|Home | International Communist Bulletin 10 ||
Thank you for sharing this report with us. It reads as we suppose it was intended to read as a balance sheet of an experience which you are trying to draw certain strengths before taking a new direction in your particular attempt to contribute to the struggle for the emancipation of the working class.
We have now been in discussions on and off for a decade both with the FICL and before that the IFICC, and we can see some considerable points of rapprochement on some issues in this latest document. We would particularly like to underline your more decisive views on the party and how it will not simply emerge from the economic struggle spontaneously. To quote your document
“During these discussions it became clear that our two historical currents shared the same position that class consciousness was not the mechanical and immediate product of the economic struggles of the proletariat and that in addition it did not come from "outside the working class”.”
We are also happy to read that:
Another consequence of the past of the ICC, of our past, became clearly apparent in the debates with the IBRP . In continuing to refer to the GCF in particular we can state that the major part of the criticisms that “we” have issued on the formation of the PCInt in 1943-5 haven’t a real basis in fact as the members of the Communist Left of France from which the ICC came were largely in favour of the need for the formation of the party in Italy at that time.
We have appreciated all that you have done both in the IFICC and the FICL to support our tendency as a point of reference for potential communists. We have to acknowledge the truth of what you write here:
“Overtime, this aspect of our work has become more central. We tried to make the best possible relationship with the IBRP which we considered the only pole of regroupment remaining after the political and organizational collapse of the ICC. This has resulted in meetings, debates, political clarification (especially on the question of class consciousness, the party and the constitution of PCInt1943), a collaboration policy that has resulted in the joint meetings with both organisations, public meetings of the IBRP supported by us in Paris and translations of articles from the same organization in French and Spanish. At the same time, and in addition to this central focus, we have systematically sought to respond to various contacts, individuals and groups or circles emerging in the world - you can see more matches that we published in our newsletter. In particular, we began to develop a work of discussion and political clarification with the Internationalist Communists of Montreal (now CIK) on the basis of the political platforms IBRP and ICT. After a period of membership – or at least close collaboration – with the Canadian group GIO adhering to the IBRP and following their separation from the GIO, the comrades were open to all of the Communist Left - ICC, the so-called "Bordiguist" PCI and ourselves. Our first task was to ensure that these comrades did not position themselves against the IBRP after what they felt was an unhappy experience.”
Your political consistency in this respect has been unwavering and matched by many acts of personal and political kindness. No one can doubt the integrity and honesty with which you have tried to carry out what you believe in. Indeed we have often felt guilty that we have not been able to reciprocate more and in a better way. In some ways our relationship has been a model for how communists with differences should relate to one another. We may disagree but we have mutual respect enough to recognise that our goal is the same even if our strategies and perspectives are different.
Thus we can agree with your conclusion that
“… we are more than ever convinced of the imperative need for a party, an organ to politically guide the proletariat, the highest expression of its class consciousness for its success in the massive class confrontations to come. Without a vanguard minority i.e. regrouped in an international and centralised party the working class will face a historic defeat.”
But this is also precisely what takes us back to the beginning of our discussions. Despite all our mutual attempts to understand one another we have entirely different world views. We don’t wish to engage in a discussion or a critique of a third party but your emergence from the ICC and your insistence that you are the “real” essence of the ICC has been the single greatest barrier to reaching a resolution of our differences.
This is even apparent in the areas where you have done us the honour to call us the “pole of regroupment” for the communist left forces today. We can agree that we have raised a banner, a point of reference for communists but our perspective of how, and when, this will come about is entirely different. In the first place you see the “pole of regroupment” concept as an absolute. Once it was the ICC, now it is the ICT (since all the Bordigists in their separate “parties” think they are already the finished article they have no concept of anything beyond the rest of the world joining them). But we have always insisted that we are not only not the future international party of the proletariat but we are not even its only nucleus.
This is something we don’t think you have taken on board because you are still precisely in the old framework of the ICC. We don’t wish to rake over old coals or do a deep analysis of what has gone wrong with “Project ICC” but we need to say something in order to make one further effort to demonstrate how different we are from the idea which you repeat yet again in your report that we are the only future nucleus of a world proletarian party. To make this clear perhaps we need to say in what way we have been different from the ICC from the beginning. The ICC was formed from primarily young highly-educated people in the perspective that the end of the post-war boom would quickly lead to a serious crisis for capitalism. To put it in ICC terms the counter-revolution was now over and the working class was in a position to re-assert itself historically. The historic course was towards revolution (or, failing that, war, but that was unthinkable since it meant the end of humanity in their chiliastic vision). The link between crisis and class struggle and between class struggle and class political consciousness was not as spontaneous as the ICC thought. And you now seem to agree if we may repeat the earlier quote:
“During these discussions was clear that our two historical currents shared the same position that class consciousness was not the mechanical product of the immediate economic struggles of the proletariat and that in addition it did not come from "outside the working class."
