromise the interests of capital. So it becomes necessary for social reproduction to adapt the workers to their tools (which are continuously revolutioned) and to their new living conditions. This is why, for example, the State makes laws to limit the women's labour time and suppresses children's work, but in the same time establishes obligatory school and a family code (obligation of thrifty work at home).
But despite the reduction of labour time, the time of the worker is every day more submitted to the capital's necessities. Would it be his working time, the transportation time between his home and his working place, the time he needs to be in order with the administration, the police, the unions, the social security, etc., the time for professional formation, the time for taking care of his professional harms, the time for reproducing his labour power... all this social time belongs to the capital.
The social laws only materialise the bourgeois pretension to manage a production system based on work slavery with a scientific and humanitarian legitimity. They are nothing but formalisation of the bourgeois humanist and humanist principles, that "the worker sells his labour power in order to reproduce it and not to destroy it" and "the interest of capital itself is to ask him a normal working day".
All capital needs is to enslave more and more the labour power in order to control its use, its cost, following the standards of valorisation, restructuration and concentration.
By trying to show any increase in productivity as a simple mechanical perfection, without recognising the unavoidable intensification of work that it lays on proletarians, the socialist government shows a purely capitalist measure as a "worker conquest" and pushes the workers to believe that their own interests are those of national economy. Sacrifices, austerity, discipline and work are the very principles of "solidarity" which the government always refers to. Behind the so-called alternative: "either unemployment or a distribution of work that would allow a reduction of working time" we meet the same principles and the same reality: the absolute decrease in wages submitting the proletariat totally to the bourgeois state.
There is a general tendency by all governments (whatever their political "colour") to reduce the legal working time the "historical" shift from 40 to 39 hours in France, the decrease in official working time in manufactures has changed between 1970 and 1979 from 44.9 to 43.2 in Great Britain, from 43.3 to 40.6 in Japan, from 39.9 to 35.4 in Belgium. From 1974 to 1980 the highest differences have been observed in Norway and Israel (4 hours). While the working time was 40.6 hours a week in France in 1980, it reached 39.7 in the USA, 39.1 in Australia, 37.7 in Austria, 33.4 in Belgium, 32.9 in Denmark... (Le Monde, 16/2/82).
The whole protocol on "the reduction of working time" on which both the French bosses and trade unions agreed is guided by the aim of making French industry more competitive thanks to a more systematical use of constant capital (the duration of use of the equipment in automobile industry reaches 6150 hours in USA, 4000 to 4600 hours in Japan, 3700 to 4000 hours in France - INSEE Statistics) and more flexibility iin the distribution of work (in the USA as in Japan, the time-tables are well adapted to the needs of the market and the overtime work is largely used, from 10 to 15% in Japan).
"The investments in industrial equipment have decreased by 12% over 1981": such was a title in "Le Monde" of 9 June 1982. According to "Liberation" of 14 September 1981, "since 1973 any increase in wealth has come from a better efficiency in production". In order to fight the lack of investments, the bourgeoisie seems to use its machines to the maximum by making them work day and night with a more movable and less expensive mass of workers.
With the aggravation of world crisis, the work by teams and by posts has been generalised. The posted work becomes a normal thing for one third of the workers, among whom one half works on night teams. Steel industry, mines, textile and paper industries used to have the most posted workers: up to 85%. For a few years, this kind of work has spread to food industry and to the services sector. From 1957 to 1977, the percentage of workers "in posts" in transformation industry has more than doubled. This increase in posted work is to be related to the increase in the record of productivity: the sum of commodities produced in the Belgian industry has almost gone from one to three between 1956 and 1977 (following the weekly bulletin of the Kredietbank of 17 November 1978).
The French Prime Minister can say that those reforms will make the machines sweat instead of men, that they will improve the relationship between man and his work, that this will create new and more qualified employment, the only statement of such measures is in contradiction with their promises:
- extension of posted work with a fifth team for non-stop work;
- generalisation of temporary work;
- extension of overnight work for women;
- week-end work;
- "dead time" chase so as to make the 35 hours 35 effective hours of work;
- vulgarisation of overtime work, which will be paid only 25% more.
As Minister Auroux said: "To increase productiveness is not a mechanical operation: it's more a sort of compliance of the wage workers". The work conditions regulate the life of workers at the rhythm of capitalist valorisation; the often-changing time-tables disorganise the rhythm of life of the workers, of whom many are over-exhausted. According to the B.I.T., experiments have shown that night work require more physical and nervous energy for the same result and that mortality is higher among posted workers. Consequently it is really an increase in work intensity and in proletarians' exploitation that the "39 hours of the socialist government" aim at generalising; this is what Pierre Mauroy calls "the improvement of the relationships between man and his work" (2). For him, as for Stalin and for all capitalists: "man is the most precious capital". No need to wait for Raymond Barre's congratulations to the socialist government to understand that the agreements on the "reduction of working time" was the beginning of a big attack against the working class.
Only a few months after the legislation on working time reduction the socialist government established what it called "pecuniary compensation", which turned out to be nothing but a direct attack on salaries. New "solidarity taxes" were required from civil servants, "solidarity" contracts were settled between unions and bosses (wage- cuts from 1,6% at Gervais-Danone and B.S.N. to 20% at Fleury-Michon): the left government generalised wage-cuts.
The increases in taxes, in the prices of manufactured goods and services, the devaluation, the blocking of salaries, the decrease in unemployment benefits... all are direct attacks on proletarians' real salaries and help in financing the aid to industry through "solidarity contracts" (the enterprises that reduce working time to 36 hours a week before September 1983 will be free from social security subscriptions for each new employment resulting from the "reduction of working time").
The constant increase in unemployment (more than 2 millions now under the socialist government) contradicts the "socialist solutions" to unemployment. As Minister Delors admitted that the shift from 40 to 39 hours did not create new employment, the so-called reduction of work that was supposed to reduce unemployment showed its true face: a systematic attack against the working class. The new plans for employment of the French socialists mean nothing but unemployment allowances, intensified work and general wage-cuts. The Mauroy plans are but the repetition of those applied by all bourgeoisie in the world.
The French government, as any government, tries to distribute work in the most productive way in order to, as an Air-France commander says, "compensate the rigidity of the working time organisation, which often leads to insufficient yearly use of more and more sophisticated equipment that are an obstacle to the development of the productiveness of such equipment".
The principle directing the working time limitation is, consequently, a principle of rationalisation, productiveness of capital and intensification of work.
In fact, the reduction of working time, from the capitalist point of view (which includes all government's and unions' claims and promises), always corresponds to a decrease in the necessary work so as to increase the ratio of surplus work even if it is comprised in a day of 7 instead of 8 hours.
From this point of view, if the working day is reduced there must be an increase in the intensity of the exploitation. The proletarian point of view is completely opposed to this. The workers will always try to struggle to limit this exploitation not only in duration but in intensity. The proletarians' interest will be to really work less, which means to create less surplus value and to have their salaries increased. The true workers' struggles and claims only correspond to this historical perspective and are opposed to the bourgeois claims, to the so-called "strikes for the 35 hours" of the government, which mean nothing but capital's restructuration (hiding unemployment under part-time work,...) and increase exploitation.
Since proletariat and bourgeoisie have existed, the workers' struggle has expressed, even at the first level, the tendency to reduce working time, to increase salary whether by sabotage, theft or by strike and to impose, at least for some time, a reduction of working time and/or an increase in salaries.
Independently of any circumstantial claim expressing a permanent historical tendency at a certain time, in a certain place (it is sure that in some struggles the 40 hours are a real workers' claim, while in others it means the liquidation of the struggle) what counts is the direct antagonism to the logic of capital, to the surplus value production.
The interest of capital is to freeze any proletarian claim through legalising it and making it a "worker victory", changing it into an increase in exploitation. Hence the same difference of class existing between, for example, the 1st of May, an international day of struggle, and its legalisation/transformation into a holiday to the glory of wage slavery and between the meaning of the reduction of working time that aims at suppressing salaried work and its legalisation/transformation into a capitalist restructuration. Between the reduction of working time, which corresponds to the proletarian interests, and the same formula applied to capital's interests, there is all the antagonism separating the revolutionary proletariat from the bourgeoisie.
(2) "Work kills or wounds, each day, in the world, 160,000 people, but it creates even more mental illnesses (...). 1,200,000 people today suffer of grave mental disturbances", (B.I.T. Report for the international year of the crippled).
