Two important events, significant and determining of the international situation, have just happened : the "wildcat" strike of the Opel workers in Germany during October 2004 and, in November, the reelection of G.W.Bush as President of the United-States. The whole communist groups has taken position on the analisis of these events. Globally, the IBRP and the bordiguist groups has been able to acknowledge, from their own position and their own analisis framework, the reality of the struggle in Germany as well as the meaning of Bush's reelection. For our part, we already stated on the strike in the previous issue of this bulletin. We refer our reader to our text on the international situation in this bulletin to know our analisis about the Americain elections outcome.
The present ICC expressed too. Its statements, radically opposed to those of the other groups, about the two events mark a new step, an important one, in the questionning of the basic positions of this organization and of its opportunist drift. In this issue, we take position on the leaflet the ICC wrote during the Opel strike. In the next issue, we'll take position on the ICC analisis of the American elections. In both cases, there is not only a questionning of the political positions of the true ICC but, worst, a serious blow against its basis and principle positions : the questionning of the strike as a class struggle weapon ; and the questionning of a principle position present in the ICC Platform on the elections. Nothing less !
October 14th 2004, 9000 workers of the Opel factory in Bochum (Germany) got on "wildcat" strike (1). The ICC wrote a leaflet, obviously very quickly, since dated the 15th. It should be granted if... its orientation was going towards the development of the struggle. But, as we're going to see it, it's all the contrary. WeltRevolution, the ICC section in Germany, developed a real strikebreaker language to the workers. And it the occasion too to liquidate the ICC and workers movement position on the question of the "workers strike".
But first, and in order to be the more concrete and objective posible, let's recall what was the situation in October 15th when they were writting the leaflet. For the first time since years, an important, central, and symbolic fraction of the German proletariat has just, the previous day, got on "wildcat" strike against the unions, has just broken with the bourgeois law forbidding the strike in the country of the "social consensus". This movement is followed with sympathy by the whole German working class and there are even active and direct solidarity in the region of Bochum. This expresses that the German workers, the core of the European proletariat, are too resolutely within the struggles dynamic of these last years, Argentina, France, Austria, Italy, Great-Britain...
Without political orientation, the workers found themselves in front of a false alternative : whether the "spreading" within the corporation, it means within the Opel factories in the other European countries which was put forward by the "basis" and leftists unionists ; whether the stopping of the strike called by the union IG Metall. And while the true movement of active solidarity between workers - delegations of others factories and other sectors, help and support to the picket line at the factory, the massive participation to the October 19th demonstration - tended to express and to develop, what political orientation has put forwards the German section of the organization which we've been excluded from ? A concrete call for spreading the strike, to its geographical development, firstly in Bochum, in the Ruhr ? The call for the working class to massively participate in the 19th demonstration ? To participate to it in order to dispute the direction of the struggle to the union, to transform its direction and its content in a proletarian sense and to make it a moment of the struggle generalization ? In any case, it's on this orientation that the true ICC would have led the battle in such a situation and in front of the obvious signs of revival of the class struggle at the international scale. But nothing at all of all this of the present ICC. It has even done all the opposite.
We can summarize the main and central axis of the leaflet by the following question : "is the strike still useful for something ?". It "interrogates" the working class since the first sentence : "What is the most effective means of struggle (...) ? Does the strike weapon lose its effectiveness, where the capitalist in any case intends to close the plant, or when whole companies are on the verge of bankruptcy ? (...) Nevertheless, the question of the possibilities and goals of the struggle under such circumstances has to be posed. (...) What is to be done, when the owner of the means of production is no longer able to profitably exploit the labour power of the labourer ?" (reproduced in english in Internationalism 132, Nov. 2004, underlined by us). At the very moment when 9000 workers are on wildcat strike, against the union position, the new ICC interrogates : can the strike be a mean of struggle for the workers ? Posing at that moment this kind of question is equivalent to deny that the workers are, concretly, at this same moment, since one day, giving the response. In the reality of the classes struggle, at the immediate and concrete level as well as historical, this intervention at least sows doubts on the validity and the need of the workers retort which is actually developing in the factory and in the street ! They are the same ones who dare to fill their articles with calls for that "the whole working class [regains] the class the self confidence it needs to counter the arrogance of the ruling class" (idem). But as soon as the workers go on struggle, these ladies and gentlemen "interrogate" the working class about what it's doing and engage it to hesitation. This language of doubt and indecision in regards with the immediate, concrete, real struggle is the same as the one... the unions usually use ; actually the very one that the IG Metall used at the same moment when it was saying the strike of the Opel workers harmed... its capacity to negotiate. In the concrete struggle, in the fire and the everyday life of the open and massive struggle, it is for the least a defeatist and a scab language if it's not the expression of an open sabotage.
