to all groups and militants who struggle for the worldwide proletarian revolution
On February 22 and 23 1986, a group of militants from certain countries (especially Argentina and Uruguay) met in Uruguay to discuss the present world situation and the tasks of the revolutionary proletariat.
There was a general agreement between them that in the face of the world-wide attacks of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat and the present state of weakness, dispersion and isolation of the small revolutionary class forces, it is necessary to work together to reverse this situation in combating the sectarianism and nationalism which is implicit in certain conceptions of international work. In an attempt to change this situation, the comrades present put forward the following ideas and propositions.
But it's not just "here" or "all of a sudden" that once again the anguished cry of revolutionary minorities is raised, trying to break the chains imposed by capital, helplessly witnessing the terrifying blows which the bourgeoisie inflicts on the proletariat and themselves. Whether in periods of rising class struggle or the most violent moments of counter revolution, these revolutionary minorities discover, one by one, the meaning of isolation, the weakness of their small forces. A weakness which is not only numerical but fundamentally political, since it is impossible to resolve locally or nationally the problems with which revolutionaries are presently posed.
We are convinced that in different places groups are arising which don't identify with the traditional left (Stalinist, Trotskyist and their different varieties), with politics aimed at helping the bourgeoisie to solve its problems, with the position of changing the state form of bourgeois domination or supporting its wars. Instead, the groups of which we speak try to elaborate a distinctive politics calling for the autonomy of the working class against the bourgeoisie and the struggle to destroy its domination and its state without preliminary (democratic) phases or stages. And we know what it means to swim against the current, without being able to count on any help, without the immediate possibility of reappropriating the historical experience of the revolutionary proletariat. We are working without fundamental theoretical/political texts being available in a dangerous atmosphere of repression.
If, for some, certain definitions or positions are "ABC" which we don't write or talk about sufficiently clearly, for each of us to be able to describe the struggles requires a long process of struggles, of ruptures, of fear and uncertainties.
In the schools here they teach us a saying of a famous man of the last century: "ideas cannot be killed". However, we have learnt that one kills those who have certain ideas (or positions) and that the dominant class can over a long period prevent the reappropriation, the awareness of, the link with and the development of experience, of ideas and positions which lives and builds up in different parts of the world. Thus, paradoxically, it took a monstrous repression (with a subsequent state of exile) and the (Falklands) war to make known here the existence of diverse radical currents and groups throughout the world. To make known - and that is still not enough - the experience of Germany and elsewhere after World War One. To get to know other positions which were neither Francoist nor Republican. And there is another history closer to us (which we hardly know at all).
Departing from this we have had confirmation that groups currently exist which don't belong to the 'traditional' political currents, many of whom we didn't know before, and others of whom we don't know when and how they broke with capital and its fractions, but which express to different degrees different moments of rupture with the politics of capital.
But if today we are aware that they exist, this doesn't mean that the present situation of isolation and of weakness has changed. On the contrary, we don't even hear enough about what's going on, not only in far away countries, but even in a nearby city or in a neighbouring quarter. And this shouldn't be understood as a curiosity or as a journalistic question: in Argentina for example, there are continually days when several million workers are in struggle without there being any coordination between them, so they sometimes don't even know that there is a struggle which is going on everywhere. And if this is the case for relatively massive movements, it's even worse with the contact and the awareness of the existence of avant-gardes appearing during these struggles or under their influence.
And we are convinced that in the countries we live in, as elsewhere in the world, groups of workers and militants are being thrown up, trying to break with the politics of conciliation, of subordination to the bourgeoisie, but which, in the absence of an international reference, and with the strong presence of the bourgeoisie in the workers' movement, end up being absorbed by some fraction of capital or simply disintegrating, disappearing.
Few are those who manage to survive the first blows, and those who do so have an uncertain perspective or political isolation ahead of them. Having surmounted different stages and having to double back, they find themselves in an impasse, starting from scratch on new subjects. Something which is transformed into a daily reality, a helplessness which saps those limited forces which already have been politically and economically hammered. Isn't there an alternative to this? Must the preparation of a revolutionary internationalist politics, or at least an attempt at it, proceed step by step, group by group, city by city, nation by nation, generation by generation? Does each one have to go through the same stages, confront the same problems, receive the same blows, decipher the same letters, elaborate the same words, in order after some time and a long hard road, having become strong and "party like", to join up with ones "equals", or, in their absence, to "spread" to other nations?
We don't believe that this is the only option. We don't even believe that this can lead to anything positive.
On the contrary, we think that the only alternative we must work towards is the international one. Just as it's a mystification to talk about a communist society as long as there still exists even one capitalist country, the same goes for talking about internationalism if it is only conceived of as solidarity with workers' struggles throughout the world or as pompous phrases now and again against war, militarism or imperialism.
For us, proletarian internationalism has a different meaning, and implies making the effort to go beyond general solidarity, since the international dimensions of the proletarian revolution demand the interaction and unification of efforts to work out a unique strategy at the world level and its political corollary in the tasks confronting us in the different zones and countries.
Naturally this can't be resolved through voluntarism or from one day to the next. It will not be the fruit of a long, prolonged "educational" or "scientific" work such as was conceived by the Second International (and not only it), through an "accumulation of forces" ("winning militants one by one" and "elaborating THE theory" and structuring THE leadership which will be recognised when its time comes) for a far distant future confrontation, whereas every day we see the resistance and the struggle of the proletariat against capital (which in reality, for these "political currents", must be controlled, covered, isolated in such a way that they are adapted for the incessant "task" of supporting some fraction of the bourgeoisie against another, supposedly worse one).
If the party of the working class is not one of these political groups calling itself such in one or more countries, if one can't agree with "the party for the working class" and the call for "the working class organised as a class, in other words as a party", this is not a simple game of words. If we reject the social-democratic ideas (Stalinists, Trotskyists, etc.) of the party as an apparatus (intellectuals, workers, etc.) carrying the truth, which voluntarily constitutes itself within one nation and awaits recognition from the uncultivated masses, and the international as a federation of parties (or a party which spreads to other nations), this implies a break with these conceptions and practices which are totally opposed to proletarian internationalism and which in fact are just a way of manifesting and defending nationalist ideas.
Among the latter, the most evident is that which conceives of the development of its own group (or their own groups) as a local or national question, with the aim of developing a decisive force for later on, which dedicates itself to making contacts with other groups in other-countries in order to absorb them or generally expose them through discussions and declarations.
The international contacts are considered as "private property", with a bilateral practice predominating, something which can include periods of 'getting together' over so many years, finally coming together in the "United Nations" of "Revolutionaries". The practice of the Second International is a good example of this. We consider that this path can only lead to new frustrations and new mystifications, which is why it is necessary to struggle against all the interests, conceptions and the sectarianism which produce and reproduce the divisions created by the bourgeoisie in the defence of its internal markets, of its states, of "its" proletarians, in other words, of the surplus value it extracts.
To be sure, many will ask themselves: "With whom, to what point and how does one place oneself within a proletarian internationalist perspective? How to determine this? Who is to do so?" It's evident that nobody would think of working with, or even making a leaflet with someone in the enemy camp. Regarding the class enemy there can be neither conciliation nor entryism. But not everybody is an enemy. It cannot be denied that among the groups and persons not belonging to there is often intolerance, static visions and sectarianism. There is a practice of divergence, a dispute over "customers" in common, a nationalism and a "defence of ones' own back garden" disguised as intransigence.
We cannot escape this problem in an international proposition. It's natural that nobody would think of working in a common perspective with a group of the Forth International or with a third world Maoist. But if the character of the enemy class is evident in certain cases, in others it's much more subtle, which makes it difficult to draw up a line of demarcation, all the more so when we are seeking to take a step forward in the present situation of weakness, isolation and dispersion.
We believe that it is impossible to elaborate an ensemble of "programmatic" points, which would only be the proof of opportunism, unless they are so worked out and profound that perhaps only the group itself could agree, if at all.
One shouldn't pretend either that groups and isolated individuals in each country of the world can ripen in the same way as in other zones or that we can take this or that definition which, as widespread as it may be in certain places, is not the product of a shared history, of which as we have already pointed out, little or nothing is known in other zones.
Conversely, the almost one year long strike of the British miners didn't give rise to any serious attempt at coordinating a common response of the different groups and militants scattered across the globe, something which points not only to a weakness and a hesitation, but to sectarianism, to conceptions of the class struggle and of the party like those of social democracy. And in the face of the Iran-Iraq war? And of South Africa and Bolivia and elsewhere where the proletariat in struggle has received the hardest blows? What reply, however minimal, has been attempted at the international level? How to resolve this? How are the criteria for our recognition to be decided in order that from the outset the proposition to overcome the present situation isn't stillborn (either being ambiguous enough to lead to a free for all, or else being so strict that the only ones admitted are already working together?).
For us, the criteria for our recognition is in practice. And that's what the second part of the Proposition deals with, even if the latter, no more than anything else, on evade the essential, unique "guarantee": the struggle.
- contributing to the modification of the present state of weakness of the tiny revolutionary and class forces scattered throughout the world, in order to raise its possibilities of action in the class struggle;
- consolidating and enlarging today's sporadic comings together, in a proletarian internationalist tendency which exists today, with all its limits and errors, we propose the following:-
A coordinated response in the face of certain attacks of capital (e.g. the question of the British miners, of the working class in South Africa, Iran-Iraq etc.): joint leaflets and campaigns, political information, moments of practical relations and orientations affecting the world proletariat.
about workers' struggles, in order to make propaganda as much as possible on the most important struggles taking place in each region or country in order to spread their echo and to reinforce the reality of proletarian internationalism and proletarian fraternity.
about different political groups, not only participants in the proposal, but also enemies, since this is a necessary element for the political struggle against them.
about historical experience, texts and documents produced in the long struggle of the proletariat against capital and all exploitation.
Theoretical-political polemic with a view towards taking up joint positions and as a contribution to the development of revolutionary politics.
For those who not only agree on a whole series of points but are in agreement on praxis, and who put forward all the points of this proposition, in particular point 1 (common action), it is vital to organise the discussion. And solely for those, we propose two things:
The international organisation of correspondence, implying the creation of a fluid network of exchange and of communication, which should be one of the material bases of point 7.
An International Review, which should not be conceived of as an ensemble of the political positions of the different groups brought together under a "collective" cover. On the contrary, it should be an instrument to consolidate the realised common activity, to propagate and argue shared positions and, to be sure, to develop the necessary public discussion on the vital questions concerning the tasks of the moment, the proposed activity and the "open" themes, given a common agreement on the necessity to include them.
To the degree that there is the necessary agreement, to stimulate the participation of other groups in the press and vice versa; and the spreading of texts of the intervening groups.
Move towards creating a common "internal" discussion: in other words, not limit oneself to the "official and public" polemic between groups, but also the discussion of communists in the face of "open" problems.
All the activities and all the decisions which the participating groups take will be through general agreement, in other words, unanimously.
2/ All those who don't support any fraction of the bourgeoisie against another, but who struggle against them all. Those who don't defend inter-classist fronts, neither adhering to nor participating in them.
3/ Those who practically accept that "the working class has no country", this fundamental phrase which doesn't just say that the working class can't defend what they don't have but that they "can" and must intervene in the struggles and tasks posed in the different countries of the world, despite the fact that, from the bourgeois point of view, this would be seen as an interference against the "right of nations to self-determination". A right which is called for each time the revolutionary proletariat or its avant-garde reinforces its international links in the face of its class enemy, a right which is trampled on each time it comes to putting down and massacring revolutionary movements.
4/ Precisely for this reason, those who fight against the politics of "defence of the national economy", of economic recovery, of "sacrifices to resolve crisis", to those who don't swallow the policies of expansion of their own bourgeoisie even when the latter is economically, politically or militarily attacked; to those who always struggle against the entire bourgeoisie, both local and foreign.
5/ To those who combat the forces and the ideologies which set out to chain the proletarians to the economy and to the politics of the nation state, disarming them under the pretext of "realism" and the "lesser evil".
6/ To those who don't propose to "recuperate" or "reconquer" the unions. On the contrary, to those who characterise the latter as instruments and institutions of the bourgeoisie and of its state. In no way can the unions defend to the end the immediate interests of the proletariat. In no way can they serve the revolutionary interests of the proletariat.
7/ Those who agree that one of the tasks on this terrain is to battle to the end against the political line of class collaboration supported by the unions, and who contribute to making the rupture of the class from the unions irreversible.
8/ To those who do all they can to contribute to reinforcing all the attempts at unification of the proletariat, in order to confront capital, even partially, all the attempts at extension, generalisation and deepening of the struggles of resistance against capital.
9/ To those who defend the struggles against all varieties of capitalist repression, whether those exercised by the official (state) military forces of law and order, or that of its civilian colleagues of the left and right of capital. To those who, as best they can, collaborate with groups who suffer the blows of repression.
10/ To those avant-gardes who, in the struggle against the bourgeoisie and its state, pitilessly combat those who limit themselves to criticising one of the forms which the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie takes on ( the most violent, military one in fact) and defend democracy or struggle for its development.
11/ In this sense, in the face of the bourgeoisie's false alternative of fascism/anti-fascism, to those who denounce the bourgeois class character of anti-fascist fronts and of democracy, and pose the necessity of struggling for the destruction of the bourgeois state, in whatever form it presents itself, with the objective of abolishing the system of wage labour and the world-wide elimination of class society and all forms of exploitation.
12/ To those for whom proletarian internationalism implies, first of all, the struggle against one's own bourgeoisie, revolutionary defeatism in all wars except the class war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and for the proletarian revolution.
13/ To those who, with whatever different theorisations of the party, agree on the fact that they are international from birth onwards, or they are nothing.
14/ Finally, to those who, in accordance with their strength and their situation have defined their tasks against the bourgeoisie, orientated towards two fundamental aspects: push the development of the proletariat's class autonomy; contribute to the construction and development of the politics of proletarian internationalism and the world party.
In other words, whereas the means, the tasks and the priorities can be adapted in different ways depending on a given situation, all of this must be in relation to one sole perspective: the constitution of the working class as a world wide force for the destruction of the capitalist system.
In the first discussions we have had on the present situation and on how to begin to change it, there have been comrades who have expressed a certain pessimism on the reception it will receive and on the possibilities of its realisation. We believe that in the face of the possibility (and the realities) of inter-bourgeois war, in the face of massacres of the workers, of children and the old, which are repeated in different parts of the world, and in the face of the ever-growing mountain of tasks imposed on revolutionaries at present, the politics of the sect, of greediness, of "leaving things till later" and the implicit or explicit, defence of the present "status quo" don't match up. The recognition of the present situation should be translated through a political initiative capable of recuperating the lost ground and of overcoming grave weaknesses. In this sense, the common engagement must be the struggle for a radical change in the international relations between revolutionaries. In other words, going beyond a simple exchange of positions (sometimes not even that) to a joint taking of positions in the face of the attack of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, to an indispensable coordination orienting the reflection and the debate on questions which consolidate the common perspective.
Among the objections which could be raised in relation to the viability of this proposition, are ones on how to concretise it.
Here we find in Point 5, if one agrees with it all, the means for studying how to organise its realisation. We don't pretend to give a reply here to each question and problem, but to manifest an engagement to struggle for its concretisation.
It is evident that the rapid execution of certain things requires physical meetings. We don't believe that this is absolutely necessary, that is to say, at present it seems to us to be very difficult to achieve, at least for those of us who live in this part of the world.
At present, we don't see the conditions allowing for the organisation of a really international meeting. A trip of 8,000km, the equivalent of more than 15 months wages for us (more than 20 if we take the minimum defined by the govt.) means that a trip abroad is (economically) forbidden to us. That's why we believe that to begin with the relations and discussions, at least between the non-Europeans and the Europeans, should be through correspondence. This will take more time and make the task more difficult, but it's not impossible, far from it (a letter from Europe, for example, if there isn't a strike, takes 15 to 20 days).
Security conditions (those who have confidence in legality are not only childish but a danger for revolutionaries) also pose obstacles, but they can and will be resolved.
Language also created inconveniences. For our part, and up till now, the only one we have been able to write is Spanish. Some of us can read Italian, Portuguese, and English with difficulty. With a bit of imagination, someone might manage to understand a little French, but there is nothing to be done with German. The other languages "don't exist". Taking this into account, what's in Castillan won't have the same circulation and rapidity or response as the other languages in the established order.
To conclude, the initiative which we are presenting has been put forward in its fundamentals. Those who show an interest or agree with it, will receive a part entitled "More on Organisation". In other words, how we see its realisation and concretisation.