Within the capitalist mode of production that dominates the whole planet dictatorially, two social classes, two social projects exist, always more antagonistically, and oppose each other always more violently: the capitalist social project - wage-slavery, personified by the bourgeoisie, and which, as a product of past history, dominates our present, our immediacy - and the communist social project - the World-wide human community, born and personified by the proletariat. From the most global point of view, it is the capitalist social project that determines the law-and-order party and it is the communist social project, non immediately perceptible reality that determines the party of revolution. The capitalist forces, unified against the proletariat in a single party, even if this single party takes the shape of several "parties" which all defend the same programme, are those which maintain, under different forms (parliamentary, bonapartist,...) the capitalist mode of production, salariat, camouflaged and unified in the bosom of fictitious communities (religion, nation, people,...), communities of capital (4). Antagonistically opposed to these fictitious communities, the proletariat affirms itself as the social force (5) that, from the beginning of its existence, organises its struggle to destroy capitalism, to impose a new, at last human community. In this meaning communism, as far as its theory goes, is at the same time a description of the new community that the proletariat is historically forced to achieve and a description of the action the proletariat takes in order to impose its programme; it is therefore a description of the prefiguration of communism: the party. The essential determination of the proletarian party, therefore, is not one or another circumstantial event at the present time, but is directly communism itself. "Bounding over the entire cycle, communism is the knowledge of a plan of life for the species, i.e. for the human species" (Bordiga - "Property and capital"). That's why the tasks, the central activities of the party never vary, for they are not, just like the party, determined by immediate reality, but directly by the whole historical arch, from primitive communism up to full communism. Consequently the party is communist because in the present it represents the future and acts for its accomplishment. The party is the indispensable condition for the instauration of communism, and in the same time its prefiguration. This prefiguration in no way means the constitution of utopian communities where full communism reigns (return to the phalansteries of Fourier and other anarchist communes) but means that in the bosom of capitalism a social force exists, which acts, which has its own interests, which structures, organises and centralises itself, unifying itself in order to oppose and violently destroy the existing order, and to achieve its own essence: classless society. The whole capitalist society divides itself more and more into two enemy sides, into two organised forces, into two classes, two parties: one, the party of capital; the other, the party of communism (6).
Revolutionary Marxism principally retains the most general, the most abstract level... capitalism against communism... in order to understand the social classes and their antagonism, rejecting this way any statical, sociological, economic view of the classes. "Classes are not statical data but organical acting forces. They determine and define themselves in the struggle as a movement of opposition to other classes" ("Class and party" in "Rupture with the ICC", brochure in French of the ICG). When Marx states "The proletariat is revolutionary or isn't at all" (Marx to Engels-1865), he expresses that either the proletariat really acts as a class, i.e. as a force bearing a communist project, as a party, or it does not exist as a class, a party, leaving nothing but individuals, atomised citizens, sociological workers, producers and reproducers of capital (7). In the same way, Bordiga explained that "In the salient characters of its movement one can identify a class" (Party and Class - 1921), insisting also on this central element of our theory, namely that a class only exists when it reveals its interests, its programme, when it organises into a party. As we noticed on several occasions, the working class is the revolutionary class within the capitalist mode of production because it bears the new social project, communism the world-wide human community. Consequently, we can only grasp the very existence of the working class as an organised social force acting to impose its proper programme, antagonistic to all existing social order, violent negation, destruction of capitalism, i.e. of the law of value, of salariat. This action, this struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is its permanent historical tendency to constitute itself as the universal party. This way, the permanent affirmation of the communist left has been illuminated: the proletariat acts as a class only when it constitute itself into a party. "When we discover a social tendency, a movement directed towards a precise goal, then we can identify the existence of a class, in the real sense of the word. But this means that the "class-party" exists, in a substantial, if not formal way". (Bordiga - Party and Class - 1921).
The Marxist methodology (against Kantian theories) explains that the contents - here the historical programme - is not a thing in itself to which a certain form "adheres"; on the contrary, it is the contents itself that gives birth to the form it already contained in a latent way. It is the historical party that expresses the contents and the revolutionary moving forward of the working class. This is why, without ever identifying party and class, the revolutionary Marxism defines the transition of the proletariat from a non-class to a class for itself (9) by its contribution, its organisation into a party.
When Marx writes the famous sentence in the manifesto of the party, in 1847: "This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being destroyed by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier."
Or still elsewhere, in the statutes of the First International, in 1872: "In its struggle against the collective power of the possessing classes, the proletariat can only act as a class by constituting itself into a distinct political party, opposed to all old parties, formed by the possessing classes. This constitution into a political party is indispensable to assure the triumph of the social revolution and of its supreme aim: the abolition of wage-slavery."
Marx expresses undoubtfully that the only possible organisation of proletarians fighting for communism is the organisation into a party, that there exists but one and unique movement that, even if it might disappear in certain counter-revolutionary periods because of the "competition between workers", rises up again, always firmer, always clearer... that this movement is nothing else but the organisation, the unification of the proletariat into a class, and consequently into a party. The permanent movement of the workers to associate themselves, to centralise themselves, to unify themselves to defend their own interests, workers' associationism, is the motor of the organisation into a party, of the organisation of the most conscious proletarians around the nuclei that have been able to draw the conclusions from past struggles, that have been able to intransigently defend the communist programme, giving birth this way, during a period of international struggle, to the world-wide communist party. So the only motor is class-practice (in this sense that theory, of course, is one aspect of this practice, just like strikes, propaganda, armed struggle... are), with clashes "spontaneously" giving birth to multiple crystallisation, to organisations of struggling proletarians, more or less ephemeral, which, in order to go on opposing themselves to capital, have to unify themselves, centralise themselves and have to understand always more clearly the very movement that animates them, in connection with past struggles. For the proletariat, drawing more and more critical conclusions from its past means holding the key of humanity's future always more firmly. This permanent tendency towards associationism for struggle, the formal structures of which are periodically destroyed, is the historical tendency of the proletariat to organise into a party.
The essential determination of the proletariat's struggle to destroy capitalism is its revolutionary programme: communism. Communism, borne by the proletariat, is not, in spite of all vulgar materialists, the simple and immediate product of the sociological place of workers in the capitalist mode of production, but is the product of the whole development of humanity, which historically determines (Marxism is an implacable historical determinism) the place of the proletariat at one pole of the production process, and therefore, determines the material interests that flow from it, necessarily engendering communism, at one and the same time as a movement of destruction of capital and as the affirmation of the new community (10). It is the whole of the development of the productive forces, it is the cycle of value that determines, as a product of the whole history of class-societies, the proletariat, collective and associated producer of value, at one pole of the production relationships, and, at the other pole, the bourgeois class, personification of capital, whose function is to manage this value, and that lives from it.
Classes do not exist by themselves, nor as fixed entities, but exist only as active forces. Classes determine themselves by their practice, on basis of the pole they hold in the production relationships and on basis of the interests determined by those relationships. This is why the revolutionary or reactionary character of a class can only express itself antagonistically to the other class, one as bearer of a human community, the other as conservative force of the relations of production that envelop and hinder the productive forces of humanity. In capitalism, the bourgeoisie as personification of the capitalist mode of production, necessarily is reactionary in front of the revolutionary class: the proletariat. When we state that there can be no class without party, this essentially means that there can be no human collectivity being historically determined without the existence as an active force, of its programme, its social project. Therefore, to try to define the working class without its essential characteristic, i.e. to be a revolutionary class, bearer of communism, can only be counter-revolutionary. If, tendentially, the proletariat at first, by instauring its class dictatorship, but afterwards the whole of humanity, organises into a universal communist party - knowing that when the whole of humanity is organised into a party, this party ceases to exist, for having engendered the universal human community, nevertheless it is completely erroneous to identify class and party (i.e. to put an equation mark between them), because, not only it is methodologically absurd to identify a being with its most fundamental characteristic, but most of all, it is extremely dangerous to identify the human collectivity with the project, the programme that it embodies only tendentially, (and in the same way as this collectivity is only tendentially conscious of its project) and which therefore only tendentially becomes the project, the programme, the party of all members of this collectivity.