Here, there is already a method and an approach, theoretical and political, typically opportunist in front of the classes struggle :
"On the same ground of abstract, unhistorical methods of observation stand those today who would, in the manner of a board of directors, put the mass strike in Germany on the calendar on an appointed day, and those who (...) would by a prohibition of «propaganda» eliminate the problem of the mass strike from the face of the earth. Both tendencies proceed on the common purely anarchistic assumption that the mass strike is a purely technical means of struggle which can be «decided» at the pleasure and strictly according to conscience, or «forbidden»" (Rosa Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, marxist.org).
Since the outbreak of the strike in Bochum - in the workshops, in the assemblies, in the picket line and other gatherings in front of the factory ; with the massive distribution of leaflets and the sailing of its press - the true ICC, the one we claim and we are the real continuity, would have been active part of the strike with no hesitation and would have opposed to the intervention of the unions and of the liquidationist CCI.
At the very moment when the liquidationists' "interrogation" about the strike is rejected, in the facts, by the working class itself, and while hypocritically according that the "mass redundancies, the threat of bankruptcy, do not mean that the strike weapon has become superfluous", they, in their leaflet, spread their poison against the workers on strike : "Nevertheless, it is unfortunately true that in such situations, the strike as a means of intimidating one’s opponent, loses much of its effectiveness" [Incredulous, nevetheless we underline]. "The strike as a means of intimiding" ?
Liquidation ! We don't say forgetting, but liquidation : liquidation of all the ICC taught us since its foundation, of all the workers movement taught us ; rejection and liquidation of all the ICC experience of the years 1980 (2). If this liquidation is at least in coherence with the orientation of the last RI congress which called "to throw off the schemas of the past in order to understand the real dynamic of the balance of forces between the classes" (World Revolution 264, July 2004), it's also in total contradiction with Rosa Luxemburg (The Mass Strike), with Trotsky (1905), even with Lenin (for instance On Strikes, 1899, we republish in the following)... How people who claim to be communists can say such "monstrosities", such revisions of our positions ? And it carries on even more just after : "But also, where the exploiters intend to get rid of those whom they exploit, the strike loses a good part of its menacing power". Is the strike defined by "its intimiding and menacing power" ? But this is precisely what do say all the unions of the world ! Among others, it's against these "arguments", against this deformation of the meaning of the strike, against this limitations, against this real castration of the strike, that the ICC (the one we claim) fought during 3 decades. It's precisely these arguments that Rosa Luxemburg opposes and destroys in The Mass Strike :
"In a word, the mass strike, as shown to us in the Russian Revolution, is not a crafty method discovered by subtle reasoning for the purpose of making the proletarian struggle more effective, but the method of motion of the proletarian mass, the phenomenal form of the proletarian struggle in the revolution" (idem, underlined by us).
The true ICC, the one we claim and we are the real continuity, would have defended through concrete orientations and proposals, through immediate and concrete demands and slogans, the political importance of the strike as a moment of the taking in the workers hands of the struggle, of its control, as a moment towards its spreading and towards the generalization of the movement, as an expression and a moment of the confrontation with the unions and the capitalist State, as a means of regroupment and geographical extension, as a priviliged means at that very moment, in these real conditions, to impose a more favourable relation of forces against the bourgeoisie and to oblige it to step back. Thus we would have been again opposed, everyone on a differente side of the barricade, against the unionists and the liquidators of the ICC who, again side by side, do question the effectiveness and the usefulness of the strike... restricting it to the single "intimidation".