We guarantee that all those who write to us will get a copy of all the replies received. The future organisation of the correspondence, discussions, etc. will be with those who agree and will depend on the way they agree amongst themselves.
For those who agree with the spirit of the proposition, we will ask then to spread it and to give us details (if possible with their address) of groups which have received this convocation.
Uruguay, February 1986
As you know (1), since the very beginning of our group's existence, in spite of our weak forces, we've always tried to structure, coordinate and centralise the forces of the international proletariat in its struggle against worldwide Capital. For us, this has always been vital and a central objective; a decisive task that can not be postponed.
We need hardly point out the complete lack of coordination between the most advanced sections of our class who are fighting against capital today. Being aware of this, and understanding the isolation, the lack of general perspectives and the lack of coherence of each revolutionary group, (all of which results from decades of counterrevolutionary domination). We recognise that internationalism is a practical and essential task for revolutionaries. All this was the very starting-point of contacts between us, of our (still too limited) activities in common, and of all the meetings that were to give birth in February 1986, to the meeting in Montevideo and to the "International Proposition" (2).
Already in 1980, when our group had existed for less than two years, we launched an international proposition to 'set up a coordination' of revolutionary groups and militants, and to 'organise and centralise internationally the unity of proletarian action'. (see: "Towards the international organisation of the proletariat", in Le Communiste No 7 and Comunismo No 4). This proposition was launched during the so-called "International Conference of groups of the Communist Left". Far from being an approval of the programme and methods of such conferences, our proposition was an overall critique of their conception as well as a clearly alternative position.
Already the first conferences had shown their real nature: they were nothing else but academic parliaments where each competing group had the possibility to expose its theorisations (which, as we said at the time, wasn't necessary since to know these positions one could simply read the different publications of each group). That's why we put forward a conception of the centralisation of the proletariat that was completely antagonistic to these conferences.
The Conferences took, consciously or not, the evolution of the IInd International as a model, and, just like this "international", they turned their back to struggles. For some (mainly the ICC) the objective of the Conferences was to make a set of principled statements on the international situation; for others (ICP - Battaglia) the point was to formalise a set of mutual agreements between national "parties". But one way or another, these organisations conceived themselves as groups of intellectuals, having to bring consciousness to workers in struggle.
We're basing ourselves on the real history of our class, on the experiences (even though they're limited) of the different attempts at international centralisation that were initiated by the Ist and IIIrd Internationals, and especially on the action of the Communist League, most militants of which were in exile, to state that the centralisations that serve and which will serve proletarian revolution, have nothing to do with conferences by intellectuals where each group exposes its conceptions on how the world would have to be.
On the contrary, the centralisations that serve the proletarian revolution are and will be centralisations that co-ordinate, that structure and organise the real community of existing struggles against Capital. Through these historical facts that made up a certain level - even if it was limited - of the formation of the Party of the prooletariat during its history, the starting point was, already, the community of existing struggle (not yet structured, not yet formalised) that determined the organisation of mutual help and solidarity, the organisation in the face of repression, simply in the face of competition between workers, the constitution of international forces against scabs... as an absolute necessity. It was on this basis that the section of the class who were really taking on perspectives of the movement, who were objectively preparing the direction of the international proletarian revolution, had to structure themselves. (We won't examine here the programmatical limits of these attempts).
These two conceptions correspond to two completely different vision as to the nature and composition of what might become the embryo of a proletarian international:
First - according to the conception of the conferences (and if we insist on this subject, it's because we're convinced that today they continue to have a very baleful influence!) the criterion of membership consists in the formal agreement to a set of principles;
Second - according to our conception, since the problem is not to invent nor to "create" a party ("the party rises up spontaneously from the soil of modern society" - Marx), but to structure, to formalise and to direct the real and existing force that is developing though clashes with capital. Our own voluntary and conscious activity is a product of this struggle. The main thing is not to elaborate some "formal platform", but to really co-ordinate action.
We affirm that formal agreement with a series of principles gives no guarantees - as can be seen throughout the whole of history. For instance the 21 conditions for admission to the IIIrd International were formulated against reactionaries but were eventually used against the KAPD. We oppose to all this the practical verification of the community in struggle.
That's the reason why our international proposition of 1980, as well as the proposition we're launching today together with Workers Emancipation and Revolutionary Classist Militancy requires a militant engagement as well as a consistent practice. It puts forward a whole set of tasks to be taken up. These propositions do not constitute a set of formal principles, they are intended for those who develop a real and daily practice in the struggle for revolution. This corresponds to the chapter "A proposition for Whom?" of the international Proposition, and to the different points of militant engagement that we mentioned in our proposition of 1980.
In 1980 we also stressed the fact that our proposition was not exclusively intended for the participants of the conference, but above all was intended for all comrades all over the world that really are at the vanguard of the struggles of the proletariat and that as such make up a real community of struggle, even if this aspect was not yet being completely assumed (due to a lack of consciousness on this state of things, due to a lack of co-ordination, of directives, of a clear direction,...). We therefore considered that our proposition was not at all our own property and we were ready to associate ourselves actively to any other serious proposition of this kind (regardless of different formulations it may have taken) and to associate ourselves so as to assume the corresponding organisational activities. For instance, in one of the introducing paragraphs to our proposition, we stated clearly that:-
"...our positions which we are putting forward are not specific to these Conferences, nor are they exclusively addressed to their participants. We say again that our proposition is not based on 'how we would like things to be' but is based on the material conditions of the development of class antagonisms. The coordination of class forces which are acting today without any overall viewpoint is an absolute social necessity. We do not consider ourselves as the owners of this proposition, nor do we defend any particular form for the setting up of a coordination of working class forces all over the world. We are ready to actively participate in all the efforts of our class which head in this direction... (as we do already wherever we can). We are convinced that such efforts cannot be in contradiction with the general sense of our proposition. We've taken the initiative of this proposal because we know it corresponds to a general necessity. Many of the efforts of our class throughout the world are already converging towards this necessity. Our organised and organising activities should not lag behind the movement but should try and direct the necessities that derive spontaneously from the movement towards the most essential and general objectives. That is, the centralisation of class forces towards the dictatorship of the proletariat for the abolition of wage labour."(3)
It's in this sense that we've acted for the last few years even if the results are still very limited and partial: we're still in a situation of sect-like organisations. This is characterised by the existence of international contacts between groups and by a certain level of mutual acquaintance without the existence of a permanent and real co-ordination that aims at the organisation of a single international centralisation and at the real assumption of the program of the proletariat: its constitution into a one and only world wide force. Of course there are some exceptions when a common practice and common positions are being developed between different organisations on a base of concrete fact (4).
We never had any illusion about the possibility of receiving many favourable responses to such a proposition, nor of giving a concrete form to such an essential task. It seems important to stress this once more so that we might, in spite of the difficulties, preserve the enthusiasm of the comrades from Workers Emancipation, Revolutionary Class Militant and all other militants and groups ready to assume with us the tasks that derive from this new proposition.
Since the general conditions have not changed, we can repeat here what we already said on the subject in 1980:-
"We don't have many illusions about the possibility of getting many favourable responses to our proposition in this current state of dispersion and disorganisation of revolutionary forces and the domination of the ideology of counter-revolution. But we work with a sense of unity in action on a rigorous class basis, and we'll continue to do so because the only force that opposes itself to the bourgeois current towards imperialist war, is the world wide proletariat fighting for its historical class interests. The co-ordination we propose may adopt all the points we've mentioned or it might add more; it might take a concrete form in the short term or not; but whatever happens, such coordination will be built up because it corresponds to a vital social necessity that has to be formalised on the highest possible international level." (5)
We remain in complete coherence with everything we've defended when we voluntarily give our full adherence to this new proposition. This is why we participated in the meeting at Montevideo, why we distribute texts by W.E. and R.C.M. and Union Proletarienne, why we shall contribute towards the international circulation of the proposition and towards the discussions which shall stimulate the concretisation of such a coordination.
Just as in 1980 we insist on the necessity of interpreting this proposition in a militant way that must not leave any room for any kind of formalism, and, as it say in the proposition itself, there can be no list of principles that can guarantee us against any kind of opportunists or centrists (6). What is being proposed is the coordination (talking about centralisation would already be too much to expect) of a common practice and of the new tasks that derive from such a practice. We say to "all revolutionary groups and militants... that there's no point trying to find material for some "Theoretical-like" disagreements on this or that question or in the way things have been formulated. We've only tried to formalise through this concrete proposition the tasks which are indispensable if an international coordination of activity which interests the whole of our class is to be realised. We're not going to defend this proposition to the letter; what really matters is its general sense, and that is what we're defending." (7)
"We do not consider this proposition to be "our property" (neither do the comrades of WE or RGM) but we consider it to be a formalisation of vital necessity for the proletariat, that we will always defend, and that will sooner or later have to take a concrete form. This is true even if the form that such a coordination takes is different from the one we're proposing today (8).
The participants of the meeting in Montevideo took on a number of tasks with regard to the international distribution of the "Propuesta". Unfortunately there have been a lot of difficulties of contact between Rio de la Plata and Europe. We lost contact because of the repression our group had to face (particularly in France and Belgium) and consequently the application of the agreement we had reached was very much delayed.
We only had a rough copy of the 'Propuesta' and didn't receive the finished one or the additional note of explanation until some months after the Buenos Aires meeting (at the end of August). By this time many groups in Europe were already circulating and responding to the proposition. In September 1986 we still didn't know if Workers Emancipation had the entirety of the material we had sent them in the interest of accelerating the application of the proposition... for instance a list of contacts and the addresses of groups in Europe.
Before we go further, we want to emphasise that we have been fully satisfied by the fact that the comrades from Rio de la Plata have assumed on their own the international circulation of the proposition. It reinforces the confidence we have in them about the seriousness of their militancy. And in spite of our disagreement about the note of explanation added later on (March 1986) in Argentina, we reaffirm that all this was correct.
Today we learn from Workers Emancipation that all contact with RCM has been lost. W.E. supposes the group could have had problems or dissolved. We for our part, have lost contact with RCM since the beginning of '86. Facing this, we reaffirm our support to all those who continue to uphold the project. We want to recall here a general principle: these tasks of the international and internationalist proletariat must never, on any account, be subordinated to the problems militants and/or formal groups who've initiated these tasks might be having. And we must build up the bases that will allow us to act in spite of the repressive and disorganisative forces deployed against us by our historical enemy.
We decided that the circulation of the finished text was a priority as soon as we received it. It was therefore sent to all the working class militants that we know and published in our Central Review in Spanish and, to the best of our abilities, in other languages as well.
Of course we've also sent the proposition to all our contacts and we'll send to Argentina the addresses of all the proletarian groups we know of, in order to facilitate contact.
"For those who not only agree on a whole series of points but are in agreement on praxis, and who put forward all the points of this proposition, in particular point 1 (common action), it is vital to organise discussion. It is for these people alone that we propose... the international organisation of correspondence,... and international review..."
We say this because the proposition has already been interpreted by some as a "proposition of international polemics" or as the "elaboration of an international review". As we already stated on many other occasions and as we'll continue to point out in our press (up to the point of getting tired of it):- polemics only make sense within the framework of common practice. Neither the other comrades who contributed to the elaboration of the proposition, nor ourselves, are inclined to create a review or any kind of "internal" polemics with those who are not united by a real community of struggle... i.e. those with whom we could not give a practically "coordinated response to the attacks by Capital". And even if the text of the proposition doesn't put this clearly we consider the following to be implicit in the "general sense" of the proposition that we defend. Militant solidarity in the face of repression, mutual aid, the struggle to free imprisoned comrades, the response to state terrorism and the welcoming and protection of persecuted militants...
Of course this doesn't imply that those groups and militants for whom such common practice already exists (alongside a process of awakening of the existing community of struggle) should wait for the others to reach the same level of "coordination" before assuming tasks like "internal polemics".
As far as we're concerned, we'll continue to go forward with them in that direction.
Therefore we think that the proposition can only take a concrete form for those for whom there already exists a community of struggle, and this on the basis of the first point:-
"A coordinated response in the face of certain attacks of capital (e.g. on the question of the British miners, class struggle in South Africa, Iran Iraq etc.) in the form of joint leaflets and campaigns, political information, moments of practical relations and orientations affecting the world proletariat."
We want to propose some axis of common activity and of information against capitalist ideologies and its representatives, as well as the minimal basis to be established so as to respond efficiently to particular circumstances with, for instance, joint leaflets.
We make the following concrete proposition:-
To start as soon as possible an international campaign against capitalist war. The creation of some minimal structure, some limited committee of coordination whose task will be to structure this campaign and to organise, in the different concrete situations, our common responses in a quick and unified manner.
Here are some more explanations about this:-
There's no need to dwell on the general tendency of capital towards war as far as the comrades that agree on the proposition are concerned. Nor need we dwell on the significance of State terrorism or on the need for the proletariat to uphold the flag of revolutionary defeatism as the answer to these. Fundamentally we consider that this campaign will have to be centered on:-
a/ The coordination of common action that opposes the interests of the proletariat to those of the whole war economy and which denounces capital for being responsible for all inter-imperialist and inter-bourgeois wars.
b/ The coordination and the organisation of specific actions of information, of propaganda and of agitation about wars actually going on. And we consider it to be particularly important to organise a specific campaign against the Iran Iraq war.
c/ The coordination of common action against international state terrorism, generally based on the ideology of anti-terrorism.
The campaign against the Iran-Iraq war, not according to the axis just mentioned, will be a good example of concretisation of the proposition. This campaign will allow us to check, in practice, the ability of the different groups of militants who have shown an interest in the proposition, to converge in action. Besides that it will also allow for a decantation on the basis of practice instead of formal and platonic adhesions. Concretely and according to the axis we already defended in the manifesto against this war, published and broadcasted in 1982 (See Communism No 1: 'War and Peace against the Proletariat'). We intend to prepare texts and to improve our contacts with these sectors of the proletariat that are being directly attacked through this war. We will also try to set up a meeting of coordination that will be a direct concretisation of the proposition even if this meeting is to be organised in a country, or in a language that might not be accessible to all those who took the initiative of the proposition. Such a meeting will be a real concretisation of the proposition and all those who practically agree with it, will be present, even if they cannot themselves attend the meeting for reasons of financial, language, or any other inconveniences. Such a meeting which has been proposed as a necessity by comrades of that region, will try to coordinate different aspects of the proletariat's revolutionary defeatist actions in Iran and well as in Iraq. It will contribute to the development of a large network for the exchange of information still unknown in the west; it will also contribute to the coordination of a good deal of practical tasks on concrete problems and finally it will allow for the checking, on practical grounds, of the different engagements that are being made, and of the necessary demarcations (9).
For us the constitution of a minimal organising structure is an absolute necessity. This would be a committee of coordination capable of taking urgent decisions, and drawing up particular leaflets, both of which would have to be assumed by all the participants to the Proposition. As a matter of fact, without such a structure we would not be able to respond efficiently (as we propose in point 1) to the attacks of capital. For instance a flexible structure of decision will be necessary when it comes to drawing up joint leaflets with comrades that agree on the proposition and with whom a community of struggle really exists. When pretending to proceed democratically, with unanimous approval, we fear that these leaflets would be out of date once printed. To prevent this sort of thing happening, we really insist on the essential need for building up a small committee that will be able, when required by the circumstances, to take initiatives very quickly and to decide on the necessity of such centralisation. For us it is clear that if in crucial moments such a coordination would be unable to adopt a single position with a single signature that would mark the continuity of our common action, then we would also be incapable of assuming the other points of the proposition and consequently the so called "coordinated answers" would become a lie to ourselves and to our class. In other words, if at the very moment when it is most necessary to act as a single body, in an efficient and urgent way, if at that moment instead of a quick decision by a small committee, each group and each militant goes on with their own business and publish their own leaflets, if that happens then we'll still be at the starting point of the proposition, i.e. at today's terrible state of things that we're trying to fight against.
Maybe some comrades also imagine that the committee must be constituted by a number of representatives, proportional to the importance of their respective groups. Besides the fundamental deviation that is being expressed through such democratic pretentions, this kind of organisation is an absolute practical impossibility for the same reasons as the ones raised in the proposition; i.e. difficulties of travel, the regularity of correspondence, etc. It seems to be quite difficult for the coordination committee to be inter-continental (because it would take months to take any decision) and thus the criteria of representivity cannot be accepted.
Whether we like it or not, this committee is indispensable on the one hand, but on the other it cannot be based on any criteria such as proportional or unanimous representivity. This does not scare us because if a rea1 community of struggle does exist (and the coordination committee will only be the formal expression of such a community) then this committee will be based on mutual trust, arising from the common practice..., it can always be checked.
