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The “mass strike” : a fact or a process ?

At encounters or by mail, comrades and readers have expressed reservations, scepticism, about our analysis of the historical period and especially of the evolution of the classes struggle. We resume and keep faithful to the original ICC method of analysis, particularly with its analysis of “an historical course driving to massive class confrontations” such it has been widely developed and presented in the International Review of this organisation all along its history and more particularly in the 1980's. Amongst all theses questions relating to this method of analysis, one in particular has been questioned, misunderstood and disagreed. It is our appreciation according to which a period of international “mass strike” has been opened up today. Some reject the very word of strike since strikes aren't the central element of the workers reactions of today. Others think we overestimate the level of classes struggle since speaking of “mass strike” in order to characterize the present period, would be believing that we are in a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary period.

Now, for us, it is openly, before our very eyes, that is unfolding and developing a dynamic of massive struggle at the international level. And this happens despite the attempts of silence or censorship – nothing on TV and newspapers about the great workers demonstrations in Greece at the time when was occurring the “indignados” movement in Spain -, or of distortion - the present movements would be searching for “true democracy”. The class movements in North-Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, as weak as they were, have responded to the workers reactions and struggles of the late 2010, particularly the ones of Europe (Greece, France, Great-Britain, Portugal, Spain, etc.). And at their turn, these movements in the Arabic countries to which the international proletariat was turning its attention, have become factors of encouragement to the rising and the development of struggle movements in Europe, indeed in Spain, in Greece, etc... It is actually an international dynamic of workers struggles in front of the crisis and the attacks on the living conditions, which is now developing and deepening - what ever are the obstacles that the bourgeoisie opposes to it. The process of “mass strike” is under way...

We have decided to write one of our interventions on this matter. We think that this question has to be posed and debated the most widely possible.

What Rosa Luxemburg calls “mass strike” and that she largely and clearly describes in her work, doesn't only represent 1905 in Russia, as some wrongly think, or an event of this kind ; it means a class movement which would openly pose the question of the revolution. No. Above all, it represents the class struggle and its process of development in the period that opened up at the beginning of the 20th Century, notably the process which goes up to the revolutionary period, thus which includes what is before and what prepares it : "The [1905] Russian Revolution has now effected a radical revision of the above piece of reasoning. For the first time in the history of the class struggle it has achieved a grandiose realisation of the idea of the mass strike and – as we shall discuss later – has even matured the general strike and thereby opened a new epoch in the development of the labour movement" (Rosa Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade-Unions, cap.1, 1906).

Who, therefore, speaks of the mass strike in Russia must, above all things, keep its history before his eyes. The present official period, so to speak, of the Russian Revolution is justly dated from the rising of the proletariat on January 22, 1905, when the demonstration of 200,000 workers ended in a frightful bloodbath before the czar’s palace (...). But the St. Petersburg rising of January 22 was only the critical moment of a mass strike, which the proletariat of the czarist capital had previously entered upon in January 1905. The January mass strike was without doubt carried through under the immediate influence of the gigantic general strike, which in December 1904 broke out in the Caucasus. In Baku, and for a long time kept the whole of Russia in suspense. The events of December in Baku were on their part only the last and powerful ramification of those tremendous mass strikes which, like a periodic earthquake, shook the whole of south Russia, and whose prologue was the mass strike in Batum in the Caucasus in March 1902.
This first mass strike movement in the continuous series of present revolutionary eruptions is finally separated by five or six years from the great general strike of the textile workers in St. Petersburg in 1896 and 1897”
.(idem, cap.3).

To reduce the “mass strike” to the only pre-revolutionary movements or even revolutionary ones that our class has developed and will develop, is a deep misunderstanding of what Rosa Luxemburg puts forwards and of the essential of the proletariat's fight in one period which is not counter-revolutionary (as it is the case presently since the working class struggle historical renewal of 1968). When in our text in the previous bulletin, The Mass Strike today and tomorrow, we have dared to speak of “mass strike” for the fights under way “today”, we only have taken back very modestly the vision that Rosa Luxemburg has passed on to us. We can even say that the present conditions (the extent and the deepness of the crisis which attacks the whole capitalist world up until its very core ; its terrible implications on the working class which led to the pauperization of the masses ; the struggles of massive retort which spread all the planet...) give such an extent to the vision that even Rosa could not foresee. Actually, we see that what she described at the level of Russia itself, begins now to develop at the international scale : the last months only enable us to see important struggles (for their extent, for their duration and for their anti-capitalist radicalism) developing simultaneously or taking over from one another, running across Europe from North to South, passing to the Southern side of the Mediterranean to come back to its Northern side, reaching as much the other continents with no zone really being spared. And, since the objective conditions cannot but, for the least, developing, the essential of this process of “mass strike” already under way is in front of us.