From the point of view of historical materialism, it is communism that defines the proletarian movement, it is the party that defines the class. But this historical reality exists today only as a more or less strong tendency to destroy capitalism. Communism isn't obvious (the Italian communist left defined it as "a fact already passed") but for an extreme minority of the collectivity, of the class, which however will be historically forced to realise communism. For the larger majority of proletarians, the heterogeneity of consciousness still predominates, while as a process, considered as a whole, the communist movement is the first movement of history completely conscious, the first movement for which it is the consciousness of communism that precedes and determines action. This process where, more and more, for the proletariat, it is its consciousness, its programme that determines its action, is the process of reversal of praxis, because, contrary to vulgar materialism, it isn't the immediate reality that determines the being, but its historical moving forward. This fundamental process of the reversal of praxis isn't the apanage or private property of this or another formal party, but is a real movement that takes a concrete form and expresses itself through communist nuclei, groups, fractions... and even individuals. Those, "in return", "have the task to unify themselves, to centralise themselves internationally, in order to constitute, on basis of their practical-theoretical convergence, the world-wide communist party" ("Presentation" - Le Communiste No 6). So, today, just like yesterday and tomorrow, it is communism that defines, that characterises the movement, the programme of the working class. In the same way, Marx explained how "it is anatomy of man that is the key to anatomy of ape", it is the superior stadium, communism - ultimate product of the evolution of class-societies, of the cycle of value - which is the key to the "anatomy" of the working class. The proletariat is communist, or isn't at all. It organises into a party, or it isn't but a number of atomised individuals ("non-class") producing and reproducing capital. "It is from the description of communist society that Marx and Engels drew the characteristics of the party-form" ("Origin and Function of the party-form" - Invariance No 1 - 1968).
The methodological foundations of the Leninist theory of the Party (developed as soon as 1900 particularly in "The immediate objectives of our movement" and in "What is to be done?" in 1902) essentially are nothing else but a remake, radicalised (mainly due to the different political situation of Germany and Russia), of the dominant theory within Social-Democracy - the Second International - of which Kauttsky was the uncontested master and guardian of the "orthodoxy" (a "quality" he held formally from the ageing Engels). If today militants of the numerous Leninist groups immediately associate the qualification of "renegade" to Kautsky's name (see "The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky"), they do this, without realising that if Kautsky was a "renegade", it is in the first place because he was the theoretical master of the whole social-democracy, and consequently of Lenin (but also of Pannekoek, Luxembourg,...). For the whole of this conceptions, be it, as we see it here, about the party, but also about capital, imperialism, "philosophy", revolution, about the national question... Lenin never broke away completely from the social-democratic interpretations, i.e. from the understanding and the bourgeois practices of the workers' movement, from the understanding of the proletariat as an exploited class, but not as a revolutionary class. And if we recognise Lenin as a revolutionary, it is fundamentally on basis of his action which, de facto, to a large extent was in contradiction with his own theories. Although Lenin tried in practice to rupture with Social-Democracy (particularly by organising the armed insurrection of October 1917), he never really pushed on those attempts to rupture until the clear affirmation of communism, which implies the refusal of the whole of the reformist conceptions characterising the Second International from its very foundation (11). As to the question of the party, of consciousness, etc., Lenin was and claimed to be a disciple of Kautsky, whom, besides, he often quotes:
"...socialist consciousness would be the necessary, direct result of proletarian struggle. This, however, is completely wrong (...). Socialist consciousness today can only emerge on the basis of solid scientific knowledge (...). In fact, it is in the brain of certain individuals belonging to this category (bourgeois intellectuals) that contemporary socialism was born, and it was by them that socialism was transmitted to the most developed proletarians, who introduced it into the proletariat's class struggle later on, wherever conditions enabled them to. This is how socialist consciousness is an element imported from the outside into the proletariat's class struggle, and does not spontaneously arise from it."
Lenin uses the same non-Marxist idea:
"The political class-consciousness can only be brought to the worker from the outside, i.e., from the outside of economic struggle, from the outside of the sphere of the relationships between workers and bosses." ("What is to be done?")
These quotations are often used to criticise the Leninist conceptions of the party (particularly by the "anti-Leninist" current), but without realising how the practice of the fraction grouped around Lenin tried, in reality, to break up with the conceptions of Lenin himself (e.g. when Lenin has to call upon the "spontaneous" movement of the proletarians who are organising the insurrection, in order to force the central committee of the Bolshevik party to formalise this preparation in progress) and without understanding all implications of the criticism of the idealist-worker conception of "importation of consciousness from the outside". To criticise this conception does not mean, as councilists do, to deny the organisation of proletarians into a party, but, on the contrary, means to understand the workers' movement as a unity, to place each spontaneous expression of the proletarian struggle into the historical line of the constitution of the party, to place each struggle in the totality that constitutes the communist programme.
Whoever says workers' struggle, says political struggle. "All class struggle is a political struggle" Marx stated. Whoever says political struggle, says unity of the struggle, of the movement (even non-conscious) and of its historical intrinsic goal. Besides, the proletarian movement cannot be conceived, as we already wrote, without its goal, without its programme. The essence of the kautskyist/Leninist falsification is based on the separation of the struggles and the movement, on one hand, and the aim: communism, the party, on the other hand. While Bernstein (rightist social-democrat) crudely expresses this falsification: "The goal is nothing, the movement is everything", the kautskyist orthodoxy can only answer him by introducing a mediation, reforms, the transition-programme, the "party"... between the movement and the goal, and confirm the dichotomy completely. As a matter of fact, it is because Kautsky, just like Lenin, agrees with this separation, that he is forced, in order to answer to the obvious revisionism of Bernstein, to introduce a new element from the outside, so as to "join together again" what he conceives as being separated.
And of course, we criticise Leninism and anti-Leninism not simply as bourgeois ideologies, as wrong ideas, but mainly as counterrevolutionary practices on which the bourgeois ideas and ideologies can grow. Because large fractions of the proletariat did not break away from union practices, from reformist and legal politics, the theorisation of these counterrevolutionary practices could impose themselves as easily as they did on the third International, dialectically reinforcing this way the bourgeois practices of the proletariat. It is because union practices still persisted within the proletariat that the Unionist Red International could be created in 1920-1921 as easily as it was, and, by its creation reinforce and answer for such practices. So the problem of ideologies within the proletariat can never be reduced to the simple question of "wrong ideas", "wrong consciousness" (to which it would be sufficient to oppose a "true consciousness"), but it takes its roots in the real existence of social forces acting in a conformist way, giving a material basis to those ideologies. This is why each time we stress the fact that ideologies are first of all material forces; if a religious ideology exists, it is first of all through and because of the reality of the earthly force of its army of priests and mollahs, of its Vatican-State, of its capitalist interests. To destroy religion does not simply mean to destroy the religious idea, but first of all to destroy the social forces, the mode of production on which the religious idea was based, justifying this mode of production. "The religious world isn't but the reflection of the real world." ("Capital" - Marx)
Lenin, like all his followers, also uses most of this theory about a "double workers' movement", a "double centralisation" on the one hand the "spontaneous" movement that cannot bypass the "trade-unionist" consciousness, i.e. "economic" consciousness (we would almost say the "alimentary" consciousness), and on the other hand the "political" consciousness, the "communist" one, existing in itself and having to be introduced into the "spontaneous" movement by bourgeois intellectuals, converted to "socialism".
So, for Lenin, workers can only become conscious about the fact of being exploited; they need help from outside to realise that their force is revolutionary. This conception of Lenin and Kautsky is in direct opposition to Marx' s position, defined very clearly in his circular letter to the leaders of the German Social-Democracy: Bebel, Liebknecht, Brack...