In the beginning we think it would be more adequate if the comrades from Workers' Emancipation themselves would be in charge of this kind of committee, which they already do and which will take a clear form when this group will answer to all letters officially in the name of the Proposition. We already said when we met in Uruguay that it would be nonsense to write four different answers (one from WE, one from ROM, one from ourselves and another one by still another comrade who does not belong to any of these groups) to all groups who show a real interest in the Proposition. Consequently we think that the comrades from WE will assume these tasks and we think they ought to do so with the full understanding what this really implies, is they must be aware that they'll answer as a secretariat, as a committee of coordination of the Proposition, not as the Workers' Emancipation group.
Of course, taking into account the information, the political adequacy and the speed with which the committee assures the contacts, we don't rule out the possibility of later transferring it somewhere else (in Europe...) or to other comrades. Neither do we exclude the fact that once the criteria of decision making have been clearly established, there could be 2 or 3 coordination committees, or even one of them on each continent. But this implies that it would be clear to all participants that it is up to them to decide in which circumstances and according to which (predefined) methods the competencies of each such committee would be decided (relating to the geographical or linguistical criteria on which certain information would depend for instance). Neither the concrete modes of operation that will have to be assumed by this indispensable coordination structure (about which we are ready to discuss of course), nor the care about the formal representivity as far as it comes to taking decisions, really matter. Above all it is the real ability to become operational that is important for this coordination. Only this will allow for the structure to transform the convergence of action and of common positions into a real community of organised action, that would be able to act as an organic body and not as the dissimilar addition of scattered groups or individuals.
If someone asks us what guarantee we can possibly offer that this structure will function (since it doesn't take into account the criteria of representivity) we answer clearly that this kind of guarantee never exists, not even in the most representative structures, and that the only guarantee resides in our common interests against our historical enemy and in the practice that derives from this. No formal guarantee can preserve us from the danger of deviation or removal from our historical interests. In this case an objective rupture in the community of action would inevitably occur and all coordination or formal committees would lose their original meaning. This would mean that it's time to clarify, to break away from, to set up some new kind of structure that would still be the result of common practice and of mutual trust. So we stress once more that a real committee of coordination corresponds to a vital need so as to give birth to the other fundamental tasks that are mentioned in the proposition. This is true with regard to the organisation of international correspondence, the organised distribution of information or the perspectives of an international review.
As we have already briefly mentioned, we do not see this review as a collection of various distinct political positions under a common cover: this would neither contribute anything nor help us to overcome the present situation. Moreover, making the various political positions known would only require that the text of each group are circulated. Put we do not see this review as something amorphous, anodine, full of "generalities" on which all would agree simply because they are just generalities. That's why we describe it in a richer, more complex way, made up of three parts:
one part common to all the groups involved, worked out by common consent, and that would clarify and/or reject the fundamentals of shared positions. a second part for which the theme would be chosen by common consent but with individual stand points. and a third part for which each participant could freely chose a theme, where they can bring up subjects that they regard as important and not sufficiently taken into consideration by the others; or a new subject, or a different argument.
We think it is essential to include these three parts in the international proposition.
The first one, because it would make no sense to work and publish in common if we cannot come to an agreement on some points. Hopefully this will be a trend that we are to develop and reinforce. This will help us to establish new bases to come to grips with today's weakness and isolation. The second part, because on some subjects (South Africa, Bolivia, the English miners,...) we'll have to a certain extend, common positions and arguments (more or less substantial) but also different arguments, especially as far as practical proposals are concerned. Agreements on one subject would be published in the first part; disagreements on the same subject, in the second part. Therein will lie the possibility of discussing publicly the other positions on which there is no agreement; the possibility to know them and to make them known, the possibility to thrash out differences and smooth the way towards new syntheses. Therein will also lie the possibility to discuss any other subject, already "open" today, which we would have to face together.
For us it would be wrong to have a review restricted to the first two parts. The third part is essential: it is indispensable if we want to prevent in every case struggle between us over polemical issues from being held back bureaucratically. This part, along with the two previous ones, will contribute to the "necessary public debate over vital question, related to the tasks of the moments...". In the two previous parts there was a general agreement upon subject, chosen by common consent; this means that if there is no agreement upon the political evaluation of certain subjects, if we didn't have the third part, discussion of these subjects could not be published. Such questions as appear in this last part are the exclusive responsibility of the group which chose them. The only restriction that can be made is: these questions must respect the agreement on the criteria agreed upon and must not exceed a certain space (e.g. two or three pages). We have agreements, but also disagreements not only in the way we look at some subjects, but also on their scale of importance. We would gain nothing by denying or ignoring this or by using bureaucratic pressure to prevent publication of these differences. On the contrary, we must stimulate straightforward analyses and debate in a respectful and non-sectarian way -AN ACTIVITY THAT MUST BE CARRIED OUT IN COMMON AND PUBLICLY: THOSE WHO WORK PUBLICLY TOGETHER CAN AND MUST DISCUSS PUBLICLY TOGETHER. That is the way to strengthen international collective work.
Some might want a review whose content would be entirely shared by each participant and which would express a high degree of homogeneity. But it would take years before a review like that could appear and even if it did, it would probably be of little use, since it would be completely out of date. The fact is that a review is not only a model, it is a relation that of necessity cannot invent a reality with a degree of development and centralisation of the class struggle which does not today exist, a reality of which we are part. Of course, it is possible to produce a more homogeneous review if your international activity (which is not the sane thing as internationalism) remains restricted to yourselves and to some groups (or "sections" with which work is already being done), but all this would not help to improve the situation as described in this proposition.
We also think it necessary to make clear our ideas on censorship, since some will surely propose setting limitations to the "free" part of the review, that is censorship. There will probably be some who will make their participation conditional on their ability to control and censor the articles published in this part: that's the way things are today!
We think it is totally wrong to put things that way. As we said in the proposition, we are starting on a basis: a political and practical agreement bringing forth a coordinated response to certain attacks by capital, work in common, times of real connection and planning as an answer to concrete and serious questions that affect the world proletariat. To talk of the review without considering what has been said before would make no sense at all: therefore it is proposed that the review come from those who actually are united in practice and who support all the points of the proposition, especially point 1. That is precisely why we reject censorship of any article written by those who agree with the established criteria, and with whom we are working by common consent. Of course we are not talking about articles that would go against our common principles: in that case the group itself would be "censored". What we are saying is: to come to an agreement on the criteria of demarcation (allowing for any changes and developments that may be made) does not mean that we can ignore the thousands of differences on or distinct evaluations of very important questions. Hiding or ignoring them would be foolish.
We would be nationalistic if we believed that we could solve these questions in isolation rather than by developing shared international work. To conclude, we repeat what we said earlier: we are not going to defend our every last dot and comma - it is the overall sense of the proposition that we are fighting to achieve. That's why we insist upon the following: the propositions is a whole, we put it forward as such, and it is on this basis that we see relations developing between various groups or individuals throughout the world who have as their fundamental objective: THE WORLDWIDE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION.
Argentina, March 1996
We're particularly worried that the fifth point (the setting up of an international review, which remains for us a very valuable perspective) might be interpreted as being more important than or even independent from all the other points. This would contradict all that has been stated before. So we think it important to stress what is clearly stated both in this explanatory note and throughout the whole proposition:-
"... a political practical agreement that gives a coordinated response to certain attacks by capital, an activity in common, the setting up of real links and orientations, as an answer to the difficult and concrete problems that the world proletariat is facing. To talk about the review, without having in mind all what we just mentioned, would be senseless; so the review is being proposed to all those who practically work together and who support all the different points of the proposition and above all, point 1." (10)
If we completely agree on this, then why have some additional explanatory note on the fifth point and on how it will be implemented in the future? Why not an additional note to all the other points of the proposition? Why insist on this new "free" heading with "no censure" that was never mentioned before in the Proposition? On the contrary, the proposition stated very clearly that we would have "open" debate both on crucial questions related to the tasks of the moment and proposed activities, and also on "open" themes that by common agreement were considered necessary. Why have this explanatory note where the criteria of common agreement is denied and replaced by a heading "the theme of discussion can be chosen freely by each participant"?
We see two reasons for this which have not been made explicit: the first is a tendency (that already existed at the meeting in Montevideo) to make the fifth point independent of is proposition, even if this isn't clearly stated..., i.e. to consider publishing such a review in the short term, without sufficient guarantee that there is a common practice as far as the other points are concerned. This despite a clear denial of such a perspective throughout the whole Proposition. We completely disagree with such a perspective, which as far as we see would go totally against all that we've been developing up till now. The result of this initiative would be a hotch potch review, a kind of tribune of ideas about what the proletariat should do. We know enough historical examples of this kind, to completely reject such a perspective. For instance, this is what happened with the International Conferences organised by the ICC and Battaglia which ended up with the opposing ideas of the participants as expressed in and for the conferences being circulated (in several languages). The whole emphasis was on the circulation of these ideas whilst the participants were never united in any community of action.
Of course we do not identify the positions of WE with this position of setting up a kind of "tribune" review with people who have no common practice. We believe that the explanatory note does sufficiently insist on the necessity of common practice as a condition for producing a review. However this tendency does exist: it showed itself as early as Montevideo when certain comrades concluded that such an internationally review could be set up right away (11). Today it shows itself again when we read this Note about a specific point which can only take a concrete form when the other points have also been put into practice. It would have been very useful to examine how the whole of the proposition could be put into practice, for instance by adding a note of explanation about the first point, which we think is necessary if not indispensable.
The second reason, which goes deeper and is more serious, is that Workers' Emancipation is finding it difficult to accept the fact that a coordination like the Proposition requires organs for decision making and centralisation and that this is not just one option amongst many others, but is a necessity. This is reflected in the lack of precision as to which activities will be decided upon and how they will be chosen also with regard to which mechanism will be used to "realise shared campaigns and leaflets". This last point we have tried to clarify in the paragraph Where and Where not to Begin. It is also reflected in the fact that Workers' Emancipation has considered it necessary to produce an explanatory note only for the fifth point when the other points need one just as much. Finally it is reflected in the question of anti-censure, of the freedom of expression for each of the participants, and the freedom for each one to decide what theme is important.
We can understand completely the proletarian reasons which have caused Workers' Emancipation to have this gut hatred of editorial committees, sub-editors and so on... because we're suspicious of them ourselves and fear bureaucratisation more than anything.
But we feel it would be totally irresponsible not to point out the necessity for editing and centralisation. It would also be a lie, since it's a fact that even in structures where you want to guarantee free or unanimous decision making, in reality there are always those who make decisions and those who don't. Or even worse there are those organisations which insist the most on democratic decision making and on unanimity - on the absence of leaders and the fact that everyone decides everything - which are actually the most bureaucratic and which there clearly exist leaders who decide and others who follow. And don't let Workers' Emancipation turn to us and say that in their organisation everyone does decide everything and that in their publications anything at all is printed from any comrade whoever they are! Democratic discourse and democracy as such, always produce dictatorships in practice.
And also, even if censorship and lack of freedom have been weapons of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, individual freedom (which is nothing but the expression of the freedom of commerce, the freedom to buy and sell in bourgeois society, in which the individual is itself a product of commodity relation) and debates on freedom of expression (or on any subject whatsoever) make up an integral part of the mechanisms of repression which have been used against the proletariat throughout its history. You just have to remember how the Stalinists and the Syndicalists (and the Peronists) used freedom of speech to destroy workers' assemblies, making sixteen hour speeches which couldn't be cut short because of 'freedom of expression':- in this way they succeeded in disheartening the workers and leaving them isolated when the time came to make decision. You just have to remember that throughout the history of the international workers' movement, savage repression has been carried out against fractions of the proletarian vanguard in the name of the great principles of democracy, free elections etc. Once again comrades, we stress the fact that the terrain of the proletariat, its constitution as a class and so as a party, has nothing at all to do with individual freedom and democracy, in which it is always the ideas of the dominant class which hold sway, including among the workers. The terrain of the proletariat is on the contrary organically constituted and based on the collective interests of the class. This breaks away from free choice from the very start and destroys the individual, the citizen of bourgeois society.
In practice for us it doesn't seem important to worry about how the third part of point 5 of the proposition will eventually be applied (the clarifications seems to us out of place - they don't answer the necessities and responsibilities which must first be taken on, and they are based on a false conception) because it will only appear in a concrete form as a consequence of the other points being applied. On the other hand what does seem essential to us is how we can operate so as to make shared activity a reality, and also what mechanisms will be created to enable production of shared texts and campaigns. On this matter we have already proposed certain criteria. What concerns us right now is knowing how the various replies to the proposition will be dealt with. With all this talk about free anti-censorship, free tribunes and the promise to "guarantee that all those who write to us will get a copy of every reply we have received". We're quite rightly concerned whether this applies to trotskyist and peronist groups. Workers Emancipation tell us that they will publish the replies and at some time inform us of any letters they have received from notorious counter-revolutionary groups like, for example, the OCI who "accuse us of neglecting the revolutionary bourgeoisie by simplifying everything to the fundamental contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat". We are convinced that Workers Emancipations' aversion to censorship will not lead them to publish that kind of groups stimulating replies and so spread the ideas of our historic enemy. If they were to act like that they clearly couldn't count on us. We agree completely with having polemics, and that these must be public within the class and directed towards the class. We also agree that a review like the one we need would not particularly have a content that was entirely shared by or common to every participant (it would take a vile trick to interpret our positions as saying the opposite). But we cannot agree to play our enemies democratic game, nor will we countenance making propaganda for bourgeois organisations and bourgeois ideas. As far as we are concerned, this is what is always imposed in the name of freedom and anti-censorship and it constitutes a form of repression of proletarian positions.
We await clarification of these points from Workers Emancipation, but we look forward even more keenly to: the elements of the proposition being put in a concrete form; the reply to our proposals for concrete campaigns; the structures which will allow us in the particular situations which will inevitably arise, to reply as a single force.
2. See the introduction to the proposition.
3. See Le Communiste No 7 and Comunismo No 4.
4. This acquaintance is still very limited. In these years all over the world a strong decomposition of the bourgeois left and of the so called revolutionary milieu was taking place. In certain cases this led to the birth of a myriad of small groups, most cases without their own publication and without any organisational structure, but already trying to build a classist and revolutionary alternative in opposition to all social-democratic excrements. In these cases the many difficulties of international contacts (permanently sabotaged by police repression in all countries), the lack of organic and theoretical links with communist fractions from the past (often due to a tragic ignorance), the sectarian and localist attitudes that often prevailed, all this explains the state of mutual ignorance and often pure indifference that until now has largely dominated the relations between groups.
5. See Le Communiste No 7 and Comunismo No 4.
6. See the chapter "On Certain Accusations" of the Proposition.
7. See the chapter "Some Final Clarifications".
8. See Le Communiste No 7 and Comunismo No 4.
9. It must be stated that this particular campaign related to the general campaign we proposed, does not exclude at all the realisation of other concrete actions. Any proposition on this account will be welcome. For instance there is a proposition from a group of comrades in England to organise in Argentina and in England a campaign on the occasion of the fifth "anniversary" of the Falklands' war. Such initiatives can only have real perspectives in a much more global framework of coordination of common action like the one we want to build through the proposition. Understanding that such initiatives must be part of a general framework, the comrades from England will discuss all this and contact directly the comrades from Rio de la Plata.
10. Last page of the 'Explanatory Note'.
11. This was a position taken up by certain comrades of Workers' Emancipation, but not shared by others.
This strike is a fine rejection of all those who claim that what makes the movement remarkable and exceptional is the perfect democracy which governs it. It is a fact that General Assemblies and ballots have previously taken place with monotonous regularity. But when the proletariat rises up in revolt, 'concentrating the revolutionary interests of society in itself', IT IS BY NATURE ANTI-DEMOCRATIC. 'It immediately finds in its own situation the content of and the motive for, its activity - crushing its enemies and taking such measures as the necessities of the struggle impose - and it is the consequences of its own actions which push it further.' It is clearly the fact that proletarians share an identical situation and identical interests which constitutes a negation of democracy: then you shout rebellion, contact your mates, organise yourselves, begin strike action and get moving! Arguing details in General Assemblies, spending your time on votes, delegating your powers - that's not acting or organising or fighting. And you can bet right now that the unions will use a ballot to democratically bury the fight.
UNIONS: from the run away train to getting the trains running
The determination of the strikers was so great that, after a few days hesitation, the unions rushed to catch the run-away train, and recognised the strike. As everyone agreed, the situation had become hot, explosive. It was up to the unions to defuse the bomb. In fact, these strikes, which are widely supported and affect some of the key sectors of social life, have come after a long period of social peace, during which the too few struggles that have taken place (remember Talbot, Longwy, La Chiers) remained too isolated to obstruct the austerity measures.