Contrary to those who could think that Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade-Unions is an old text, “not adapted” to what is occurring in our period, indeed even an “out-moded” text, we invite all the communists and militants to re-read it with cautious and to take back its lessons (and so for so many other texts) of the workers movement. Communists need constantly, and today more than ever, the lessons that our class has drawn of its experiences, thus of the writings of the great figures of marxism as Rosa Luxemburg in order to understand and intervene in the present situation.

All we put forwards here in regards to the development of the class struggle today does not mean that, for us, it is an “highway” which is before our class. If our fraction refuses to minimize and to ignore the workers' very strong anger and willingness to fight back which express today through the planet (and above all in the countries of capitalism's core), at the same time it is fully able to take into account the important weakness that the proletariat suffers presently at the level of its consciousness (difficulty to conceive itself as a class and temporary loss of sight of its historical perspective which notably manifests itself through the very weak influence in its ranks of the Communist Left...). This weakness is before all the result of the so-called “end of communism” which had followed stalinism's collapse. Nevertheless, we are sure there can't be any overcoming of this weakness without the development of the daily and wider and wider fight that the class leads against the effects of capitalist crisis. Here is the path ; that is what we are presently witnessing and that we must firstly and without reluctance support and encourage. As says Rosa : "And it is a veritable ocean of frightful privations and sufferings which is brought by every revolution to the proletarian masses (...). And this awakening of class feeling expressed itself forthwith in the circumstances that the proletarian mass, counted by millions, quite suddenly and sharply came to realise how intolerable was that social and economic existence which they had patiently endured for decades in the chains of capitalism. Thereupon, there began a spontaneous general shaking of and tugging at these chains. All the innumerable sufferings of the modern proletariat reminded them of the old bleeding wounds."

But the battle is still for the essential to be led. According to us, the process of “mass strike” is not but at its beginnings. This is not only due to the own present weaknesses of the class which has the huge historical responsibility to “launch an assault to the sky”, but also and above all to the enormous pressure that the ruling class constantly exerts on it, physically, and especially ideologically. This pressure which had particularly developed in the period of capitalism's decadence, takes in the period we live an importance never reached before in humanity's history ; it reveals more and more clearly the total bankruptcy of capitalism and the bourgeoisie's inability to bring a solution. This is a ruling class on the brink of the abyss which is obliged to refine and use all the tools at its disposal to aim at disarming beforehand its executioner. For this purpose, there is the incredible development of huge ideological campaigns (“democratic” ones with all their “declensions”, anti-communism, etc...) whose main target is the proletariat and for this purpose there are too the multiplication of the obstacles it places within the very struggles themselves.

In regards with the last aspect (the bourgeois obstacles within the struggles), there is a conception of the class struggle that communists cannot share and that they have to fight back. It reveals itself in some kind of a tendency to underestimate, at least, the workers struggles in which the bourgeoisie's influence expresses itself (today, the presence or the control of the unions, the democratic illusions and others...) ; as if, to represent the interests and the concerns of the working class, the struggles had to be “pure”. Thus, these ones which are at some level influenced by the bourgeoisie's ideology or which are controlled by its political or unionist agents, should be ignored and even maybe to be rejected. To develop such a conception and to act according to it would imply to wait the “pure” struggle and so to reject the almost totality of the proletariat's fight. In the marxist conception, there is no “pure” struggle which, only, would deserve to be taken in consideration ; according to us, such a conception would be at the best borrowed to idealism, indeed to anarchism. The fight against the enemy class exists up to within the struggles themselves. The class affirmation does not only pass through its open opposition to exploitation that capitalism imposes, but also and inevitably through its fight to get rid of the presence and the influence, within the struggles, of the enemy class. That is what the historical experience has proved, above all in the period of decadence in which the bourgeoisie has developed State capitalism with its control over all the levels of society ; in particular towards the class which haunts it. It is not necessary here to display all the examples which prove it : but, al least, we can recall that, up to in “the form finally found of the power seizure” - the workers councils -, this fight has been led in 1905, in 1917, in Russia and in Germany ; that in their own ranks, the battle could be victorious in one case for our class, in the other one for the enemy. So let's get rid of this conception of “pure” struggle” since it does not enable to comprehend reality and above all it does not belong to the proletariat.

The FICL (June 8th, 2011)

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