Once more, we can find in Lenin's works the Kautskyist separation, which in theory separates the subject from the object, the being from the consciousness, separates movement and goal, exploited "class" and revolutionary "class", "economic" struggles and "political" struggles, "immediate" struggles and "historical" struggles... (12) and which in practice has led to the criminal separation between the "economic movement" organised by reformist unions and the "political movement" organised by the parties of Social-Democracy (traced from the model of German Social-Democracy), only busy with "universal suffrage" and parliamentary trickery. This separation of the workers' movement also meant the liquidation of the revolutionary programme and led astray workers' struggles, directing them in the perspective of a reform of the system. The counterrevolution that established itself with the defeat of the Paris commune and the dissolution of the first international dominates that period entirely (from 1871 until the beginning of this century, 1905), and this is not only because of open repression, but also, and most of all, under the more vicious influence of reformist, unionist, legalist, parliamentary ideologies. In opposition to the first International, which aimed at uniting proletarians from all over the world into one organised force to destroy capitalism, the second International, set up in a period of complete counterrevolution, divided the movement directly, not only, as we have already seen it, into "economic" and "political" movement, but also broke away from its internationalist character by grouping the proletarians according to their countries, in a more or less federate manner, and so it laid down, from the very start, all the bases for its participation in the first world-wide butchery of 1914. And although the third International rose up as an attempt to break away from the bourgeois rottenness of the second International, and this in a period of revolutionary struggles in the whole world, it did maintain, to a large extent, in affiliation with Kautsky-Lenin, not only the double organisation on the one hand the third ("political") International, and on the other hand the "economic" I.R.U., but it also maintained the organisation according to the countries, conceived as an addition of the different national parties, directed by an executive (which was in fact the Bolshevik party).
To this counterrevolutionary separation of the workers' movement - "economic"/"political", "immediate"/"historical",... -reproduced as well by the "Leninist" current as by the "anti-Leninists" (who substitute the word "soviet", supposedly pure from any deviation, to the word "union"), correspond the legalist ideologies - "pacific way for socialism" -, reformist, parliamentary,... and the "non-political" ideologies, "managerist", unionist... as we have already written in one of our reviews:
"At the very source of the existence of unionism there is the counterrevolutionary separation between, on the one hand, the so-called "immediate" struggles - "struggles" against the "consequences" oof the system, which are left to the trade-unions and to the ignorant workers - and on the other hand the co-called "political" struggles - the so-called revolutionary "struggles" left to the professionals of politics, to parliamentarians and other rascals - unionism is therefore, historically, thee perfect complement of reformist and parliamentary politics. The social-democratic separation between class and party gets its prolongation with the separation between the class organised in the unions and/or the soviets, the "immediate" or "economic" struggle and the "political" or "revolutionary" party/struggle. Therefore unionism, product of those separations, can only mean the "struggle" within the framework of the system, reproducing and reinforcing it, and is incompatible with the real communist struggle for the abolition of wage-slavery." (Action Communiste No 6 - "Concerning a certain balance-sheet about the activity of the group "Unemployed on struggle")
The proletariat's force expresses itself, at each wave of international struggle, not by the divisions, but by its capacity to unify, to centralise all the proletarian expressions that are dispersed into one single force, bypassing all the old organisational forms, produced and set by many years of counterrevolution. This is how it is only during periods of revolutionary struggle that the bourgeois separations are really bypassed, and so is the competition between workers, so as to constitute, in tendency, the beginning of a new community, which has to impose itself as a dominant class, as a workers' state (semi-State), before negating itself through its generalisation to the whole humanity (extinction by its extension to the whole world).
This way, the first International, the I.W.A., with all the limits typical of its period - the difficult disengagement from the "utopian socialist" phase, from the period of the Proudhonist, Lassalist, Saint-Simonist sects -, materialised the "Organisation of proleetariat into a class, and consequently into a party", much more clearly than the second "International", still-born, and also than the third International, which very soon (13) degenerated into counterrevolution. Indeed, the aim of the I.W.A. was "the abolition of all class-regime" and it directly organised, as its first task, the unification of all the proletarians, in struggle all over the world: "first article: The Working Men's Association has been established in order to create a centre of communication and cooperation between the workers' associations of all countries, which long for the same aim, i.e. mutual help, progress and the complete emancipation of the working class" (Statutes of the I.W.A. - Marx/Engels). Obviously this first Interrnational isn't an organisational model that we should try to reproduce today, but it expressed "more purely" the proletarian answer of always, the organisation of proletarians from all countries, from all conditions, from all ideological origins... around the international fraction that was best able to theoretically and practically defend the historical interests of the movement, in this case Marx and Engels. It is somewhat in the same way that, everywhere in the world, from 1917 onwards, internationalist fractions, groups, "parties"... recognised themselves in the communist and destructive character of the revolution in Russia, and that, without knowing the programmatical positions of the Bolsheviks, and being nearly always more radical than the latter, recognised themselves in the party of Lenin (14). This way the tendency of always became clear: revolutionary periods are periods of unification, of fusion, in the heat of the struggle, between the various proletarian forces the counterrevolution had dispersed and destroyed. The periods of counterrevolution, on the contrary, confirm themselves as a generalised dislocation of the proletarian forces, as a forced and imposed return of the few minorities that still resist to the state of "sects", a situation that can only be bypassed in a new revolutionary period. In opposition to the Kautskyist vision, which considers the party as growing gradually until it includes all workers (the same as the Leninist conception of the mass-party) in order to, after having educated them, "pass on to socialism pacifically", the Marxist vision, considers the existence of the party as a qualitative step deriving from the fusion and the centralisation, in a revolutionary period, of thousands of workers' groups - products of the heterogeneousness of the class - under the single direction of the fraction that was best able to preserve, defend, restore, theoretically and practically, the programme of communism. It is during those short but very intense moments of world-wide and general unification of the proletariat that the unique organisation of the proletariat into a class, and consequently into a party takes a concrete form in the clearest way and that the central position of Marx: "consciousness can be nothing but the conscious being" (German Ideology) takes a concrete form in the most visible manner, and the proletariat can be nothing but the social-force imposing communism, imposing the party.
In opposition to this "monist" totalising conception, we find all the reactionary "theories" that originate from the social-democratic falsifications and define "the class and the party" separately. Therefore, (and this is the essential part of their "theory") they have to look for the many "tricks", "transition programmes", "intermediate programmes", "transmission belts",... that could possibly "link" the class to its party. The basic methodological error of all these "theories" lies in the dichotomy they lay down between two concepts - class and party -, which, for sure are different but can in no way be separated. In the same way, life cannot be defined separately from man, from the animal or from the living vegetal. If "life" existed separately from man, only then the problem of the "link" between man and life would arise. In the same way as in the Marxist concept of merchandise, the exchange-value cannot exist, and therefore be defined, without its support, which is the exchange-value; the concept of class cannot exist without its tendency to constitute itself into a party. The Kautsky/Lenin filiation on the question of the party, be it in the classical Leninist version - Trotskyist, Stalinist, Bordiguist.... - or the antithetical version - anti-Leninist, councilist, anarchist,.... - corresponds therefore, as well for its methodological foundations, for its theory as for its practice, to a counterrevolutionary understanding of the party, meaning the liquidation of the real historical line of the constitution of the party, meaning the out and out fetishisation of the formal aspect - the organisation as an aim in itself, being constructed any time and any way, - inevitably bringing about democratic, bureaucratic, followist practices,... at the expense of the real movement, the invariant programme, the historical party.
"Talking about the party, I give its historical meaning to this concept." (Marx to Freiligrath - 1860)
Marx, like Bordiga after him, (see "The substantial existence of the party") always stresses forcefully the essential difference between on the one hand the permanent historical tendency of the proletariat to constitute itself into a party, to affirm itself as a conscious class, and on the other hand the various materialisation, more or less clear, of such a tendency, in time and in space. "The "League", like the "Society of Seasons" in Paris, like a hundred other societies, weren't but one episode of this history of the party, which spontaneously springs up from the soil of modern society" (The letter of Marx to Freiligrath - 1860). In the same way, Marx and Engels synthesised magnificently the communist programme in the famous manifesto of 1847, which, even if it was "ordered" by a formal "party" - the "Communist League" - has a validity, a contents that bypass this narrow framework of the little communist militants' group to such an extent that today nobody would ever dare to restrict the universal significance of the manifesto to the simple programme of the League. The manifesto is a direct achievement of the party "in its large historical acceptation".
Moreover, the invariant line of the party being the line of the historical party, its different formal expressions throughout the past have all been more or less marked by their limits - limits of the non-integral restoration of the revolutionary programme, because of the more or less important influence of the bourgeois ideology - and so they have been not only ephemeral (see Marx) but also contingent and limited. It is obvious that such a contingent and limited character is entirely relating to the action of these "formal" parties in history. The more they separate themselves in theory and practice from the historical and invariant line of the communist programme, the more their "limited and non-historical" characteristics are important, the more their communist quality transforms itself, first sliding towards centryism, and afterwards towards counterrevolution. As "Bilan" stated: "Parties do not die, they betray".