The distrust which proletarians now have towards the unions is shown by the strikers setting up autonomous organisational structures outside of the unions. These unions never hesitate to act like the pimps they are - the better to get us fucked - reintroduccing themselves into these structures and getting control of them. That filth Maire, feeling the wind change has given up his fine talk about privileges and how we have to adapt to the crisis. That pig Krasucki (which isn't very nice for pigs) calls for the extension of the movement - which he organises in practice by trying to get the trains running for the return of the holiday makers! And that moron Bergeron (not very nice for morons) is getting all worked up and keeps going on and on about how he had seen all this coming, and if only people had listened to him, if only they had negotiated... Faced with such scab politics the strikers are organising themselves locally in various strike committees and on a national level in two 'coordinations', one of the train drivers and the other of the rest of the railway workers. But the fact that the unions, having at first spat on the struggler are now claiming that they support the movement, is making the coordinations hesitate to fully assume the reason for their emergence - i.e. to be the strikes centre of action and organisation. They are beginning to limit their role to putting pressure on the unions and controlling them. The whole weight of the past of non-struggle is making itself felt here and it threatens heavy consequences for the future of the movement. The movements strength can only assert itself distinctly outside of and against the unions.
What a huge step backwards if we once again rely on politicians, these part masters in the art of fucking us over. The unions don't just constantly negotiate the price of social peace on our backs but more than anything they sabotage our struggles by shutting them into such and such sector, factory or area and, when it's necessary, by violently and physically opposing any real attempt to sabotage the national economy.
We feel the same disastrous weight when the national coordination of the Gare du Nord excludes the 'non-drivers' who want to fight and the other proletarians who want to break their isolation - when victory can only come from an extension of the movement. Extension towards the PTT (Post and Telecommunications), towards other sectors whether private or public... And this is not an abstract or far off task. No, it is possible today to form groups to go out and pick up other workers before setting up pickets in front of the factories.
The ball is in our court - counter attack!
To thwart the schemes of the state, which is trying to set the unemployed against employed workers, we must call the unemployed to fight with us now, and we must show in practice that the needs of our lives are identical. It's because there are still trains and buses running that the government can get away with opposing users to strikers. Indeed, so long as it's possible to go to work the 'user' will claim the right to be transported and the freedom to work. NOT ONE TRAIN, NOT ONE UNDERGROUND MUST RUN unless needed for the strike. The alternative method of transport - road traffic - must be systematically disrupted by the numerous means we have available. It's only this way that the users will be able to negate themselves as users, rediscover themselves in the struggle in solidarity with their class comrades. Scabs must know that vengeance exists and that they won't avoid it! We cannot let those bastards act as if life carries on as usual, as if we weren't in the process of changing the world. We don't give a damn about:-
placing the struggle within the legal framework of workers rights and respect for users;
bowing down like sheep to the wishes of the majority of workers (when you are a majority in a depot you are the minority in the section. When you are a majority in the section you are the minority in the area...);
negotiating the application of austerity measures in the interest of enterprise, business and the national economy;
DOWN WITH SACRIFICE! UNCOMPROMISING STRUGGLE! LETS ORGANISE OURSELVES!
11 January '87.
But we mustn't fool ourselves: our struggle did not surge up only against the "Devaquet" law; this law was only the spark that set off our movement as a response to the disgust we feel. The disgust we feel for studies that only lead to unemployment, ever growing misery and harsher repression, at the expulsion and killing of immigrant workers...
Our solidarity with immigrants under threat of expulsion; with desperate junkies being subjected more and more to the rackets of the dealers and the State; with proletarians being held hostage in the jails of democracy; with the unemployed... Our solidarity with these people has nothing to do with the solidarity that is being worshipped by the media and by show business. Solidarity does not mean begging for money or food, or enjoying yourself at a rock concert; neither does it mean asking for pity of the respects of our rights by those who everyday decide on more terrible measures to use against us.
Real solidarity means to fight against them!
This society and its politicians try to put us to sleep with the worst lies. And they know that they can rely on the faithful support of the media (that are so much appreciated by Harlem Desir - the main organiser of SOS racism -and other stars of the bourgeois spectacle) which is always eager to launch a new hysterical campaign for more repression when some manager, "a good family man like all of us", has been shot down in the street. Meanwhile they relegate the massacres of our class - like the burning down of immigrant houses by fascist pigs, the cause of so many deaths in Paris recently - to the "miscellaneous" column.
Leftists of all kinds have tried to confine our movement by limiting it to "students and school pupils", now they're trying to make it a "political" movement by demanding the resignation of such or such a minister.
BUT:- 1) Everyone knows that the "Devaquet" law has been withdrawn, this was only to demobilise us so as to attack us more easily afterwards. The bourgeoisie make the laws only for their interests, and we can expect nothing from this. Only our STRENGTH can bring down laws.
Everybody can see that this movement concerns all of us, unemployed as well as workers, students as well as pupils, young as well as old... because for a long time already we have all suffered the same attacks, without responding to them. To try to lock up our movement, to try to limit it to students or pupils only means to crush it!
It is ridiculous and dangerous for our struggle to shout "Chirac, Pasqua: resignation" while for the last few years it has been Mitterand who has been developing and using the sane anti-working class politics. Before "cohabitation" it was Joxe, Deferre, Fabius and Hernu who decided on lay-offs, on the expulsions of immigrants, on the modernisation of the police, on such military operation as "Manta" as well as war campaigns in the Lebanon and elsewhere.
It was the left, the "Communist" Party included who expelled and repressed immigrants, who cut off the financial resources of many unemployed (they called them ironically the "new poor") causing more than a hundred of them to die from the cold during the winter of '85. It was the left who froze salaries, and who sold more arms than ever all over the world (furnishing arms to both sides in the Iran/Iraq war!).
To shout on top of that "that we're not in Chili" means either to say that torture and massacres are all right elsewhere, or to have the worst illusions! The State here just like everywhere else, represses violently all those who seriously oppose this society of death, and this repression can just as well come from the right as from the left! Leftists that try to make us support the left against the right, try to break down our movement, try to make us support those who oppress us.
It's no use to pretend to be 'a-political': politics (the state) is always getting involved with us, and even violently. In order to be against the politics of capital, we have to organise ourselves against it and against all parties and unions, whether they are left or right.
It's no use to be against violence! This society is violent everyday. We have to defend ourselves against it and to organise ourselves so as to paralyse and destroy our executioners.
Therefore, our first task is to reinforce our movement by involving all those who suffer in this society, by involving all those who are being exploited!
Today our only real victory, is our organisation, our growing unity. It is our capacity to create a balance of forces so that fear and demoralisation move definitively from our side to theirs.
Yes, we're sick of this miserable society!
Yes, we want to finish off the bourgeoisie and its hypocracy!
Yes, we want to destroy this daily terrorism that is destroying us!
Yes, we want to struggle against our oppressors just like our clans comrades in Algeria and South Africa; just like the deserters on the battle fronts, just like the exploited everywhere!!!
Contrary to all those apologists of the system (even, and above all, in its reformed form), marxists tackles democracy not as a form of government more or less properly applied, but as a content, as the activity of management -politics- of the capitalist mode of production. Therefore democracy (whatever its form: parliamentary, bonapartist,...) is nothing but the management of capitalism. As Marx put it, the bourgeoisie has really and definitively achieved freedom (to sell one's labour power or else... to die), fraternity (between atomized citizen) and equality (between purchasers and sellers of commodities). The bourgeoisie has totally democratized the world, since in its own world (that of circulation and exchange of commodities) pure democracy is realized. Chasing the myth of a "good" democracy, as all democrats (even "workers'" democrats) do actually serves to reinforce, as an idea and so in its realization, the best "possible" management of capitalism what ever form it might take -parliamentary, "working-class", fascist, monarchist,...- it reinforces the foundation of the system: wage slavery. Indeed, as this text will show, democracy is not one (or the "best") of the forms of management of capital, but is the foundation, the substance of capitalist management, and this, because the content common to the substance of the capitalist mode of production -twosided character of the commodity labour power- and the substance of£ democracy -make the individuals, and so their labour power appear as a commodity. The capitalist mode of production is therefore the first and also the last mode of production that has to present the individual as a citizen, totally isolated, atomized and alienated in civil society -the community of atomized individuals (that is a des-humanized, non-species community)- because the capitalist mode of production, in order to develop, needs the proletarians (free from all ties to the glebe) to own only their labour power, and so always be ready to sell themselves for a wage (the value of which is determined, like any other commodity's, by the average time socially necessary for its reproduction). This whole process of atomization and subsumption of human beings produces one of the most disgusting symptoms of capitalism: individualism.
The content of every bourgeois state (whatever its form) is therefore democracy, for democracy is the capitalist organisation of atomized proletarians so as to make them spew out more and more value. Marx had already guessed this essential content of democracy when he criticized Hegel's ideas about the state:
"Hegel starts from the state and makes man the subjectified state; democracy starts from man and makes the state objectified man. Just as it is not religion which creates man but man who creates religion, so it is not the constitution which creates the people but the people who creates the constitution. In a certain respect the relation of democracy to all other forms of the state is like the relation of Christianity to all other forms of religion. Christianity is the religion par excellence, the essence of religion - deified man as a particular religion. Similarly, democracy is the essence of all state constitutions - socialised men as a particular state constitution. (...) Man doesn't exist for the law but the law for man - it is a human manifestation; whereas in the other forms of the state man is a legal manifestation. That is the fundamental distinction of democracy."
Marx - Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law.Through Marx, the whole filiation and invariance of communism asserts itself more and more clearly, breaking with bourgeois socialism, breaking with reformism, breaking with democracy. From time to time, however, communists under the heavy weight of bourgeois ideology, did fall back to democratic ground. That is what the Italian Abstentionist Communist Left criticized, when writing that:
"Though they were the destroyers of the whole democratic bourgeois ideology, it cannot be denied that Marx and Engels still gave too much credit to democracy and thought that universal sufferage could bring about advantages which had not been discredited yet."
"Avanti" 1918, The Lessons from the New History.Yet despite its mistakes the communist movement has always asserted its anti-democratic character more and more strongly, be it with Babeuf, Dejacque and Coeurderoy, be it with Blanqui (and his famous "London toast") and (at certain times) Lenin, be it with the Communist Lefts (from Italy, of course, with Bordiga and the Communist Left from Italy in exile; but also the KAPD - Gorter/Schröder wing). The question is getting clearer and clearer: how to remove from the communist program all bourgeois leftovers, all concessions to bourgeois socialists, to democrats?
"What stumbling block is this that endangers tomorrows revolution? The deplorable popularity of all those bourgeois disguised as tribunists... is the stumbling block against which yesterdays revolution crashed. Curse be on us, should the indulgence of the masses allow these men to rise to power on the ever closer day of victory."
Blanqui - 1851
"Political freedom is a farce and the worst possible kind of slavery (...) So is political equality: this is why democracy must be torn to pieces as well as any other form of government."
Engels - Progress of Social Reform on the Continent.But with the Italian Communist Left the very content of democracy (and not only the parliamentary, elective form of government that is called democracy) is tackled from a communist standpoint:
"The workers movement has sprung up as a negation of democracy (...) There exists a fundamental opposition between the institutions of the democratic state and the creation of working class organisms. Through the first, the proletariat is tied to the democratic fiction; through the second, the workers assert, in opposition to the bourgeois government, the opposite historical course which leads them to their liberation."
Bilan - Organ of the Italian Fraction of the internationalist Communist LeftIn the same way as Bilan brilliantly analyzed fascism not as the negation of democracy (which means "justifying" the anti-fascism, interclassist front) but, on the contrary, "as a purifying process of the democratic state", so October -the monthly organ of the International Bureau of the Fractions of the Communist Left- drew the essential, fundamental lessons:
"The idea of proletarian dictatorship gets spoilt whenever it is linked, directly or indirectly, to the democratic principle."
Octobre No 5 - 1939It is to continue this fundamental work of destroying democracy that we carry out with our militant activity. With this text, with the whole of the material we have already published, we wish to give revolutionary militants a global analysis that can facilitate the communists' continuous critique of democracy, including, above all, so-called "workers' democracy" (1).
Once the natural community is dissolved through exchange, democracy appears as the mythical expression of a "new community", thus re-creating artificially the primitive community just destroyed: the people ('demos' in Greek) being the whole of the citizen, a whole based upon the negation of class antagonisms for the benefit of an a-classist mass called the people, the nation,... In this sense, democracy really exists. Yet it also exists only ideally (in the realm of ideas) as a myth/reality camouflaging, and so reinforcing materially, the dictatorial power of the dominant class. Thus as soon as it emerges, democracy develops its two-sided character: both unification of the people within a restricted, non-human community (which we called fictitious community), and destruction of any attempt to re-create a true community of interests, that is, reconstitution of a class opposed the dominant one (which is organized into a state). And, whereas all the exploited classes in the past organized their struggle on the basis of limited, contingent, non-universal historical interests, now with the proletariat (first class to be both exploited and revolutionary) there appears the first and last class that has one universal, non-contingent historical interest: the liberation of humanity.
If we consider the archetype of what is usually praised as democracy -Athenian democracy- we see a society diviided into antagonistic classes in which the most exploited productive class -the slaves- is quite simply excluded from civil society (the slaves not being regarded as human beings, but only as an animal productive force), and in which only the members of the dominant class -the citizens- can get at the famous Athenian democracy, since managing "public affairs" (res publica) requires a lot of free time, or, in other words, requires a lot of riches (i.e. slaves). In this sense, the specialisation and the specialists of "public affairs" (division of labour, hence division into classes) brings about politics: a popular sphere devoted to the management of the city on behalf of the whole of the people, of the nation (hence the necessity of mediation -see below). Politics and democracy therefore go hand in hand. Politics, as a separated sphere, as the essential activity of the dominant class, exists only because democracy exists, even if in a rudimentary form. Politics exists only through democracy, since it in only in class societies -societies in which people are separated from each other, from production, and so from their lives- that there is a need to conciliate the classes (and so to negate their antagonism) and at the same time to impose the dictatorship of the dominant class. This kind of society thus requires a social mediation -politics- to "unifying" the separated (more precisely, "adding" them to each other) to "unifying" everything that society has separated, and this, for the sole benefit of the dominant class. Democracy implies politics; politics is democratic in its very essence.
"Where the political state has attained its full degree of development man leads a double life, a life in heaven and a life on earth, not only in his mind, in his consciousness, but in reality. He lives in the political community where he regards himself as a communal being, and in civil society, where he is active as a private individual, regards other men as means, debases himself to a means and becomes a plaything of alien powers. The relationship of the political state to civil society is just as spiritual as the relationship of heaven to earth. The state stands in the same opposition to civil society and overcomes it in the same way as religion overcomes the restrictions of the profane world, ie. it has to acknowledge it again, reinstate it and allow itself to be dominated by it. Man in his immediate reality, in civil society, is a profane being. Here, where he regards himself and is regarded by others as a real individual, he is an illusory phenomenon. In the state, on the other hand, where he is considered to be a species-being, he is the imaginary member of a fictitious sovereignty, he is divested of his real individual life and filled with an unreal universality." (...) "The splitting of man into his public and private self and the displacement of religion from the state to civil society is not just one step in the process of political emancipation but its completion. Hence political emancipation neither abolishes nor tries to abolish mans real religiosity." (...) "The power of religion is the religion of power." (...) "The members of the political state are religious because of the dualism between individual life and species life, between the life of civil society and political life. They are religious inasmuch as man considers political life, which is far removed from his individuality, to be his true life and inasmuch as religion is here the spirit of civil society and the expression of the separation and distance of man from man." (...)
"Political democracy is Christian inasmuch as it regards man - not just one man but all men - as a sovereign and supreme being; but man in his uncultivated, unsocial aspect, man in his contingent existence, man just as he is, man as he has been corrupted, lost to himself, sold, and exposed to the rule of inhuman conditions and elements by the entire organisation of our society - in a word, man who is not yet a true species being. The sovereignty of man - but of man as an alien being distinct from actual man - is the fantasy, the dream, the postulate of christianity, where as in democracy it is a present and material reality, a secular maxim."
Marx - On The Jewish QuestionAs we see in this long quotation from Marx, the emergence of the separated sphere -politics- really corresponds to the antagonism, the opposition between the "uneducated, unsocial" bourgeois individual, organized into a non-human community -addition of individuals, of atomized citizens- and the constitution of a real community based upon common historical interests -the constitution of the proletariat into a class, hence into a party- negating the free thinking individual (and individualist) in order to posit the species-being of humanity: Gemeinwesen.