When the wave of strikes that greeted the end of the post-war boom (1968-76) did not produce a rise in political consciousness the ICC’s conclusion was that this was due to bourgeois mystifications and all their analyses were devoted to the machinations (or Machiavellianism) of the bourgeoisie. And the ICC soldiered on with the idea that it was the pole of regroupment (the CWO was told that the PCInt was Bordigist and anyway was “sclerotic” so we should not even discuss with them). This quasi-religious attitude and the assumption that everyone would just recognise the new virtue of the ICC helped to destroy the International Conferences although the ICC will never admit it. We won’t go into all the splits of the ICC that followed but the first (around the Chenier affair) was really about the ICC’s lack of orientation towards the real class struggle and not the one they imagined. The notion of the “years of truth” was then dreamed up to maintain the fiction that “the historic course” was towards great class conflicts. Instead we were in an entirely new situation where the state capitalist managed crisis, which has sustained and is still sustaining the capitalist system despite the obvious horrendous manifestations of all its contradictions, gave way to the dismantling of the post-war settlement, globalisation and the supposed “free” market beloved of the neo-liberals. What you call the ICC’s opportunism derives from the same need to deal with the collapse of its perspectives. What does an organisation which claimed to be the pole of regroupment do in the face of such a challenge? Well it could have revised its perspectives and said the “course of history” was going to take a longer time to work out or it could dream up another ideological fix ( and it did this in “decomposition”). This was for you a sign of opportunism but in fact was in direct continuity with what had been said before about “the course of history”. What we are trying to explain is that the roots of the crisis which led to your expulsion from the ICC were present from the beginning.
This is why we have insisted that our two approaches to the question of how the working class’ international political organisation will emerge are different. For the old ICC, the question was to establish a centralised self-proclaimed pole of regroupment to which everyone should subscribe today as the nucleus of a future centralised international party. The ICC now considers it was a mistake to refer to itself as “the pole of regroupment” but you still cling to the notion (except now it is the ICT which fulfils this role) or as you put it
“… we remain convinced that any communist organisation, however small it may be, must consider itself and act as an international centralised group, with the same political platform in particular, regardless of its configuration and its geographical presence.”
As you are well aware have never shared this way of looking at the problem, despite agreeing on the ultimate outcome. From the first we have always assumed that the class struggle would take longer to arrive at a level of consciousness on a global scale adequate for the formation of a future international. Along the way the world working class would add yet more experiences to its already rich history, experiences which we might guess at but could not predict with any certainty. This is why we have always said we are not the only nucleus of a future revolutionary international although we hope to play a significant role in its establishment. Similarly it is better for real organisations to emerge within the working class in each territory where it is present than for us to establish warehouses of three or four comrades who just happen to agree with our platform. In fact we would say that premature centralisation can be a barrier to the emergence of new forces within the working class in any single area. What holds the ICT together is not an artificial system of discipline but a recognition that the working class of every territorial grouping is faced with slightly different problems (mainly for historical reasons) and that each local affiliate has to work this out on its own. We don’t need to decree a “culture of debate” because that is what has held us together for 20 years or more. It doesn’t make for very clean or neat solutions to the problems of political work but that is probably because it is closer to the real situation of dispersal and confusion within the working class. In fact it is possible that when we talk of a centralised proletarian international of the future we mean something which is centralised only around a common political programme but which leaves to the local activists how that programme should be carried out on the ground (a scenario not too distant from the reality of Bolshevism when it was a real revolutionary tendency inside the working class).
We are not entirely clear what you mean when you say you aim “to engage in a process of formation of a new organisation with those nearest” to you (most notably the CIK) but we hope this step will improve the dialogue between us all. In this respect we would not be too dismissive either of the groupings that you label as councilist (some, yes, are such but not all). Most of these comrades have come out of the ICC and from the documentation which you yourselves have amply provided on your website it is quite clear why anyone so burned by that experience [like the comrades from Controverses] would wish to renounce what they believe to be the “normal” trajectory of already over-centralised organisations. They now have an entirely different project but they are open and honest (like yourselves) and we can thus have an real dialogue even if all we end up doing is recognising our differences and our different aims but we are ultimately on the same side and struggling for the same goal. Such debate is not a waste of time but, as you already well know, is a part of the inevitable process of clarification of the international proletarian minorities faced with the unpredictable onward march of history.
In the meantime it would be a great step forward if you could participate in the formation of an internationalist organisation based amongst French communists which could act as a real nucleus oriented, not only to debate amongst the internationalists around the world, but also to the working class you are directly in contact with.
J. On behalf of the International Bureau of the ICT
|Home | International Communist Bulletin 10 ||