Inversely, the everlasting task of communist fractions and nuclei is to represent the historical programme in the present. The more this central task of theoretical and practical restoration is entirely assumed, the more the historical party, in the immediate reality, takes a concrete form. This is why the task of communist nuclei is not to constitute, to direct a formal "party" but to be the central direction pole of the combating party, the party that, in reality, organises armed insurrection and imposes communism upon the whole world. The universal party that will impose the definite victory of the proletariat is the historical party acting presently as the centraliser, in time and in space, of the whole communist programme (16). In this way, the historical line of the constitution of the party always exists; only its various formal expressions, because of the counterrevolution force, disappear or betray.
"After the League was dissolved on my request, in November 1852, I never belonged (nor do I now belong) to any secret or public organisation; so, for me, the party, in this quite ephemeral meaning, has ceased to exist for eight years already..." (Marx to Freiligrath)
In a period of dominant counterrevolution, only the very small groups and fractions that are firmly anchored to the historical programme can manage to subsist, expressing the perenniality of the party line more or less adequately, while being in the same time completely in opposition to the whole immediate reality. The only compass is the invariant contents of the programme. "It is the attachment to this being (the human being, which is man's real "Gemeinwesen"), which is apparently denied during counter-revolution periods, (just like today, when revolution seems utopian to most people), that allows one to resist". (Origin and function of the party form - Invariance, 1968). It is in such dark times that communists, following Marx, declare : "I've always neglected the proletariat's momentary opinion" (Marx - 1850). This was not only the position of Marx, but also of Lenin in 1915 and of the Italian fraction of the communist left in the thirties, which passionately fought for the intransigent defence of the communist programme and against any artificial foundation, on confused programmatical bases, of new parties, which, consequently, would inevitably be bound to join the counterrevolution (see the struggle of the "Bilan" fraction against the foundation of the IVth Trotskyist International).
In those most sombre periods of the workers' movement, the tasks of the communist groups, nuclei and fractions do not vary either. Only the relationship between those various tasks - theory, direct action, propaganda, agitation, international centralisation, etc. - varies, and in view of the extreme-weakness of these groups, it is the most central, the most directly historical tasks that should come first. In the same way, in an insurrectional period, although the whole of the tasks have to be maintained, obviously it will be the tasks on which the military victory depends that will then dominate. As Bordiga expressed it very clearly in his "Considerations on the organic activity of the party when the general situation is historically unfavourable": "So we claim all forms of activity that belong to a favourable period, but only to the extent allowed for by the real balance of forces" (1965). The real activity of the party, in its historical acceptation, is to assume the whole of the tasks of always, while the relationship between them is determined by our relative strength: the more the communist forces are concentrated and powerful on a world scale, the more the whole of the tasks will be reinforced on all levels of communist action. Only our capacity, be it very limited, to assume this totality, to answer programatically on all levels of the workers' struggle, will put us in the historical line of the party. This everlasting struggle of communists is the only real preparatory work to the "spontaneous" rise of the party. This way, to break the entirety of activity, of the communist practice, under the pretext of assuming one or another of those tasks "better" or "more thoroughly" (be it the "theoretical",the "military" tasks or the "action in today's struggles") means in fact to destroy the activity of the party in favour of immediate results, in favour of one or another aspect that will consequently become hypertrophied and as it degenerates rapidly into the activity in itself, into the apology of this particular form having become privileged compared with the totality, this task loses its communist character. Once again, this means putting forward the contingent and limited aspects to the detriment of the total aspect, the historical aspect.
Unfortunately, today this is the case of a large majority of the weak communist forces. As a matter of fact, the catastrophic course of the capitalist crisis - the essential motor of the proletarian struggle - is only getting worse from day to day; struggles, revolts break out more and more often and radically, while the "communist forces" keep "discussing", "lingering on", "playing"... and are unable to assume the tasks for which they were made. Dispersion exists everywhere and under many forms.
Some try to artificially compensate the real lack of programmatical and organisational restoration through "old tactical solutions": they "go to the masses", they drown themselves in the smallest local conflict in order to find "the solution" to the crisis of the communist movement and in the end they lose everything altogether, as well the programmatical tasks as the tasks of action, agitation and propaganda within local struggles, because it becomes clear that they cannot fulfil the tasks neither of the struggle that is going on, nor of the potential future development of this struggle. Activism has become the absolute master; in order to unite just anybody on just any basis, one should agitate, "carry out opinion polls", "sound the feelings of workers",... but, most of all, one should not at any price consider the basic questions, the revolutionary programme, which means abandoning the programme.
Others, on the contrary, retrench themselves in the ivory tower of "theoretical work" they consider as a preliminary separated from the rest of the tasks. The pretext is no longer "to go to the masses", or "to know the workers", but to solve all the programmatical questions before being able to take a clear position on such or such event (17). Here also militant work, considered as a whole in its real communist meanings is being destroyed. Communist theory, as a matter of fact, can only draw its function and its force from the bosom of the entirety of revolutionary praxis: "We cannot, however, draw up a barrier between theory and practical action, because this would mean, once certain limits are passed, to destroy ourselves as well as all the bases of our principles" ("Considerations on the organic activity of the party when the general situation is historically unfavourable").
There are other deviations - militarism, propagandism, localism, sectarianism... - and they can complete one another. But tthey all put forward one particular form as being the solution, around which the "true party" should be constructed. Once more, this means confounding between today's formalizations, which are still essentially determined by immediate and therefore capitalistic reality (a more or less important deviation of all today's groups), and the historical tendency towards the constitution of the party that, through its concrete form as a single world-wide force, the party of revolution - full and complete existence of the histoorical party in the immediate reality - will necessarily mean the destruction, the bursting of all old forms, of all groups that claim being the party today, of all groups that act as the "constructors of the party" but in fact have only constructed some more or less fixed forms that will necessarily be bypassed and destroyed by the revolutionary contents of the proletarian movement.
The task of communist nuclei is not to "build parties" but on the contrary, to act consciously and voluntarily in function of historical reality, in order to prepare and to direct the rise of the party and in order to prepare the militant and theoretical executives capable of directing it towards the new community. When Marx clearly states that "our designation as representatives of the proletarian party comes from nobody else but ourselves", he once more neglects all "democratic representation", all electoral and "majority" mystique, which is what all humanist and bourgeois philanthropists will always blame him for. "Our only designation as representatives of the proletarian party" comes from the programme we defend, from our intransigent defence of the historical interests of the proletariat, even if this should mean, as it means to most communists most of the time, standing at counter-current of the dominating ideas, even amongst workers. So what defines the workers' vanguard, the real direction of the movement, is neither the democratic designation election, possibility to revoke... and other democratic libertarian bullshit - nor the self-proclamation of being the direction, but the real capacity to direct the movement towards communism. As Marx defines it in the Manifesto, communists are not necessarily these who call themselves "communists", "internationalists", "revo1utionaries", but those who, in the reality of struggles, are "the most determined fraction", those who "involve all the others", not towards an "ephemeral victory" but towards "the interest of the whole of the movement", those who in each struggle "put forward the interest shared by the whole proletariat, independently from each nationality". Therefore it is in view of a real total practice action, theory, propaganda, agitation... - that communists define themselves and that they prove the validity of their conception of the world. It is this real direction that is always determined, not by the "immediate success" but by the revolutionary watchword: "abolition of wage-slavery" (Marx "Salary, price and profit"), which will enable the movement to not always start again its history, its weaknesses, its hesitations, its lack of decision, to not always make the same mistakes, and which will enable the movement to reappropriate its own past, and therefore its future. "Whoever commands the past, commands the future" (G.Orwell - "1984").
And if, as we see further on, we criticise the conceptions and practices of the "constructors of parties", we always more firmly oppose to them the necessity of the "construction", of the preliminary formation of the executives, of the direction of the party as the indispensable organ to the crystallisation of the universal party. It is only this conscious and voluntary work, starting before the emergence of large movements, of constituting a central nucleus assuming programmatical restoration to the best, as well as world-wide centralisation of revolutionary forces, action in struggles and propaganda..., that will allow, in the right time, i.e. in a revolution period, to summon up the proletarian forces still dispersed into one force directed by a single world-centre, the directing organ of the party. Such preparatory work - like an old mole digging out the soil of society without nearly anybody noticing - has to be reinforced, centralised, organised constantly... so that the next revolution wave won't get lost but will be able to do away with this old world. The central task of communists is to work internationally for the constitution of a centre, of the direction of tomorrow's party. Communists have no interests different from those of the rest of the proletariat in struggle, they are only the vanguard, the real direction of the struggle and they organise themselves consequently.