The bourgeois society, synthesis and product of all class societies of the past, is above all the society of politics (and so of democracy) the one in which all the citizens have, as buyers and sellers of commodities, the same right and duty to manage the city and the society, that is, commonly speaking, "to politick". And whereas in the Athenian democracy, politics was a privilege for the dominant class (since democracy had not extended yet to the whole of society) at the expense of slaves, under capitalism, the realm of complete democracy, each proletarian must "politick", that is, must be mediated/objectified through politics. The wage slaves are even deprived of any communal life (even as excluded slaves), in contrast to their Roman and Greek ancestors who where collectively excluded from the political sphere, from democracy. The wage slaves are totally atomized and subsumed through democracy. The ancient slaves, as well as the serfs could at least share a common feeling of exclusion (and thus rebel -see Spartacus and the numerous peasants' revolts), the wage slaves, as citizens -violent negation by democracy of any attempt to reconstitute a class force- have no feeling anymore, except of being mere commodities in the sphere of circulation -political commodities- and as such, of being free and equal. The ancient slaves were still -though negatively, since they were slaves- tied to a community, the degenerated remains of primitive communism (see Spartacus' City of Sun: the "realization" of the myth of the return to the primitive communism), whereas the modern proletarians, subjected to democracy, have nothing anymore.
Against this process of subjection of human beings into, and through, democracy and its hireling called politics, the communist revolution is no political revolution (as the bourgeois revolution was), but a social revolution through which the proletariat accomplishes the ultimate political deed: dissolution of the separate sphere that politics is. This way already Marx's prospect in 1843:
"The bourgeois society is the end of politics; it derives from this that the proletariat, if it doesn't want to operate within the existing state, upon the enemy ground, must not "politick". More precisely, it must claim only one political act, that of destroying the bourgeois political society, at the same time a military act."
Marx - Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of the StateSince the communist program is in its essence anti-democratic it is therefore anti-political. It rejects the bourgeois, politicist view of a "revolution" which would be a change in the state apparatus (lassallean, social-democrat, leninist tradition) for the benefit of the necessary destruction of the State that is, the destruction of politics.
In his controversy against A.Ruge Marx developed this point of view:
"... a social revolution possesses a total point of view because - even if it is confined to only one factory district - it represents a protest by man against a dehumanised life, because it proceeds from the point of view of the particular, real individual, because the community against whose separation from himself the individual is reacting, is the true community of man, human nature. In contrast, the political soul of a revolution consists in the tendency of the classes with no political power to put an end to their isolation from the state and from power. Its point of view is that of the state, of an abstract totality which exists only through its separation from real life and which is unthinkable in the absence of an organised antithesis between the universal idea and the individual existence of man. In accordance with the limited and contradictory nature of the political soul a revolution inspired by it organises a dominant group within society at the cost of society."
Marx - Critical Notes on the Article "The King of Prussia and Social Reform. By a Prussian".Through this refusal of a revolution "with a political soul", refusal of a mere change in the form of the state, as the bourgeois revolution was, the communist revolution "with a social soul" can be characterized as a revolution which, as the ultimate political act totally destroying the whole state apparatus and its foundation -the law of value- is the radical, social transformation of the whole society, the dictatorship of the proletariat for the abolition of wage labour.
"But whether the idea of a social revolution with a political soul is a paraphrase or nonsense there is no doubt about the rationality of a political revolution with a social soul. All revolution -the overthrow of the existing ruling power and the dissolution of the old order- is a political act. But without revolution socialism cannot be made possible. It stands in need of this political act just as it stands in need of destruction and dissolution. But as soon as its organising functions begin and its goal, its soul emerges, socialism throws its political mask aside."
Marx - IbidMarx had also perfectly understood the essential connection between the commodity and democracy, even as early as the ancient societies:
"Aristotle himself was unable to extract this fact, that, in the form of commodity-values, all labour is expressed as equal human labour and therefore as labour of equal quality, by inspection from the form of value, because Greek society was founded on the labour of salves, hence had as its natural basis the inequality of men and of their labour powers. The secret of the expression of value, namely the equality and equivalence of all kinds of labour because and in so far as they are human labour in general, could not be deciphered until the concept of human equality had already acquired the permanence of a fixed popular opinion. This however becomes possible only in a society where the commodity-form is the universal form of the product of labour, hence the dominant social relation is between men as possessors of commodities."
Marx - Capital Vol 1It is therefore only the capitalist mode of production, which is above all the mode of commodity production (where the universal commodity is money as universal equivalent), that democracy, already present once the class societies emerged, can develop fully as the content -the substance- of capitalist dictatorship. Capitalism is the system that concludes and synthesizes the cycle of value, which goes from the dissolution of natural community to capitalism ruling the whole planet; the system that produces and requires the proletarian/citizen, the singular individual as mere purchaser/seller of commodities (and as such, free equal and free). It also produces and requires proletarians as a mere commodity, among others, this occurs through the sale of their labour power. The capitalist mode of production is therefore the mode of production where the proletarian individual is deeply atomized and, at the same time, "unified" within a fictitious unity: the people, the nation,... It is, above all, the mode of production of commodities, and so, of democracy. This mode of production, and only this one, universalizes and fully achieves democracy. So the proletariat has no democratic task whatsoever to realize. The whole of its movement is that of the destruction of democracy. That is what Marx used to reply to the bourgeois socialists of his time -today's lefties- who wanted to "depict socialism as the realization of the ideals of bourgeois society articulated by the French Revolution":
"With that, then, the complete freedom of the individual is posited: voluntary transaction; no force on either side; positing itself as means or as serving, only as means, in order to posit the self as end in itself, as dominant and primary; finally, the self-seeking interest which brings nothing of a higher order to realization; the other is also recognised and acknowledged as one who likewise realizes his self-seeking interest, so that both know that the common interest exists only in the duality, many sidedness, and autonomous development of the exchanges between self-seeking interests. The general interest is precisely the generality of self-seeking interests. Therefore, when the economic form, exchange, posits the all-sided equality of its subjects, then the content, the individual as well as the objective material which drives towards the exchange, is freedom: Equality and Freedom are thus not only respected in exchange based on exchange values but, also, the exchange of exchange values is the productive, real, basis of all equality and freedom."
"... exchange value or, more precisely, the money system is in fact the system of equality and freedom, and that the disturbances which they encounter in the further development of the system are disturbances inherent in it, are merely the realization of equality and freedom, which prove to be inequality and unfreedom."
Marx's - Grundrisse
"In the sphere of circulation of commodities, there are no classes, everybody is a citizen, everybody appears as a buyer and seller of goods, equal, free and owner. Even when we buy or sell our labour power, we are in the paradise of human rights and liberties. Each one is aiming at his own private interests in the reign of equality, liberty and private property.
Liberty: because the buyer and the seller of commodities (inc. labour power) do not obey any other rule than their own free will.
Equality: because in the world of commodities everybody is a buyer and a seller, and everybody gets a value equal to the value contained in the goods they are selling, exchanging equivalent for equivalent.
Property: because each one appears, in the world of exchange, as an owner of their commodity and they can only dispose of what belongs to them."
Communism No 1That is exactly what Marx explains in Capital:
"The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property..."
Marx - Capital 1, The Transformation of Money into CapitalCirculation is therefore the paradise of bourgeois rights, the sphere where democracy rules most perfectly through money. In circulation, money is the community of capital; money is the mediation which unites all individuals as buyers and sellers, and dissolves any other community. Money, like politics, is an essential mediation of democracy. No money, no democracy; no democracy, no money.
After he has developed the several attributes of money -money as measure of values, money as medium of circulation, money as material of wealth (see Capital, chap.III)- Marx goes on to the third attribute which "presupposes the first two and constitutes their unity", how is "the God among commodities" how "from its servile role, in which it appears as mere medium of circulation, it suddenly changes into the lord and god of the world of commodities. It represents the divine existence of commodities, while they represent its earthly form." (...) "Money is therefore not only the object but also the fountainhead of greed." Once it reaches this stage of autonomy, money -"not only the object, but also the fountaainhead of wealth"- posits itself bath as the most dissolving element of the ancient communities (it is the new God winning over those preceding it) and as the one and 45 only community. Money is therefore the dissolving element which makes everything democratic, which enables democracy to grow freely.
"Money is itself the community, and can tolerate none other standing above it. But this presupposes the full development of exchange values, hence a corresponding organisation of society."
Marx - GrundrisseUnder capital, money is the new community, it is the mediation which unites things and people. Marx speaks of "nexus rerum": what unites things:
"As material representative of general wealth, as individualised exchange value, money must be the direct object, aim and product of general labour, the labour of all individuals. Labour must directly produce exchange value, ie. money. It must therefore be wage labour."
Marx - GrundrisseMoney as community of capital is therefore the unity of those singular individuals, those citizens, negation of classes, as wage slaves. Where the wage system exists, the non-human community of money exists; where the wage system did not exist, money dissolved the ancient community in order to impose itself and impose wage labour.
"Where money itself is not the community it must dissolve the community."
Marx - GrundrisseUnder capitalism, each individual exists only as a producer of exchange value, of money, and money itself is both the social mediation -addition of singular individuals monetarily worthy of being part of civil society- and the very substance of alienated human beings, since they only exist as money as exploited human.
"It is the elementary precondition of bourgeois society that labour should directly produce exchange value, ie. money; and similarly that money should directly purchase labour, and therefore the labourer, but only in so far as he alienates (veraussert) his activity in the exchange. Wage labour on one side, capital on the other, are therefore only other forms of developed exchange value and of money (as the incarnation of exchange value). Money thereby directly and simultaneously becomes the real community, since it is the general substance of survival for all, and at the same time the social product of all."
"But as we have seen in money the community (gemeinwesen) is at the same time a mere abstraction, a mere external, accidental thing for the individual, and at the same time merely a means for his satisfaction as an isolated individual. The community of antiquity presupposes a quite different relation to, and on the part of the individual. The development of money in its third role therefore smashes this community. All production is an objectification (Vergegenstandlich-ung) of the individual. In money (exchange value), however, the individual is not objectified in his natural quality, but in a social quality (relation) which is, at the same time, external to him."
Marx - GrundrisseThus money is both the universal commodity (as material representative of wealth) and the "non-commodity" (as mere medium of circulation). In the capitalist mode of production -which is the mode of production for exchange value, and so for money (M-C-M'), the latter being community of capital, the inhuman community of alienated individuals- people are subsumed by money (and the same is true of politics), and in so far as they are members of this fictitious community, that is, as circulating commodities, they are free and equal, they are citizens, they are among the atoms of a realized democracy. The capitalist mode of production is the mode of production of democracy of politics, of politics, of money. Complete democracy requires the development of money (and so of value). And the communist movement, since it destroys the mode of production of, and for, money (M-C-M', M'= M + delta M), also destroys democracy as the community of capital, as the community of money. Democracy is therefore the community of capital, the very foundation/ substance of capitalist dictatorship -the dictatorship of money, of the law of value. And this fictitious community (fictitious in opposition to the truly human community to be create: the proletariat organized and directed into communist party) is materialized through a serie of a-classist groupings (which negate the classes and their antagonism) having all democracy as their substance. Be it the people, the nation religion, politics or money... all these "communities of capital" through which, and in which, the citizens are organized and the proletariat disorganized, are in the last instance, nothing but forms of the fictitious community, of democracy, of dictatorship of the law of value, of money and of capital.
The entire history of the workers' movement testifies to precisely the opposite of these policies of sabotage. If one takes the example of the Russian Revolution, it is clear that all the class positions, the real break (to be sure insufficient) with the bourgeois Social Democratic tradition were always the work of minorities and each time needed to be asserted by force against the majorities, against the dominant ideas (2).
"One of them was proletarian and led to the path of world revolution; the other was democratic, which is to say petit bourgeois, and led in the final analysis to the subordination of proletarian politics to the needs of the reforming of bourgeois society."
Trotsky - The Lessons of October
"The theoretical critique of democracy and bourgeois liberalism reaches the height of intensity, by the expulsion of this pack of democratically elected scoundrels who make up the Constituent Assembly as carried out by armed workers."
Bordiga - Lenin on the Path to RevolutionAll these acts, which materialized more and more as the revolution -the defense of the historic interests of the proletariat- went on. They had to be imposed by force (as much military as exemplary), they had to be practically taken on by minorities which to all intents and purposes, never corresponded to existing formal parties. On the contrary, it is always very democratically and by very large majorities that counter-revolutionary positions and the rapid slide into the bourgeois swamp are imposed. To become convinced of this, it is enough to see that it is always more democratically that the bourgeois positions took precedence, throughout the congresses of the Communist International, so as to arrive at the very democratic and systematic unanimous vote inaugurated during the Stalin period itself, and especially when it was a matter of condemning with the right hand what the left hand had done.
"Stalin was able (...) to carry out his triumph by making democracy at the heart of the party function in full at the time of the struggles against the opposition in 1926/28."
Verceci - "October"And if the example is also taken of the "lost revolutions" in Germany during the period 1917-1923, on the essential role played by the antiquated democratic notions at the heart of the proletariat, the acts multiply. Those things which were presented as revolutionary positions as vanguard communist positions, principally born by R. Luxembourg and the Spartacus League, were nothing but a "bowing down" before the fetishism of the masses (and therefore of democracy), nothing but a pale substitute for social democratism, lightly radicalised to suit the circumstances.
It was to follow the masses and their ideas that the Spartacus League refuse to break with social-democracy. They entered and stood surety for the foundation of the USPD on the same positions as those of the SPD and with men such as Kautsky, Bernstein and Hilferding (3). Meanwhile, the real communist force organised in the heart of the ISD (Radical Internationalists of Germany) refused this entryism and accused even Luxembourg and Liebknecht of reiterating the "betrayal of 1914". To the necessary class split, the demarcation between the forces of revolution and those of counter-revolution, the centrist swamp replied: "The slogan isn't scission or unity, new party or old party, but reconquest of the party from below, by the revolt of the masses who must take into their hands the organisations and their instruments." (Quoted by Broué in "Revolution in Germany"). Faced to this return to social-democracy (had it ever been left!) by the Luxembourg group, the communists proclaimed: "The 'International' group is dead" (Arbeiterpolitik), and founded the IKD (International Communists of Germany) as the kernel of the future communist party.
In the same way, in each revolutionary phase, under the pretext of the "immaturity of the masses", Luxembourg and her successors Levi and Zetkin etc. were to oppose insurrection (the basis of the marxist conception of the destruction of the state) by the progressive conquest of the masses and of the state, dear to all social-democrats.
"It is from below that we must undermine the bourgeois state, in acting so that the public, legislative and administrative powers are no longer separated, but merged, and by placing then into the hands of the workers and soldiers councils."
Luxemburg - Speech to the founding Convention of the KPDAll the gradualism, administrationism, educationism,... "workers" derivations of reformist democracy, are contained in what was to become the Luxembourgist ideology: the conception of the conquest of the consciousness of the majority of the workers, of the workers' councils conceived as "the parliamentary of the proletarians of the towns and country" (Luxembourg, -Die Rote Fahne- 1918), of the "boss-less" factories,... basically of a new bourgeois soup dragging the proletariat towards massacres reiterated many times, refusing organisation for fear of the riposte that they would be cutting themselves off from the mythical masses.
From the occupation of the "Berliner Lokalanzeiger" by armed militants, condemned by Luxembourg, to the denunciation of the "March Action" by Levi, there is one same conciliatory line, that of the refusal of confrontation (always under the pretext that it would be tantamount to putshism), of the refusal of armed insurrection, of the refusal of communist revolution.
In the same way, in the most famous polemic between "mass and leaders", Luxembourg made herself one of the most ardent defenders of the masses against the leaders of the freedom of critique (cf. "Marxism against dictatorship"!!!). This pseudo contradiction between masses and leaders betraying the masses is a pure product of democracy and of its pathogenic functioning. It is, in effect, in democratic organisms (elective or not, federalist or centralist,...) that this type of problem can arise, for it presupposes both a mass of untutored, amorphous and atomized individuals ready to be betrayed, and the exceptional individual, the leader who, at the end of a certain time, may betray or may not (for libertarians they betray by definition).
For we authoritarian marxists, the masses have only the leaders they deserve. It wasn't the Noskes, the Scheidemanns, the Kautskys,... who betrayed the "good" social-democratic masses. It was precisely because these masses were social-democratic, impregned by more than 20 years of class collaboration, pacifism, nationalism, democratism,... that Noske, Scheidemann and Kautsky were able to express clearly the original content, the substance of social democracy... i.e. bourgeois socialism. The 'betrayal' of the revolutionary program doesn't suddenly date from 1914, but goes back to the years around 1875 when there came together the Lassalians and the already barely revolutionary marxists (Bebel, Liebknecht,...) at Gotha to round the social democratic party of sinister reputation. At this stage the Lassalians were already well integrated into the Bismarckian state. The autonomisation of leaders (and therefore of bureaucracy) can only exist at the heart of organisations, parties, etc. where the only things which link individuals are some general humanist and well meaning ideas. This allows the democratically elected leaders (with all the cult of personality, careerism and the struggles between different sects or cliques which this implies) to carry on with bourgeois politics in the name of immediate or mythical good of 'their' poor masses. Whether this means of functioning is called federalism or democratic centralism, it is a matter each time of conferring powers of attorney on leaders who worshipped as much today as they will be denounced as traitors tomorrow (for example Kautsky, who defended essentially the same positions both before and after 1914!). These leaders are thereby empowered to say loudly what the masses are thinking at that immediate moment. Now the 'immediacy' of the masses, of the majority, can only be the immediate reality of their submission to capital, which is why the dominant ideas at the heart of the masses are the ideas of the dominant class, ideas which the "leaders" can only repeat. Bernstein didn't betray social democracy when he said that "the movement is all and the goal is nothing" he was only theorising the real practise of the German social democrats. Luxembourg in opposing Bernstein didn't struggle against the counter-revolutionary practice of social-democracy, she only struggled to maintain this practice in liaison with revolutionary ideas, with the "goal". This was in order to maintain a completely formal coherence between "reform and revolution", that is to say, in order to liquidate revolutionary preparation to the profit of immediate reforms.
For Luxembourg, the only preparation, the only domain where one could speak of revolution is that of pure ideas, of consciousness, of the "education of the masses":
"I think, on the contrary, that the only violence that will lead us to victory is the socialist education of the working class in the daily struggle."
Luxemburg - Discourse on Tactics, 1898"Educationalism", the act of wanting to win over each proletarian individual intellectually to socialism, led Luxembourg into never understanding the revolutionary situation and the tasks it throws up, into always trying to procrastinate, to put a brake on the movement under the pretext that it wasn't yet massive enough, not "conscious" enough. And Luxembourg "educationalism" only served to disarmed the real proletarian fighters, in order to make of them parliamentary puppets and pacifists:
"Socialism, instead of making indomitable rebels from out of present conditions, would end up making docile sheep; domesticated and "cultivated" to be ready to be sheared, (...) We cannot therefore link the revolution to the education of the proletariat, because then the revolution would never come."
Avanti - The Problem of Culture. (Polemic at the heart of the PSI where the abstentionist left regrouped around Bordiga clearly defended anti-cultural and anti-educationalist positions.)Contrary to the legend upheld as much by trostyists as by councilists R.Luxembourg does not represent communism but on the contrary the multiple and despairing attempts to push back its preparation and its realization. It particularly cruelly represents the disintegration of the workers' movement by democratic poison, all the more so when the latter is classified as "workers'". There is a class divide between the German communist left (whose real direct line is IKD-KAPD) and luxembourgism, the base on which the Levis, Radeks, Zetkins, Brandlers,... constructed the KPD, single issue fronts, and other politics of fatal remembrance (4).
"It is not a question today of a choice between democracy and dictatorship. The question placed by history on us today is: bourgeois democracy or socialist democracy. For the dictatorship of the proletariat is democracy in the socialist sense of the term. The dictatorship of the proletariat doesn't mean bombs, putsches, riot, "anarchy", as the agents of capitalism dare to pretend, but for the edification of socialism, for the expropriation of the capitalist class conforming to the feelings and by the will of the revolutionary majority of the proletariat, and therefore in the spirit of socialist democracy. Without conscious will and without the conscious action of the proletariat, there is no socialism."
Rosa Luxemburg - Die Rote FahneFor the revolutionary communists, there is a class divide between "worker'" democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat and:
"We could reply that provided that the revolution sweeps away the heap of infamies accumulated by the bourgeois regime and provided that the formidable circle of institutions which oppress and mutilate the life of the productive masses is broken, it would not trouble us at all that blows would be struck home by men not yet conscious of the outcome of the struggle."
Bordiga - Force, Violence and Dictatorship in the Class Struggle 1946-48Luxembourgism is just the liberal version of leninism (and later of stalinism) and it is not for nothing that it served as a caution to all humanist "anti-stalinist" democretins, from M.Pivert to Cohn-Bendit, from R.Lefevre to D.Guerin, from Sabatier to Mandel, without forgetting the "new" apologists, the ICC. More still than its leninist cousin, luxembourgism ideology inscribes itself in perfect continuation with the social democratic tradition which, under cover of the name of Marx, is nothing but a vulgar mixture of Proudhon and Lassalle. Lenin and above all Trotsky, despite a similar assimilation of the dictatorship of the proletariat to "workers'" democracy, had at least tried to break with democratic conceptions on trusting solely in the "saving virtue" of violence, terrorism and terror (5).
Luxembourgism is thus one of the most representative ideologies of the myth of "workers'" democracy, and of its fatal practice of complete abasement, of pacifist defeatism before the forces of the bourgeoisie. But it is not the only one. Let us cite too the austro-marxists who, with Max Adler and his theorisation of the system of workers' councils as the realization of "workers'" democracy, find themselves very close to Luxembourg and Gramsci, but equally the whole of the currents demanding "workers' control", "self-management" which is in fact only the application of "workers'" democracy to the economic sphere, that is to say the perpetuation of capitalist exploitation in the name of the proletariat (cf. Socialisme ou Barbarie, the IS,...). And here we are touching on a fundamental point: the liaison between "workers'" democracy signifying "politically" the application of democratic parliamentarian rules at the heart of the proletarian "mass" organs (assemblies, unions, councils,...) that is to say the submission of the proletarian tasks to the application of a majority, and therefore, most often, to bourgeois ideology; and "workers'" democracy signifying "economically", the management by (atomized) proletarians of their own exploitation. In effect, "workers'" (or "direct", for libertarians) democracy signifies in the first place the application of democratic rules (submission of the minority to the majority; one individual, one voice) at the heart of the proletarian organisms (as much those regrouping workers' masses as those distinctly revolutionary in membership). These organisms (especially the more passive one) are not, for the demo-cretins, based on a political content, on a program and a will to struggle, but, on the contrary, on vulgar sociological criteria, on the "economic" adherence of the individuals. ("A worker is someone who does such and such jobs or still more vulgarly, someone who earns..."). It is therefore a matter of an addition of "atomized worker" individuals, that is to say, of atoms of capital. At the heart of these assemblies thus constituted the democratic vote sanctions the addition of individual opinions and therefore sanctions the fact that ideology and dominant opinions, at the heart of these assemblies remain those of the ruling class i.e. of the bourgeoisie. To start from the isolated individual, sociologically a worker, from the addition of his particular opinions, is necessarily to arrive, not at a position of our class (denying the individual for the benefit of the collectivity in struggle) but to a sum of bourgeois positions.
"To start from individual unity (?) in order to draw social deductions and to construct the plans of society, or even in order to deny society, is to start from an unreal presupposition which, even in its most modern formulations, is basically only a modified reproduction of concepts of religious revelation, of creation, and of the spiritual life independent of the facts of natural and organic life."
Bordiga - The Democratic Principle, 1921Workers' experience shows us that it is at the heart of these organisms (councils in Germany, Soviets in Russia, "unions" in the USA and Latin-America,...) that existing positions, confused or openly bourgeois, impose themselves most easily and often even maintain themselves after the victorious workers' insurrection. Let us rapidly give the example that it was the "bloody dog", but nevertheless "worker", Noske who was democratically elected to the head of the councils in Germany and that, in almost all proletarian centres, his SPD colleagues controlled the majority of the councils. In the same way, in Russia, it was necessary to organize the insurrection on the eve of the congress of the Soviets so as to put the latter before the fait accompli! (cf. the polemic between Lenin and Trotsky).
The democratic principle opposes itself to (and never takes account of) workers' needs, to the necessities of the struggle, i.e. to the proletarian content which these assemblies could have if their constitution did not depend on the sociological and individual adherence of the proletarians but, on the contrary, on their will to struggle... The delimitation occurs through the struggle and the very reality of the classes' antagonisms demonstrates that it is most often minorities (an eminently relative term since these minorities become, in revolutionary period, millions of proletarians in struggle) who practically assume the revolutionary tasks and "make the revolution".
"Revolution is not a problem of organisational forms. Revolution is on the contrary a problem of content, a problem of movement and action of revolutionary forces in an unceasing process, which cannot be theorised by fixing it in various tentatives of unchangeable 'constitutional doctrine'."
Bordiga - The Democratic Principle, 1921"Workers" democracy thus affirms itself as the last rampart of capital, the ultimate bourgeois solution to the crisis of capital, for it tends at each moment to make counter-revolutionary ideas at the heart of the proletariat come to the fore, and not the communist aspects; it takes on the task of making the vanguard sectors wait and therefore draw back under the pretext that other, more massive sectors are lagging behind. At each moment, "workers'" democracy thus brings to the fore the heterogeneity of the proletariat produced by capital, to the detriment of the aspects of communist unification and homogenisation. Democracy thus directly opposes itself to the worldwide centralization of the proletariat, to its organic unity, to its constitution into a world party.
Complementarily to "workers'" democracy applied in the political sphere, the workers having to decide what are their tasks, when they are historically determined, there is the "workers'" democracy applied to the economical sphere in the shape of "workers' control", or more fashionably, of "self-management". And if the communists have always struggled against self-management, against apprenticeship by workers of capitalist management (dear to Proudhon, Sorel, Adler, Gramsci,...) at the heart of capitalism, remains for us to destroy their myth even after the victorious insurrection.
"We don't want the conviction to spread among the mass of workers that in developing the institution of councils it is possible to take possession of the enterprises and to eliminate the capitalists. That would be the most dangerous of illusions. The enterprise will be conquered by the working class - and not merely by its personnel, which would be a very small matter, and not very communist - only after the whole of the working class seizes political power. Without this conquest, illusions will be dispelled by royal guards, carabinaries (ltalian Secret Police) etc..., i.e. by the mechanisms of oppression and force which the bourgeoisie has at its disposal, through its state apparatus."
Bordiga - The Lessons of Recent HistoryAnd as Bordiga perceived it, if before the insurrection the conquest of the factories by the workers can only be used to turn the latter from their destructive tasks to the profit of the "worker's" reform of the system, even after the victorious insurrection, the conquest of the factories by the workers, "workers' control", self-management are not "very communist" measures which only reinforce ever-present bourgeois tendencies.
This politics comes in a direct line from two fundamental and complementary social democratic deviations: politicism and economism -managementism- which are in fact only the application of democracy in the revolutionary process. It would be a question of seeing the insurrection, the revolution as being primarily and uniquely a political act (Marx spoke of a revolution "with a political soul"): the taking by even a violent conquest of the political power, of the state apparatus, in fact "occupation" of the bourgeois state, then, as a function of the circumstances (else where always unfavourable!), the taking of such or such economical measures in the interest or not of the proletariat, with or without its consent (cf. the introduction of the Taylor system and of the 8 hour day since the beginning of the Bolshevik dictatorship). According to this conception, which is as much that of political mediation as is "workers'" democracy, the communist revolution is no longer a social revolution having to completely destroy the bourgeois state and capitalist relations of production, having in the same process to destroy wage labour and transform production into the reproduction of human life; the "communist" revolution is nothing more than a change of political staff (same as in the bourgeois revolution), who get together to make some economic measures reforming the mode of production. Such is the real basis of the conception of "socialism in one country" which allows people to believe that "workers political power" can maintain itself thus (and for the USSR today we are talking of more than 60 years) on the basis of the capitalist system itself, and especially when reformed. From this, of course, the period of transition from capitalism to communism is no longer anything more than "the transitory mode of production", "workers democracy" in politics and "workers' management" in economy, the socialist mode of production (the soviets plus electrification) which would be a wise mixture of capitalism and... "workers'" democracy whilst waiting for the final redemption. And of finding here all the "marxologist theoreticians" of the "socialist stage", of "state capitalism necessarily serving as a prelude to communism",... in fact, of vulgar apologists of the capitalist system in its soviet form, Russian or Chinese...
For us as for Marx, on the contrary, the period of transition is, and cannot be other than, the dictatorship of the proletariat for the abolition of wage labour, i.e. a whole process destroying the fundamental bases of the capitalist system (value, money, capital, wage labour) to immediately, in and by this same process, affirm more and more massively and consciously, human community, the human collective being. The period of transition can only be understood as a unitary process, a totalitarian movement of positive destruction/affirmation, destruction -negation- in so far as it dictatorially undermines the foundations of capitalism (extraction of surplus value based on the difference between necessary labour and surplus labour), affirmation -negation of the negation- for the more thhe process of destruction is generalised and therefore ceases to exist, the more fully will appear a new communal way of life, a communist way of life. Each endeavour which aims at separating in time or space the two terms -destruction and affirmation- of the process, of the transitory movement, inevitably ends up breaking it, returning in one way or another to wage slavery. That is evidently where politicism and economism end up, like all conception of a "transitory means of production", i.e. a phase of "workers'" democracy intermediate between capitalism and communism.
To replace or identify dictatorship of the proletariat with "workers" democracy, beyond the alteration of the terrorist character of the workers' dictatorship, signifies the perpetuation of political mediation, the perpetuation of capitalist social relationships -wage labour- self managed, democratically controlled by proletarians themselves. This is through denying the "semi-state" (Marx) character of the proletarian state, that is to say the process of extinction of the political sphere and the extension of human community. Such a self managed society is the realized utopia of capitalism, a world whose motor remains that of value valorizing itself -capitalism- but having evacuated from it the revolutionary, destroying side -the proletariat- in order to only maintain the reproductive pole of capital. "Workers'" democracy thus expresses most fully the dream of all reformers of the world: capital without its contradictions, "present society purged of the element which revolutionize and dissolve it" (Marx - Bourgeois Socialism - The Communist Manifesto). As Barrot rightly said:
"Democracy served to harmonise the divergent interests in the framework of the bourgeois state. Now, communism knows no state, it destroys it; and nor does it know opposing social groups. It thus automatically dispenses with every mechanism of mediation which would decide what it would be fitting to do. To want communism and democracy is a contradiction. Since it is the end of politics and the unification of humanity it installs no power above society in order to make it stable and harmonious."
Barrot - Le Mouvement Communiste (Editions Champ Libre)The paradox between communism and democracy is only the expression of that between the revolutionary proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The immense weight that social democratic and libertarian tradition weighs on the communist movement has for a long time induced the proletariat to conquer the bourgeois state, pacifically or not, to occupy it, to reform it; that to the rot of the bourgeois democracy, it was necessary to oppose the purity of "workers'" democracy, briefly, that to all the bad capitalists, it was necessary to oppose and realize its benefits, the benefits of democracy -democracy as the positive pole of capital.
Against all these returns to bourgeois socialism, revolutionary marxism is always demarcated by the need to destroy capital social relations, the totality of the system.
"We marxists have our theoretical papers perfectly in order on this point: To the devil with freedom! To the devil with the State!"
Bordiga - Communism and Human Knowledge, 1952
3. The USPD or "Independent Social Democratic Party" so called "majoritary", which on the basis of the same program -the old Gotha Program- wanted to give back to social-democracy a virginity, which the 3 and 1/2 years of imperialist war relentlessly defended by the SPD, had disintegrated, to say the least. The entry of the spartacists into the heart of the USPD entailed the impossibility of the constitution of a force on communist base. A good many spartacists were rejoining the positions of the ISD (which materialised later, in 1918) and by the time of the founding of the KPD (S) it was anti-democratic, anti-union and anti-parliamentary tendencies which dominated the formal centrist leadership (Luxembourg, Levi, Jogishes, Dunker,...).
On this question we refer the reader to Authier and Barrot's book: "The Communist Left in Germany", as well as to our text "The KAPD in revolutionary action", in Le Communiste No.7.
4. as the text said, the IKD's were founded to oppose the Spartacus Leagues' social democratism, indicating by the name "communist" the class split with the social democrats of every shade. The VKPD -Unified Communist Party of Germany- was constituted in 1920, after the exclusion of the majority of the KPD(S) -a merger against the nature of the IKD's and Spartacus League- thanks to the manoeuvrings of Levi and Zetkin, thus excluding the "leftists", that is to say all truely revolutionary tendencies. It was in the wake of this exclusion that the KAPD -German Communist Workers Party- was to constitute itself in 1920 which was to prolong the inheritance of the ISD's and IKD's. The remnants of the KPD(S), in fact essentially the staff and the leadership, were to fuse with the "masses" of the USPD so as to form the VKPD, a mass centrist party, if not squarely bourgeois.