"One does not create neither parties nor revolutions. Parties and revolutions have to be directed by uniting all useful revolutionary experiments on an international level, in order to assure the chance of victory of the proletariat in this battle to the utmost, as this battle is the inevitable outcome of the historical period we are living. It seems to us that this must be the conclusion." (Party and class action -1921 - Rassegna Communista)
This understanding liquidates as well spontaneism as Leninism, dilettante queuism and activism of "constructors of parties".
Indeed, for spontaneism, the class is directly, all of a sudden, revolutionary. The preparatory work, theoretical and practical, of communist nuclei, the indispensable organisation of this spontaneity, is denied. All what is left to do, for communists, if they are still necessary, is to "comment" class struggle, and to the most, to illuminate, to guide by their sole ideas, the working class. More sophisticated forms of spontaneism do exist, among which, the various councilist, democratic, culturalist, educational, anti-substitutionist, libertarian (18), etc. variations. But at the same time other forms of spontaneism exist, camouflaged behind the ultra-partyist phrases and affirmations, which, beyond their formal affirmations about the need for the party, can only conceive their activity either as being exclusively propagandist (joining this way, through activism, propagandist councillism), or exclusively "theoretical" without understanding how the communist programme is a praxis, the undissociable unity of theory and practice.
On the other pole (as we have already seen), we can find the "Leninist" theories, more or less derived from a reduced interpretation of "What is to be done? ", of the "construction of the party" conceived as an addition of "union-militancy" - reproducing unionism, be it in "official" unions or in "open", "immediate" groups... - and "political militancy", with its whole counterrevolutionary problematic of the minimum-programme, the transitory demands, the "bridge to be established between class and party, between movement and goal, which are this way considered as separate entities. Of course, this conception denies the spontaneous rise of the party from the soil of old society and opposes to it a whole plan of construction, in reality a plan of individual recruitment of proletarians, which requires the infiltration of all groups where one can find "sociological proletarians" - unions, sport and cultural clubs, etc. -- in order to obtain, through many manoeuvres, the direction of these organisations and to direct large worker masses. But this direction is only possible at the cost of abandoning the communist programme and adopting a bourgeois programme since the dominating ideology is the one of the dominating class. When those militants manage to get to the head of bourgeois organisations, this means their liquidation at short term either as leaders or as communists. It always means the liquidation of the party itself, of its programme, which, just like its militants, gets dragged along an activist/opportunist spiral, transforming itself rapidly into a single bourgeois, unionist practice. This process, which has already dragged many groups into the bourgeois camp, is caricaturally completed by a series of "supple tactics" (of compromission), all justified for the sake of "realism" and "concretism" and based on Lenin's leaflet "The infantile illness of communism: leftism", which has unfortunately become famous. Those "tactics" include trickery as well as the meticulous elaboration of all stages of the continuous claims that should unfailingly drag proletarians to revolution. All these artificial constructions, these various stages, these lists of transitory demands, besides the fact that they try to model the movement according to their ideological schemes, at best have no influence at all for they will be completely bypassed by the generalised launching of the movement, and, at worst, they will be real brakes to the struggle which does not proceed gradually but by qualitative bonds and which, in order to advance, shouldn't fix itself any preliminary limits, but, on the contrary, should tend to want everything, to take everything. As we have already seen, it is the very contents of the movement that bypasses all transitory stages invented by "constructors", which are, in most cases, nothing but new obstacles to the struggle.
From the basic premise, which determines the rise of the party from the soil of modern society, we can derive the following: the party is being directed centrally and directly on a world-wide level - organic centralism: centralisation, in time and space -. Its full and entire existence therefore can only be materially possible when there is an international wave of class struggles like in l9l7-l923. In this sense, we can state that a real and effective embodiment of the party, its world-wide existence (no longer only as a tendency, no longer substantially) can only be possible when there are powerful acting proletarian forces, which, for sure, to a large extent are still unconscious of their movement when the period is a clear period of revolution, of reversal of the balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and this can only be considered on a world-wide level. In these circumstances, in the heat of the struggle, the many communist nuclei, groups..., spread all over the world, which have most adequately assumed the preparatory tasks, manage to unify, to centralise themselves in order to effectively direct the world-wide communist revolution. The party therefore does not proceed from a pure and single matrix, nor from any particular geographical zone or from a single communist cell, but on the contrary, it rises "spontaneously" from the flanks of our decaying society, and the guarantee of its true revolutionary contents comes precisely from the impersonal militancy of communist nuclei, which, at the right moment, enables them to avoid making the same errors again and enables them to direct the movement until definite victory. Identifying today's communist nuclei with tomorrow's party, besides the megalomaniac character of such identification, means misunderstanding the two fundamental aspects of the existence of the party, which are its spontaneous rise and, preliminarily to this rise, the indispensable maturation prepared by extreme minorities among small communist groups, which, at decisive times, will be the only ones capable of giving a full communist direction to the party. Understanding this essential difference - quantitative and qualitative - between the party of revolution and those groups which, in spite of all changes of names or other vicissitudes, tirelessly prepare its rise, means being able to work today at this central task of assuming, from now on, despite our weak forces, all the tasks that will in a revolution period, determine the proletarian victory.
The exiled communist left of Italy ("Bilan" - "Prometeo") had already perceived this reality when it defined, on the base of the fundamental change of the balance of forces between capitalism and communism in the thirties, the tasks of the fraction: to criticise past experiments always more radically; to fight all falsifications more and more in order to restore the communist programme while rejecting organisational voluntarism, activism, artificial construction of the "Party", which, during this counter-revolution period, can only serve the enemy (as was shown by the creation of the Trotskyist "International"). In this sense, the non-activist direction of the fraction (Vercesi, Pieri, Jacobs...) gave it the theoretical and practical capacity (as it was one of the few groups in the world really able to do this) to interpret and to intervene, from a proletarian point of view, against the imperialist war launched in Spain to destroy the proletariat (1936-1939). But a few years later, this position of "falling back", in a counter-revolution period, on the most fundamental tasks, of refusing ephemeral success in the "conquest of the masses" was defeated to the advantage of the voluntary creation without principles of the "Party" in Italy around Damen in 1943-1945, even though Vercesi just like Bordiga stuck on to a position of return to the more fundamental task of programmatical restoration (which more particularly provoked the 1952-scission).
Through this historical experience, we can see how the capitulation of communists before the difficulty of advancing at counter-current, to the advantage of popularity and of immediacy, inevitably carries them away onto the road of degeneration, of the liquidation of the programmatical experiences of the workers' movement. Communists therefore, even in a revolution period, will remain an extreme minority, even though they represent the interests of the large majority of mankind, of the whole humanity; this is not due to our own will, but because the balance of forces in favour of the proletariat cannot be imposed durably but after the world-wide victory of revolution, after a period of revolutionary dictatorship. Only through the destruction of the universal bourgeois State, of wage-slavery and of all its defenders - priests, bosses, trade-unionists, leftists... - the communist party can become a "mass-party", the "party of humanity", the new victorious community, the communist society. The communist party, even while acting for the interests of humanity, while directing millions of proletarians during the struggle and insurrection, will remain an extreme minority of proletarians united by the programme defending the historical interests of the proletariat and consequently the interests of the liberation of mankind.
"Being understood that the party is the prefiguration of communist society, it cannot adapt itself to some mechanism, some principle about life, about organisation which in some way is linked to bourgeois society; the party has to carry into effect its destruction." (Origin and function of the party-form - Invariance No 1)
This problem is not just a technical, a mechanical one, it concerns the very life of the party because for communism there can be no antagonism, for any reason whatsoever, between the "principles" (strategy) and the "tactics", between programmatical affirmations and daily practice. "One cannot mechanically separate the political and the organisational questions." (Lenin - First congress of the CPR)
A few years ago already, we had tried, by a brief statement of theses, to synthesise the few existing programmatical experiences on this question (mainly due to the communist left of Italy) while at the same time outlining our own principles of behaviour. We have copied that document here because it still expresses, in its main aspects, our orientation and this in perfect accordance with the central theses of this text "Communism and Party".