5. We have already on different occasions, indicated that if for us the use of violence, terrorism and terror are class methods, and as such, part of the communist program, violence and terror never in themselves constitute a class demarcation. Terror and terrorism are indispensable but insufficient. Contrary to Lenin and Trotsky who, in believing that terror was the essential delimitation, ended up massacring and putting down the revolutionary proletariat (strikes of 1921-23, Krondstat,...) we defend these methods of workers' struggle when they are put into action in the historic interests of the proletariat. In this sense, they are "subsidiary", that is to say determined by the class that uses them. On this question we refer the reader to our text "Critique du réformisme armé" in Le Communiste No.17 and No.19.
"(The communists) propose to unmask in advance the insidious game of democracy, and to begin their attack against social democracy without waiting for its counter-revolutionary function to be revealed with a flash in actual fact."
Il Communista - 1921
|"This signifies the rashest defiance of
everything that stands for law and order and the worship of the Homeland,
which is the worship of institutions under whose protection groups of more
or less genuine workers attempt to vent their hatred and class resentment
with unspeakable abuse" said the bourgeois of the "Union", 1921.
"Proletarians of all countries, unite! In a single unit, in a powerful embrace of exploited brothers, let us march down the road that leads to the emancipation of the slaves of capital" replied the Rio Gallegos Workers' Society of the Various Trades, in 1921.
After several years of counter-revolution, and especially after the sixties, the problem arose once again due to the revival of the proletarian fight. In Latin America, as everywhere we are beginning to rediscover the history of the world's proletariat. In every country facts are coming to light after centuries of capitalist exploitation. A lot of myths, like that of Latin-American feudalism, are being shattered - capitalism alone must take the responsibility for centuries of abject poverty and extermination. History exposes the true nature of many political parties continuing to maintain a working-class veneer more importantly, even though very basic, the working-class is realising that it has a rich history of heroic struggles. The myth of the Latin-American independence liberation has collapsed and been shown up for what it really was - a war between imperialist interests and powers. From the start of the 19th century onwards the so-called progressive Latin-American bourgeois were also shown up for what they really were -organised assassins of the proletariat (miners, agricultural workers, Indians, Gauchos, slaves, craftsmen and homeworkers) - and the conflict between civilisation and barbarism, progress and anarchy resumed its true character of class antagonism.
Today it is no longer possible to hush up the efforts that the Latin-American proletariat made to establish class organisations. The first socialist organisations and newspapers (utopian socialism) appeared in Latin-America in the 1830s and 40s from just about all different quarters. In the following decades workers' strikes in urban industries became more and more significant, adding to the miners' - proletarianized 'peasant' (1) -permanent struggle against the local and metropolitan bourgeoisie. The first section of the 1st International were set up in 1865 and had a significant boost in the following decade by the arrival of the combatants of the Commune. From then on, the number of workers' associations increased and major demonstrations, strikes, street confrontations and insurrectional attempts took place one after the other.
Of all the buried chapters of our history, the most important are those recounting the most intense moments of the struggle and the formation into classes, that is the revolutionary period of 1917-1923. Over the whole world the proletariat showed itself to be the "protagonist of its own history". 'Dictatorship of the proletariat' and 'communist revolution' were, for the first time in world history, no longer merely the slogans of a handful of revolutionaries but had become widespread among the working-class of all countries. Up until then the communists had stated that the revolution would have to be world-wide for it to happen at all, but they were unclear on how it would become generalised throughout the world. The victorious insurrection in Russia served as an example to them and added fuel to the fire (a fire which was already smouldering in many countries), giving them a practical answer to their questions, on the one hand by uniting the proletariat by drawing up a clear perspective (of which the organic formalisation in the Third International was only one of the aspects) and on the other hand by uniting the whole counter-revolution (the socialists first of all) against the insurrection. The world proletariat, for the fist time in its history appeared as a single unit, a single movement with a single perspective: revolution.
It was this sane cry, this same perspective of communist revolution which was heard and which spread to an area as far away as Patagonia.
Incredible? certainly, anything that is capable of stating revolution seems impossible after having been filtered by more than 5 decades of counter-revolution. Only the recent awaking of the Latin-American and world proletariat has permitted the discovery of such facts and will permit many others to be disinterred and reinterpreted.
How can it be that such important historical facts are either unknown or distorted? How has it proved possible to camouflage history in this way? The simple answer is that, outside the area directly concerned (Argentina, Chile, Latin-America), the counter-revolution has managed to perpetrate the myth of a Latin-America populated by peasants (campesinos), fighting for land or national revolution.
Therefore the proletariat has remained unable to identify its own worldwide class and recognize its own struggle. In Europe, for example, even groups defending the working-class positions take up obviously counterrevolutionary positions with respect to Latin-America. These are identical to those taken up by the Latin-American socialists in 1917-23 and later by the stalinists (agrarian and anti-imperialist revolution, national revolution continued by the proletarian revolution, etc).
In Argentina (and in Chile), where the myth of the peasant (campesino) was more difficult to impose on the proletarians, who recognized the struggles of the agrarian proletariat to be their own, 2 incorrect explanations of the nature of the struggles were put forward (as always):
- the explanation by the Argentinean army, the Patriotic League, etc. was the following: the army has had to take action against foreign bandits who were killing and raping, burning down the "estancias" (2), etc.
- the explanation by trade unions, socialists, stalinists, etc. was as follow: the army has tortured, beaten and given the order to dig mass graves for 1500 workers who will be gunned down for demanding nothing more than their rights.
The monumental four-volume book by Osvaldo Bayer (3) has enabled us to discount both explanations. Bayer's is the only reliable work or the subject. It is impossible to find fault with the documentation and the depth of the theme dealt with and he has been of great use to us. Nevertheless, the author's interpretation arises from a conception which differs to our own and therefore we will not reproduce it in this article.
Colonisation is a capitalist undertaking which, based on the best possible profits obtainable, decides to appropriate some sort of productive forces (mines, men, land). But there, there were no mines, the men proved themselves inadaptable to the structure of the wage-labour and most of the land was pasture. There was no doubt about the capitalist decision: kill the men, appropriate the land and then bring in other men already used to working for the capitalists for a wage.
Once this process had been accomplished, as in many other parts of Latin-America (4) the great majority of the population was composed of workers from all over the world.
The result of this combination was a high degree of "internationalism" of the 2 protagonistic classes in Patagonian confrontation. The fundamental determination of capital is its valorization - it decides which homeland to defend subsequently. It is for this reason that the "Argentinian patriots" in Patagonia consisted of English limited companies, German, Belgian, North-American, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Uruguayan, Russian, Chilean, and a few Argentinean capitalists. The workers also came from all over the world - Chileans, Spaniards, Argentineans, Russians, Paraguayans, Italians, Germans, etc. - but they had no homeland to defend. Theyy had only the internationalism of their class to brandish high, which is what they did.
Across these millions of almost totally unpopulated hectares of land there were only cows, sheep and capital. This was the scene that gave rise to the feudalist and pre-capitalist theories or even the idea of the definitive "subsumption" (5) of labour to capital. But none of these ideas were correct since the pre-existing labour-process had been completely destroyed. Patagonia was not the same as Rio Grande, Provencia Oriental, Entre Rios or even Buenos Aires, where the "estancia" had been preceded by a century of "vaqueria" (6) (the definitive subsumption of labour to capital).
In a few decades, on these lands fertilized by Indian blood, capital got all the activities necessary for production, commercialisation, stocking, internal and external transport working, using no more people than was necessary for its valorization (the industrial reserve army were made up of the "chilotes" (7) and the European unemployed).
The rapid growth of the wool, leather and meat industries was controlled by the same capital at all its stages. At the end of the last century the same owners were to be found in the estancias, the banks, the refrigorating industries, the warehouses, the insurance, electricity and telephone companies, the shoe factories, the shipyards, the department stores, the maritime goods, passengers, inland and overseas companies, etc.
Apart from the local police and the Chilean and Argentinean army, the politico-military forces upon which the bourgeoisie could rely in the class confrontation were the following: a collection of political and military machinery, decentralized relative to the State, such as the Patriotic Leagues (Argentinean and Chilean para-military organisations), rural societies, commercial and industrial leagues, the local as well as the Buenos Aires press, the free labour association (an army of strike-breakers, as indicated by its name), the democratic and anti-imperialist Yrigoyenismo and other forces which were claimed to be part of the working class. On the workers' side there were innumerable associations and local workers' federations. Nevertheless, the movement was centralized around and directed by the workers' society of Rio Gallegos which, opposed to all the patriotism of the times, stated in its statutes as early as 1910 that "the society will commemorate no other day apart from the 1st of May, since that is the day of protest of the workers of the whole world". In 1914 the first strike took place, the first men were imprisoned for subversion, the strike became generalised, scabs arrived from Buenos Aires, pickets started to confront strike-breakers and there were confrontations with the police, etc. Up until then the Patagonian ports had done no more than to show solidarity with the strikes decided upon in an agitated Buenos Aires. In April 1917 the first attempt at general strike was declared by the Rio Gallegos workers' society.
But after the revolution in Russia the tone of things altered. In 1918, general strike was decided upon in Puerto Deseado. The strikers derailed a train, shot and surrounded a black-leg, etc.
At the end of the year and at the beginning of 1919 strike was declared by the workers' organisations in Chilean Patagonia, the centres of which were Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. In Puerto Natales the workers took over the town. The workers' measures increased and the first news of the revolutionary strike in Buenos Aires was reported in Rio Gallegos in the following way: "General revolutionary strike. Everything completely paralysed. Shooting between strikers and police. Many deaths and injuries. The movement is intensifying. Several railway trains and stations have been destroyed by fire. The situation is serious. We have never seen anything like it!".
One can imagine the emotion amongst handful of workers meeting at Rio Gallegos and calling, for a general assembly of the whole area. As a result, the police campaign gained momentum, the whole of the working-class leadership ended up in prison and the premises were ordered to be closed. But the governor, Correo Falcon, and superintendent Ritchie had not won yet. The workers' federation secretly organised a new leadership and began to distribute pamphlets calling for strike. But the detentions continued and two days later, something happened which seemed incredible in the area: the proletarian women took to the street and confronted the police, unarmed. The pamphlets were circulating throughout Rio Gallegos and even penetrated the prison: "Soldiers and police officers... there is no need for you to remain the people's executioners. Unite with the people, as your colleagues did in Rosario". The repressive forces found the organisers of the movement, put them into prison and broke up the struggle. The white guard was organised and the governor of Santa-Crux and superintendent Ritchie organised the forces destined to save the "Chilean" bourgeoisie in its time of difficulty. The workers' council which had taken over the town of Puerto Natales was liquidated, the Chilean army took the situation into its own hands and the leaders of the councils were executed.
The bourgeoisie had won battle of 1919, but in 1920 the world economic crises spread to this cattle-rearing region. The world market for wool and meat was saturated and prices fell; produce rotted in Argentinean ports. Capitalism began to put its crisis policies into operation: reduction of wages, unemployment, austerity. The working-class retaliated with major strikes by the rural proletariat in Santa Fe, Entre Rios, Cordoba, Chaco, Patagonia and the Buenos-Aires province.
The Argentinean army and the Patriotic League were the decisive elements against the "foreign subversion" (according to the expression used by "Forestal", a London-based firm) the Argentinean Patriotic League described its action in the following way: "in the name of collective interests (against) ... the outbreak of anarchist agitation by bandits ... who wanted to use their weapons to liberate some detained agitators. This state of affairs makes it necessary to take the important step of mobilising the brigades and, divided into defence sections, we are ready to repel the aggression."
Before completing this presentation of the protagonists and antecedents of the struggle, we should quickly mention the political positions and organisations which were of importance in the fight:
- the Rio Gallegos Workers' Society was affiliated to the 9th congress R.A.W.F. (Regional Argentinean Workers' Federation) or Trade Unionist R.A.W.F. Nevertheless, the affiliation was a purely formal one. In reality, the R.A.W.F.'s position was openly counter-revolutionary and all its policies centred on critical support for Yrigoyen's "democratic and anti-imperialist" regime. The revolutionaries of the time referred to the R.A.W.F. - with good reason - a chameleon or as the R.A.W.F. of ministries (ministrialist), because on the one hand it changed its political position as one changed one's shirt and on the other hand it withdrew from all the major strikes at the crucial moment and its leadership took cover in ministries.
- the truly proletarian forces, that is to say the communists, had proved unable, as all over the world, to organise themselves around a single centre. The most significant revolutionary force was the predominantly anarcho-communist communist R.A.W.F. This was the only organisation to attempt to support the Rio Gallegos Workers' Society. The Argentinean Communist Party, the A.P.C., despite being one of the first set up in the world (Jan.1918), was already dominated by the right-wing faction. Its leadership already contained the unfortunately famous Ghioldi, Codovilla (eternal travellers to Moscow) who maintained the leadership on the basis of the Third International (I.C.) opportunistic policies against left-wing faction (the majority in the first three congresses) which went in to publish the newspaper "la Chispa" (8). The Patagonian workers could hope for nothing from this party. If the proletariat had indeed united by the Russian revolution, the Bolshevik policies which conserved capital and repressed the workers along with the opportunism of the I.C. only served to divide it again. Of these two contradictory aspects in 1920-22 only the first reached Patagonia. It was only in 1922 that articles began to appear condemning the working-class policies of the Bolsheviks. This explains the fact that up until then the Patagonian workers, whether they regarded themselves as pure anarchists, communist-anarchists, communists or even socialist had all identified themselves with the Russian revolution, which showed them the way, and used everyday expressions such as "if Lenin catches you!". As workers, material necessities and the example of the Russian revolution tended to unite them in a single party of communist action.
But the absence of a basic plan of action and solid organization resulted tragically in perpetual changes in the Rio Gallegos workers' Society with consequences which we shall consider subsequently.
The bourgeoisie was very much in favour of a repressive solution to the problem. Detentions first began in Rio Gallegos and then in Santa Fe. All workers' meetings were prohibited and beatings and prison sentences were given to those who chose to resist this prohibition. Superintendent Ritchie demanded that troops be sent. The workers' society retaliated by calling for all workers to come out in sympathy for the strikers. And across this barren land (one must not forget the sparseness of the working-class population and the communication difficulties from one estancia to another, etc.) the incredible happened: the strike to free the prisoners became unstoppable.
The bourgeoisie retreated and freed a few prisoners, hoping to break the strike. But the strike continued and by the 1st November the bourgeoisie was left with no other choice but to free them all. But this was already too late, the workers' organisation and communication had improved and they decided to continue the strike, this time to try and gain improvements in the agricultural workers' conditions.
The representatives of the "estancieros" (9) promised to make "sacrifices" and to grant wage increases as well as a series of improvements. But it was again too late: the rural proletariat had already formed its own avant-garde and guaranteed an extension of the fight. Two armed contingents had gone into action. Their historical leaders were "El Toscano", (due to his Italian origins) whose real name was Alfredo Fonte, and "68" (his prison number, also an Italian) whose name was Jose Ricardi. They went from farm to farm, calling for strike and agricultural workers joined the march. They took everything necessary to continue to the fight as they went: provisions, horses, weapons and money. With every action the movement was strengthened both in men and in arms. The land-owners, bosses and administrators of the estancias were taken hostages. All that remained necessary was to disappear in order to throw the police off the scent.
The situation was now such that the whole of southern Santa Cruz was paralysed. The owners attempted to negotiate once more and the "irigoyenists", in the role of "workers' advisors", called for an improvement in harmony between capital and labour. The strike continued, was strengthened and spread. Half a million animals rotted on farm without being able to be sold, the refrigorating factories were unable to function and the ports were completely paralysed. Police repression and detentions were unsuccessful in halting the movement.
The bourgeois newspaper then announced the founding of the "Association of free labour": "The initiative has been taken by an important group in the region to found an 'Association of free labour' so that the worker, tyrannised by the absurd sectarianism maintained by combat groups and other meant of dissuasion, may be completely free to change his direction whenever he chooses, depending on current events and his own interests." In the name of Democracy and Freedom of labour, it was decided to send a group of scabs to Buenos-Aires. Considering that the trade unionist R.A.W.F. (to which the Rio Gallegos Workers' Society was affiliated) was in control of the sea workers' organisations, one could have supposed that they would have at least prevented the arrival of the scabs. But that was too much to hope for: the chameleon R.A.W.F. was positioned on the opposite side of the barricades. The scabs disembarked.