2. But where we talk about a movement of unification and unifying (A), this presupposes first of all a separation. Indeed, if the communist movement is the unification/affirmation of the proletariat as a class for itself, this movement is the anti-thesis of the capitalistic movement, which aims at atomising all individuals (negation of classes) as "citizens" and consequently at achieving the perfect separation/reification: democracy.
3. Consequently, the proletariat's tendency to unite is fundamentally anti-democratic and. totalitarian because it aims at solving the contradiction between salaried work and capital by the dictatorship of the proletariat, the dictatorship of the revolutionary and exploited class forced to always act in the sense of the very negation of the bases of its domination (this explains the dying away of classes and of the workers' state). This is why "Communists do not have any codified constitutions to propose. They have a world of lies and constitutions to destroy, crystallised in the law and force of the dominant class. They know that only a revolutionary and totalitarian mechanism of force and power, without excluding any means, can possibly prevent the infamous residues of a barbarous epoch to rise up again, and prevent the monster of social privilege, hungering after revenge and servitude, from holding up its head again, launching once more its treacherous cry of Liberty" (Bordiga - 1951).
4. Marxism categorically rejects all anti-authoritarian, all democratic and federalist conceptions, which in fact are nothing but the organisational acceptance of the reality of capitalistic separations and of their ideologies. As a matter of fact, those ideologies in practice are but the addition (i.e. the acceptance) of all particularisms, of all localisms, of all corporatisms... of all separations/categories of capital, the fetishism of decisions made by a majority and consequently the political surrender to the dominating ideas, which necessarily emanate from the dominating class. Here we reply again, with Engels: "A revolution most certainly is the most authoritarian thing possible, its is the act through which one part of the population imposes its will on the other part by means of guns, bayonets and cannons, which indeed are authoritarian means; and the victorious party, if it doesn't want to lose the fruits of its struggle, has to maintain its power by the fear those weapons inspire to reactionaries." (On Authority)
5. Communism, therefore, as a social movement, is by essence (necessity) centralist and organic because it tends to act as a class for itself, as one and one only body - organism - united (i.e. passing dialectically beyond the internal separations) through its historical interests. The communist movement can only act as an organ - quite united and homogeneous - on the condition of being strictly centralised. In this way, communist centralism can only be organic. The movement has to centralise itself to be organic. The centralisation of the movement is organic.
6. This communist movement has existed ever since the existence of proletariat. It materialises in time and space, particularly through the existence of communist groups, fractions and parties, which are in the same time a product of the tendency to the association of the worker movement - the tendency to organic centralisation - and an agent, voluntary and conscious, of centralisation/unification - organicity of the class. The programme oof communists, indeed, is nothing but the synthesis of the aims and means of the historical movement taking place under our eyes.
7. The general laws that determine the communist movement also determine the action and organisation of communist minorities. The party therefore acts like a body and is centralised, it centralises itself in order to act as a body; its internal system is organic centralism (B). "For us democracy cannot be a principle; centralism on the contrary is undoubtfully one, since the essential characteristics of the party organisation have to be the unity of its structure and movement. The term of centralism is sufficient to express the continuity in space of the structure of the party; and to introduce the essential idea of the continuity in time, i.e. the continuity of the aim we are tending to and of the direction we are going in spite of the successive obstacles we have to surmount, and the more so, to link into one formula these two essential ideas of unity, we would propose to say that the communist party founds its organisation on "organic centralism" (Bordiga - 1922).
8. The foundation of the unitary action of the party is its programme. The internal centralisation therefore can only be political (its corollary being technical decentralisation, division of tasks). The function of the political centre is to synthesise the whole of the organisational activity and to direct this activity in perfect harmony with the programme. The permanent link between the centre and the periphery is indispensable to a dialectical functioning of the organisation, to synthesise all experiences, all practices, of each "section", "commission", "cell", of each part of the organisation, and in the same time, to direct these in an unitarian and solid action. "One doesn't create neither parties, nor revolutions. One directs parties and revolutions by unifying all useful revolutionary experiences on an international scale, so as to assure to the utmost the chances of victory for the proletariat in the battle that is the inevitable outcome of the historical period we are living." (Bordiga - 1921)
9. Once more, we have to refuse all democratism on principle, because the question is not, for the "basis", to check from time to time the "summit", nor for the latter to impose any orientation. There is no need for checking the centre, because the centre hasn't got the power - delegation - to change the programme - principles and tactics - of the organisation. The corollary of this conception is the permanent and real development of consciousness formation and information - of each militant so that he can be directly and politically engaged with the whole of the organisational praxis. This is how each militant answers for the general orientation of the organisation, and how the latter guarantees the practice of each of its militants (C). Consequently, in a communist organisation, the point can never be "to delegate" one's power, nor therefore "to elect" the centre. As a matter of fact, delegating means renouncing to the possibility of direct action, and the so-called sovereignty of democratic law is nothing else but an abdication, most often in favour of rascals" (Bordiga - 1951).
10. The question of discipline and self-discipline has to be considered in the same way; strict self-discipline is required as far as the application of organisational orientations goes because the latter is in accordance with the political programme, which constitutes the voluntary base of adhesion for each militant. One can only call on discipline if there is political agreement; if the latter doesn't exist any more, the call for discipline is nothing else but a bureaucratic move in order to suppress political disagreement (proceeding most of the time from minorities) and reveals the incapacity of the organisation to solve the new problems raised by class-struggle.
11. Programmatically (see "the democratic principle") we know we have to make a distinction between the democratic mechanism (decisions made by a majority) and its fetishism (the majority by definition is right and the minority is wrong). And if we have to use the mechanism of decision by a majority technically (if another, more appropriate means existed, we would have to use it immediately) it can only be by deliberately clearing it from its democratic mystic ("one man, one vote", "democratic control", elections, electoral campaigns...), the apanage of all bourgeois organism. "The democratic criterion is for us, up to now, only a material and accidental element in the construction of our internal organisation and in the formulation of our party-statutes; it isn't its indispensable platform. This is why, as far as we are concerned, we will not set up as a principle the well-known organisational formula of "democratic centralism" (Bordiga - 1922).
(B) Obviously the internal regime of an organisation, even if it must conform itself to its political principles, cannot be considered as a guarantee "in itself" of its action and practice. "The party can be or not be adapted to its task, which is to give an impulse to revolutionary action. In fact, this question doesn't concern the party in general but the communist party, which isn't guaranteed against thousands of dangers of degeneration and dissolution; it isn't made equal to its task by its statutes nor by simple measures of internal organisation but by positive characters that grow in the same time as it grows itself because it takes part in the struggle as an organism with an unitary orientation, which it owes to its own conception of the historical process, to a fundamental programme contained in the collective consciousness and to its discipline." (Bordiga - 1922)
(C) Here we see how organic centralism is not unilateral (from periphery to centre) but how it also requires that every militant should himself be a centralising agent (contrarily to the Stalinian vision of the omnipotent centre and the unconscious militants) to really be, at any time, "the arms and the eyes" of the organisation. So, the corollary of the synthetic function of the centre is the personal responsibilizing of each militant, his full understanding of his praxis.
Of course, such theses are only a rough shape yet of the practical understanding of organic centralism. What we are definitely sure of, and this is essential, is what we do not want. It is in the whole of the worker practice, inside the general and universal development of the class struggle, that organic centralism, organic (of the total) and organisational answer to the needs of the proletarian struggle does and will affirm itself, doing away with all the democratic rules and fetishes. There can be no party without organic centralism. Organic centralisation - the class organicity - is the concentration of all proletarian force and power. It is the organisation into one unique party. This way, the historical line of constituting the party takes shape around the centralisation in time and space into one living acting body. This is what we call organic centralism.
Following that reasoning it is obvious that, just like we reject both Leninism and anti-Leninism, we do reject democratism (controls by militants, elections and revocability of the leaders,...) as well as its bureaucratic and militarist complement (prestige, congressism, functionarism, followism, predominance of "technicians",...), both responding to the "democratic centralism" formula. Such formula as its name points it, bears all disadvantages in itself: democratic functioning (completed by "Bolshevisation", i.e. the organisation, on the base of the professional and thus corporatist cells) is one of the most perfect models of functioning for the bourgeoisie's organisations. The bourgeoisie too needs a perfect adequation between its programme, the programme of capital, and its way of functioning: democratic mechanism. Such is the coherence of counterrevolution.
From a historical point of view, democratic centralism was an attempt, on the part of the Bolsheviks, to conciliate the necessary dictatorial direction of the actions in order to be able to answer to the needs of the struggle properly (in a general mood of clandestinity) with the dilettantist, academic and tricky way of life of the social-democracy. This is what gave birth to the anti-natural centralisation of worker actions - the programme of communism - and democracy - the programme of capital -. But it turned out to be practically inadequate and wrong because each time Lenin or Trotsky made a class position triumph (see defeatism, the April theses, the Duma's boycott, the insurrection preparation...) they did it strictly anti-democratically. Lenin openly took no account of all internal democratic rules when he called upon the vanguard militants and threatened the Bolshevik "party" of resigning. On the contrary, each time the point was to confirm a bourgeois policy, this was done with the great pomp of majority, in strict democratic legality (see the IInd, IIIrd, IVth and Vth congresses of the "communist" International). We could never repeat enough that Lenin's only "revolutionary parliamentarist" practice was to have the constituent assembly dissolved with bayonet-thrusts. We will also destroy parliament, even against the majority of workers' opinion.
Even if democratic centralism already was, in Lenin's days, an anti-natural aberration, it quickly became, within the Stalinian, Trotskyist and even councillist parties, the panacea when an irremovable direction wanted the majority of the "uneducated" base to endorse any decision (except as it is logical in case of inter- fraction settlements of account, when a part of the "former" direction, chosen as scapegoat, is liquidated. See the tragi-comical reversals of the Chinese and Russian "communist" parties...). It is therefore most funny to notice that in all those so-called revolutionary "parties", which function because of democratic centralism, any change of orientation (sometimes even of 180° ) will always be democratically endorsed, since those parties carry on their bourgeois policy democratically. Once again, there is a class frontier between communism and democracy. The way of life of our party can only express our project, the human community, tendentially. But we can by no means tolerate or emphasise practices, attitudes, functioning... in contradiction with our programme. On the contrary, we have to destroy them, as we act to destroy the old world.
"The class lives, fights, advances and triumphs through the working of the forces it has engendered in the pains of history. The class starts from an immediate homogeneity of the economic situation, which seems to us to be the first motor of the tendency to go beyond, to break the present production system. But to assume such a great task, it must have not only its own thinking, but also the proper will to reach the purposes defined by research and criticism and also its own organisation of fight that canalises and uses the efforts and sacrifices most efficiently. All this makes up the party." (Bordiga - "Class party" - 1921) (underlined by us)
(2) In the whole of the democratic-managerist currents, no doubt, the councillist current is the one that has most openly repudiated the Marxist understanding of the proletariat's organisation into a party (see namely the ICC brochure "Communist organisations and class consciousness" and the more recent text "Beyond the party" of the Junius Group, edited by Spartacus).
(3) We are here taking into account the "hard" Leninist conceptions of the "party", built stone by stone on the base of the use of "supple tactics" and not the more populist Leninist currents, whose conceptions of the mass "party" and of the unique front, are but the exact - not even radicalised - reproduction of the social-democratic parties. So, we mean the conception expressed in "What is to be done?" when we criticise the Leninist conception of the party, and not what the epigones of "Leninism" have done with it.
(4) About this question, please see our text: "From man's alienation to human community" in "Le Communiste No 14.
(5) When we use the term "social" (social movement, social project, social revolution...), it is by no means to follow the temporary fashion of the small European extreme-left, but to signify the totality of our movement, our project and our revolution represent, which can never be identified with one of its aspects: economic, philosophical, political, military... (One could use the term "political" in the same totalizing and totalitarian contents, if that term was not commonly interpreted in the sense of the simple superstructural representation of the government).
(6) Marx, even if the formalists don't agree with this, opposed the whole of the party of anarchy to the party of order (see the social class struggles in France): "However varied the socialism of the big fractions of the party of anarchy were, they agreed on one point: to claim that socialism is the means of emancipation for the proletariat and that the emancipation of the proletariat is its aim."
(7) All vulgar materialists don't go beyond the sociological or even strictly economic definition of the working class, which inevitably drags them onto the bourgeoisie's ground and makes them consider the proletariat as the exploited class that reproduces capital and not as a revolutionary class.
(8) In the same way, within the capitalistic mode of production, the form - value of exchange - necessarily proceeds from the substance of the value: abstract work (see the Capital).
(9) The proletariat's extreme situation as a "non-class" is that of its only existing "for capital", its complete atomisation, its dissolution within the people. The full domination of counter-revolution within purified democracy - fascist or antifascist - almost completely succeeded in achieving that state of class denying during the period before the 2nd world war (see "Bilan").
"As to us, we shall use the concept "non-class", rather than the "more classical" "class for itself" in order to better indicate that the difference between "class in itself" and "class for itself" expresses on one hand the inexistence of the proletariat as a revolutionary class and on the other hand its affirmation as such." (Le Communiste No 14).
(10) Historical materialism does not rely on simple and immediate reality - the place of one and another individual or group of individuals in bourgeois society - to deduce its social project, its political programme mechanically. The caricature of this vulgar process is workerism, for which everything depends on the work done by each individual to determine his "individual" nature of class! On the contrary, historical materialism relies on the material and historical reality of the whole "arch" of history - from primitive community to communism - to claim that from a historical point of view, a human collectivity, the proletariat, a class exploited in the capitalistic mode of production, is the revolutionary class that will impose communism on humanity and will free it from reigning need. (See our text "Some criticisms on dialectical materialism" in Le Communiste No 13)
(11) We consider "State and Revolution", the various texts "Against the stream" explaining the defeatist revolutionary positions, and: "What is to be done?" (not reduced to the simple questions of "setting up the party" and "external consciousness" but expressing the necessity of the struggling party) as Lenin's most important attempts to break with the bourgeoisie by restoring the communist programme partly.
On the other hand, in our text "Some lessons from October" (in Le Communiste No 10/11) we had largely explained how Lenin himself had to change the whole programme of his "party" (see the April theses) while desperately fighting against all executives and "old bolsheviks" (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin...) who were by no means different from the Mensheviks. As J.Barrot says "Russian revolution took place contrary to the ideas expressed in "What is to be done?" (The "renegade" Kautsky and his disciple Lenin)
(12) This wrong and dichotomic conception that separates "immediate" and "historical" struggles did even appear in some of our texts. For us also, it materialises a lack of rupture with the old Leninist and/or councillist conceptions.
(13) We shall not here develop the complex question of the late creation (in 1919) and of the extremely rapid involution of the IIIrd International. We would simply like to say that if this creation definitely materialises a class attempt, the direction that has been followed since the very beginning of its existence (Moscow's executive headed by Zinoviev) very early lead the C.I. to give up the communist programme (see the elimination of the "leftist" executives between the Ist and IInd congresses, the setting up of the 21 conditions, the exclusion of the KAPD, the frontism, the inter-classist alliances, among which the "national-bolshevism"... "socialism in one only country",...).
(14) Namely the multiple groups that had a defeatist position during the first world war and organised themselves before the creation of the C.I. See the abstentionist fraction of the Italian S.P., the IKD in Germany; the C.P. of Van Overstraeten in Belgium; the communist FORA in Argentina/Chile... the Pericat-group in France; the C.P. of S.Pankhurst; the Indian C.P.; the IWW and SLP in the USA; the Dutch C.P...
(15) We give this example although we know how delicate it is to exemplify a social process by physiological functioning. Of this example we only want to keep the dialectical image that expresses a non-separate and non-identical reality.
(16) This disqualifies, from now on, all "parties" that, in non-revolutionary days, claim to be the "parties of revolution" while one of the bases of the Marxist understanding of the rise of the party is precisely that the latter should not "proclaim itself" at any time but should crystallise and centralise, on a world scale directly, the reality of the communist forces directing the revolutionary wave.
(17) This is, among others, the case of the "Communism or civilisation" group, which is busy publishing and planifying questions, and postpones its actions "to transform the world" to many decades. What we are criticising is not the fact of undertaking such a work but (in addition to some of their positions) the fact of undertaking ONLY that work.
(18) They all share the pathological bourgeois fear of "violating" the purity of the class (as understood, of course, in the most economist sense).