Accompanied by a police escort, it was attempted to bring them to the workplaces. But the workers greeted them with rifle shots, bullets which reminded the proletariat that they are sections of the working- class which refuse to take part in the democratic game, who understand perfectly that democratic freedom is the freedom for the oppressors to maintain exploitation and that statutes and other legal procedures are made to disorganise the workers as a class.
The scabs and their escort were so frightened that they returned to Rio Gallegos immediately. An indignant Correo Falcon ordered superintendent Ritchie to pursue Toscano's and 68's avant-garde, using cars and the police, but they found no trace of the "bandits". The bourgeoisie used this term to separate the armed groups of workers from those "fighting peacefully for their economic interests", hoping in this way to divide the proletariat, to discredit the class's violent action and to isolate the working-class vanguards.
The working-class understood the root of the problem perfectly and saw a qualitative change in the new forms of struggle in the confrontation with capital. It knew that the "bandits" were in fact its class brothers, that they were all "bandits". "Long live the bandits from the South" were the headlines of the workers' press in Buenos-Aires. "Bandit" became synonymous with "worker aware of his class enemies". The Workers' Society which, considering its filiation, should have been opposed to the support of such initiatives, called for "a show of solidarity by continuing the indefinite strike unfalteringly",
The bourgeoisie began to use new weapons to break up the growing unity and centralisation developing in the working-class struggle. The owners made new proposals: very generous ones this time. Terrified by the proletariat's increased organisation and armamentation, the bourgeoisie retreated, preferring to lose a really considerable amount of surplus-value than the whole of capital, including possibly its own head.
The unionist R.A.W.F. defended, in front of the workers, the need to accept the owners' proposals, it came as a big surprise to them when the Workers' Federation answered: "No! the strike will go on!". The chameleon R.A.W.F. had revealed its true nature. As always in these situations, the newspapers championed the cause of "workers' democracy". They proposed that the parties concerned, the agricultural workers, should be consulted and tried to break the class unity using the pretext of majority. They denounced the commission that had taken the decision to continue the strike in the name of the assemblies: "Is the commission a sufficient authority to reject the proposals that had been made, without consulting the workers, who are the only ones actually concerned in the conflict?".
Nevertheless, and despite the attempts of the unionist R.A.W.F., the assembly came down in favour of continuing the strike. The unionist R.A.W.F.'s standpoint was not only utopian and reactionary, but frankly authoritarian, because the armed workers' groups were either unable to participate in the vote or they were liquidated on entering the town. The worthy predecessors of Argentinean trade unionism weren't in the least bit embarrassed to admit that they were against all working-class action: "Convinced that fanaticism is dangerous, we were insulted, even threatened, when we attempted to avoid the worst that threatened us at that time. We see the same situation today a direct consequence of the illogical frequency of strikes and the absurdity of boycotts, and we are forced to support it!". These men were those supposed to put the Patagonian workers in contact with the rest of the Argentinean workers. Obviously the workers remained unsupported, despite efforts of solidarity made by the communist R.A.W.F.
At that time, Correo Falcon (the governor) played a card which could still teach us a thing or two about democratic freedom and rights and about the services rendered to the employers by the unions: "The Workers' Federation of this town is directed by elements which have nothing to do with the workers themselves. This has recently produced a profound split between the bad and the good elements since the later have withdrawn their support for the leadership of the agitators, given that no economic or social improvements have been made for the worker... groups of men excited by sovietist speeches have thrown themselves into the fields, cutting innumerable barbed-wire fences..., it is to be expected in this situation that the police should act energically to protect property and the freedom of labour, since that is their principal duty... As long as the situation remained calm and the workers weren't calling for disorder and lootings, they could hold all assemblies and meetings they wished, considering that they were exercising their rights without affecting the property of others. But as soon as they used these rights to break the peace (of exploitation) and to put constitutional guarantees (the bourgeois domination) at risk, they necessary had to be restrained."
The first armed confrontations took place at "Puerto Deseado" on the 17th of December 1920. One worker was killed and many other were injured or taken prisoner. The workers came through badly but they didn't weaken. As they didn't possess a printing-works, they wrote out pamphlets by hand: "To the working-class people. Comrades: Thirty comrades have been imprisoned by the capitalist tyranny, but we shall carry on fighting for the cause with ever increasing enthusiasm. Down with tyranny, long live the strike!".
At the end of December, superintendent Michieri issued the following ultimatum: "You have 24 hours in which to either go back to work or to leave the Argentinean Lago, otherwise I guarantee to have you beaten and drowned in a bloodbath and sent to the other side of the Cordillera."
Anything serving as logistic support for the strikers - small shops, bars meeting halls, etc.- was wrecked. Whoever turned up at any such place was immediately arrested and beaten up. Superintendent Michieri's troops were successful until they confronted 68's and El Toscano's men, who were unintimidated by their uniforms. They ordered Michieri to stop and the superintendent and his men responded by shooting. This method had always worked up until then, but this time the workers answered bullets with bullets, without hesitation. As a result, several policemen were killed, officers of the Patriotic League were injured and others surrendered and were taken prisoner by the workers. The superintendent, with two bullet wounds, was taken hostage.
When the workers' forces, at that time between 500 and 600 men, decided to continue on their route, superintendent Ritchie's reinforcements arrived from Rio Gallegos. There was a fresh confrontation and the workers lost a comrade, but it cost the police deary. One officer of bourgeois law and order was killed during the fight and another was executed; Ritchie's forces were obliged to flee many of them with bullet wounds as souvenirs, Ritchie himself with one in his right hand.
The patriot's commission returned defeated to Rio Gallegos. The atmosphere of terror for the bourgeoisie was reinforced by the fire in "La Ambrense" warehouse, which was stocked full with tanks of naphta and oil. Bayer commented that "the strikers had chosen their target well. All night long there was one explosion after another. the terror is acting like an ice cube down the backs of all those who believe in private property. On the other hand, for the poor man it is a real show, all this banging of fireworks, many people believe that it is time to leave because Santa Cruz resembles Russia in 1917."
Correo Falcon's appeal was pathetic: "The situation created by subversive elements makes it necessary for all men who respect the law and freedom, which the National constitution grants us, to unite. This is not a working-class movement, but something much worse: a subversion of order, of all the principles of equity and justice. Elements which have neither homeland nor laws are murdering ... we must preserve the respect for our Constitution and our laws and hold high the sacred teaching of the Homeland." And all the patriots assembled, faced with the serious situation, from the Argentinean Patriotic League to the British Legation in Buenos Aires, from the Chilean government to the radical Yrigoyenist democrats, from the Rural Society to the chameleon R.A.W.F. The English government and the new German republic made pathetic appeals to the Argentine chancery to protect property and the citizen.
The true leadership of the strike was now in the hands of the strongmen - 68 and El Toscano -. It was decided to ssend 68 to Rio Gallegos, to combat Soto's defeatist standpoints. He entered the town under cover and left it accompanied by 30 men who already began to take action as they went, taking hostages (administrators, landowners and some policemen), commandeering weapons and horses. Other workers joined them and 68, who had left alone, returned with 150 men. Other superintendents and their inferiors attempted to confront the 50-150 men workers' detachments but they were defeated every time. The red flags continued to blaze in the countryside.
It was under such complex circumstances for the workers that "Yrigoyenism" took the lead, in the name of the whole of the bourgeoisie. They replaced Correo Falcon, the governor much hated by the workers, by an yrigonenist appointed to "defend the workers against the bosses". Argentinean troops disembarked under the command of the yrigoyenist Varela, who admitted that "the workers are right". The bourgeoisie had understood perfectly that the military situation had become very difficult and that the army wouldn't be able to crush every working-class uprising over the whole country. The available forces sent to Patagonia would have been incapable of confronting the workers if they had continued on the path to revolution as their red leaders, 68 and El Toscano were proposing.
The executive power gave the following instructions to the governors and the military: "Avoid blood-shed ... interpret the President of the nation way of thinking, well-known to be working-class orientated." Where open repression had failed, the bourgeois working-class policies were to succeed: disorganise, disarm and divide the enemy. All that was yet to come was Act II - the massacre.
Commander Varela seemed to listen to the workers' demands: freedom to all prisoners, amnesty for all those who had committed criminal acts, etc. Proposals were made to 68's and El Toscano's men and in a general assembly the majority accepted and agreed to give their weapons, the hostages, the horses and return to work.
As always in history, a revolutionary minority refused to be taken in by the myth of working-class democratism. Two hundred men, lead by El Toscano and 68, appropriated the weapons and disappeared. But the pro-workers tactics of the bourgeoisie had won and the avant-garde was cut off from the rest of the class. It will be too late when it will finally be recognized that it was "the faith in this military man that lost us fight."
Radicalism had achieved its objectives and Patagonia was converted from what had seemed to be an unsuppressable state of insurrection to a recuperation of all that had been lost (for the capitalists). Promises were made for a better future and the whole of Patagonia (apart from a handful of workers who had understood their tactics) thanked and honoured the governor Iza and commander Varela for their "progressive work in the workers' favour". As one can imagine, the exploitative conditions didn't change and the promises remained nothing more than empty ones. On the 21st of March, only a month after the agreement, a strike broke out in Swift's refrigorating factories but was rapidly quelled. It was only the first sign of what was yet to come.
The classes prepared themselves for a second confrontation: the Patagonian workers did all they could to avoid remaining isolated again and to gain the solidarity of the whole class by generalising the struggle over the whole area. As a result of their drive, a congress was organised for the whole of Patagonia (Argentina and Chili) with the participation of the Workers' Societies of Puerto Madryn, Comodoro, San Julian, Puerto Santa Cruz, Puerto Descado, Rio Gallegos and the Magellan Workers' Federation. The trade-unionist R.A.W.F. openly sabotaged this attempt to centralize the fight across borders. It was totally opposed to the Rio Gallegos Workers' Society, and the R.A.W.F. objective was to remove all their external support and to set up free unions for "good" workers, etc. Each step taken by the trade-unionist R.A.W.F. was a step nearer their preparation for working-class defeat, backed-up at length by all of the bourgeois newspapers.
The first skirmishes, demonstrations and repressions took place between the 21st of March and the 21st of July in Rio gallegos and Puerto Santa Cruz -Patriots against internationalists, police corps supporting the "free" workers against the proletariat. The situation was also explosive in Chili, especially in Puerto Matales and Punta Arenas. The workers from both countries managed to coordinate and carry out some common acts of sabotage and boycott, despite the counter-revolutionary policy of the trade unionists.
In September 1921, the Workers' Federation began its offensive on two fronts. In its newspaper "The first of May" they denounced the role played by trade unionists of the R.A.W.F. and launched a campaign for proletarian internationalism. At the same time, a group of men - including Soto - covered the countryside in preparation for the new strike. On the 1st of October, under the heading "Patriotic Celebrations" ,the workers' newspapers wrote: "Last month patriotic celebrations took place. They consisted of a multitude of flags, rosettes, gatherings, balls and drinking sessions,... It seems impossible that there are comrades amongst us who support such events. Farewell to the red flags unfolded on the 1st of May." There then followed an account of world proletarian confrontations especially in Italy, where the workers predicted success for their class brothers and said: "who are the instigators of these celebrations? A few tradesmen who buy and sell products throughout the world and compete with others from their own homeland - in truth, their only homeland is profit.. A banker, who speculates in every world stock exchange, who has a stake in every world money market (in reality his homeland is money), a proprietor who employs workers of every nationality (as long as they cost as little and work as much as possible) - in reality, his compatriots are all "beaast of burden" - the cheapest and the most profitable possible (*). When will we understand - we, the proletariat, who have never land nor property nor anything material that ties us to one place more than another - that the confused notion of the 'homeland' is an irrelevancy to us? When will we realise that the homeland is perfectly established and fostered by the privileged of the bourgeois class?".
The workers' anger had already exploded in the countryside. A while before El Toscano had reappeared. Without waiting for the Workers' Society's decisions and vacillations to be sorted out, he declared a general strike in the countryside and began his plan of action: To cries of "Long live the revolution", a handful of comrades set up what they called a "red council".
Nothing was achieved by a meeting in early October with Soto. He didn't approve of El Toscano's methods and thought that everything should be agreed upon by the assemblies. There was a total split and El Toscano and his handful of men were left without any support and were imprisoned shortly afterwards. Soto and his men had signed their own sentences and marched irreparably to death. Only towards the end of October, when open repression had begun, did the Workers' Society call for a general strike. Several groups of hundred of workers were set up and covered the countryside, cutting communications and barbed wire fences taking horses, weapons and provisions. But this was all in the absurd hope that the Argentinean army would adopt a "working-class orientated policy" again. The army arrived in the area in mid-November and distributed itself in small groups throughout the region.
The internationalism of the massacre had already been organised: the Chilean governor sent the Magellan battalion and machine-gun company; the English, German and Spanish governments called for bloody repression and the Argentinean military patriotic league, the Chilean league and the Buenos Aires press urged the defence of institutions and the Homeland. The trade unionist R.A.W.F. added its own contribution towards the bloody orgy. The death penalty was decreed and the executions began.
Indeed, they were executions rather than confrontations, since the workers were politically unarmed, with neither leadership nor perspectives despite a superior number of guns. The trade unionist fluctuations of the Workers' Society had cut them off from the only possible solution: a generalised offensive. If any confrontations at all did take place the army, lead by Varela, had succeeded so well in the previous year that the workers' forces surrendered immediately to the Yrigoyenist commander. This is the only way in which it can be explained how groups of 400, 200, 250, 600, 350, 80 men surrendered to military detachments of a few dozen men without firing a single bullet. It is not known how many men were shot. Bayer puts it at 500-600, but the workers' newspapers talk of thousands.
The massacre had numerous repercussions in Argentina and Chili. The now disorganised working-class tried to retaliate. Desperate appeals appeared one after the other in the workers' newspaper. For example, the Magellan Workers' Federation said: "Workers pointed out by estancia administrators are shot in the back and others are hanged from telephone posts and then their bodies are burned. Such savage mass murders are committed in the name of the god Capital or of the Homeland. We want it to reverberate throughout the whole world like the sounding of a bugle, like an alarm, that in the so very free and democratic Argentinean republic military troops threw themselves like bloodthirsty animals at Argentinean Patagonia killing, killing!". There were a few confrontations, but no generalised counter-attack by the class. About a year later, commander Varela ended his wretched existence with 17 injuries: 15 from a bomb which blew off his legs and 5 bullets in his chest. It was a desperate act, powerless to alter events, carried out by an anarchist, as brave as he was lacking in perspectives. Revenge followed from both sides and culminated in the breaking up of the Argentinean proletariat's "general revolutionary strike" by the socialist party, the 'communist' party, the old R.A.W.F. trade unionists who were all united in the new A.T.A. (Argentinean Trade-union Association).
The Argentinean army believed that the Patagonian workers had realised the "first attempt at revolutionary war". The trade unionists rewrote history saying that the workers had been fighting for democratic rights and rightful economic demands.
As for ourselves, we reject all attempts to separate working-class interests into economic and political. The revolutionary struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat is nothing other than a generalisation of demands: the facts about Patagonia prove it. They confirm that the working-class only defends its immediate interests in fighting for communist revolution. The Protagonists understood this. Their demand was for revolution and their example the Russian revolution: "Comrades, let us continue as yesterday a strong and straightforward fight, this is how we shall achieve our demands like the comrades across the seas who managed to overthrow the vile tsarism. Long live the Workers' Federation!".
Bayer remarked that not one of the Argentinean trade unions have portraits of the Patagonian fighters, or of the workers of German origin who executed Varela, hanging up in their meeting places. On the contrary, there are portraits of the three army generals San Martin, Rosas and Peron. Is it still possible to doubt whose class interests the Argentinean unions are really defending?
2. Capitalist agrarian development firm set up over a large territory.
3. The first 3 volumes published by Galerna and the fourth by Hammer.
4. Not everywhere, because where there was a pre-existing (before colonisation) developed society based on class exploitation (the Incas, Aztecs, etc.) capitalism didn't have to import the whole of its workforce in order to submit it to exploitation.
5. that means inclusion, subordination and domination.
6. "vaqueria": cow hunting to sell the leather, the meat had no exchange value.
7. contemptuous expression used by the bourgeoisie to refer to the Chilean proletariat.
8. "la Chispa", in English: "the Spark", in Russian "Iskra".
9. Owners of the estancias, individuals or societies.
* Verbation! We don't know whether or not these comrades had read Capital, but they had certainly understood it.