"The means which we need in face of the present level of the attacks of capital is the mass strike of all workers" they say. Well... So we expect the ICC, unless it remains abstr act, incancatory, presents the "wildcat" strike in Bochum - as limited it is we hasten to precise -, its characteristics, its tendency towards extension, against the opposition of the IG Metall as against the corportatist alternative put fowards by the "radical" unionists and leftists, the street demonstration planned the 19th, etc., within the perspective of the mass strike, as a moment, limited, first one, but real, of its dynamic... The (mass) strike isn't an "historical phenomenon which, at a given moment, results from social conditions with historical inevitability" (3) ? Isn't it the "universal form of the proletarian class struggle resulting from the present stage of capitalist development and class relations" (R. Luxemburg, idem, we underline) ?
Well, nothing such at all ! "Of course, such massive, common, solidarity actions are not yet possible", says the leaflet ([despite the fact that in the days to come, and particularly the 19th, there were tens of thousands of workers in the streets and at the gates of the factory !]. It's precisely what the IG Metall says at the same moment. And what Rosa Luxemburg always opposed to !
Then in the following sentences, "the strike is not the only weapon of the class struggle" is put forwards. Why is this sentence for while the workers are precisely on strike and that it's the only means of the moment, of that very moment, to engage the struggle, to spread and to impose a relation of forces ? It's a real sabotage, a dirty work, that the new ICC is committing when it evokes other "means" without mentionning them. Even more since it doesn't propose any alternative to the strike !...
After having wrecked any possibility of "massive, common, solidarity actions", the leaflet dares to formulate what could rightly be a concrete and immediate orientation of struggle in the very moment, October 15th, and in the days to come : "Under such circumstances, demonstrations through the cities can become a means of calling out the workers of other plants and the mobilising of the unemployed, developing a common solidarity". In itself, it's quite correct, and we agree ! When the comrades of Germany wrote this, we were the 15th and the "Day of action" with a great demonstration was planned for the 19th, called by the IG Metall aiming to regain the control on the workers in struggle. The experience of the ICC, of all the workers movement to tell the thrust, shows that, in a situation in which the working class is "massively" going to mobilize, this kind of demonstrations can represent a real stake for the struggle, a moment to dispute the direction of the struggle to the unions and to lead the struggle to its development and its spreading.
So we could expect that the ICC section of Weltrevolution would make a call, or at least would draw a perspective, even vague, even general, in this sense. Nothing at all. No orientation was given... except : "the workers also have to overcome their unwillingness to deal with political questions. We don’t mean bourgeois politics here, but that the workers deal with the problems of society as a whole, and with the question of power". While, according to the leaflet, " massive, common, solidarity actions are not yet possible", the ICC of the liquidationists call the workers to "deal with the question of power" ! Let's aside the incoherency of the "thought" of these ladies and gentlemen and let's precise simply that, for the communist and proletarian point of view, this orientation is nothing but a ranting empty of any sense. In the form, it's not but pure petit-bourgeois radicalism. In the concrete, it means in the classes struggle, it's sabotage and a scab discourse.
Our fraction which is the only one to be able to represent today the true ICC, if it had the material means of an intervention in this struggle (as it did during the workers struggles of Spring 2003 in France), would have intervened not only pushing for the strike, for its spreading, for the gatherings at the factory gates and elsewhere, but also would have distributed a leaflet calling the workers to mobilize for the October 19th demonstration in Bochum, calling them to regroup and to organize themselves to the street demonstration and to any assemblies and meetings in this occasion. The false ICC, the one of the liquidation, has defended an other "orientation"... the one which is present in the leaflet, which ignores the immediate and general needs of this particular struggle and which sabotages it.
This political rout is also a theoretical rout (4). This statement of the ICC of today, translated and published in various languages, comes to put into question, to revise and betray all the proletarian and communist vision of the strike. This revision was already announced when, in the name of the "Decomposition" affecting the working class, the main workers struggles of the last years expressing a revival of the workers fights, have been ignored, despised, even denounced by the ICC of the liquidationists :
- the workers struggles in Argentina in winter 2001 weren't but an interclassist movement with no future and the revolutionaries had nothing to defend except to denounce them ;
- the movement of struggles and strikes (May-June) in Spring 2003 in France wasn't but a provocation of the bourgeoisie - the threat of the college exams boycott by the teachers in struggle was an attack against the workers' children - and the revolutionaries had to call to go back to work, to stop the strike (it's actually what Révolution internationale did from May 22nd 2003) ;
- a few months later, the revolutionaries had to denounce the "maneuver" around the struggle of the workers-employees of the French entertainment industry, called "intermittents", who being on strike "were sawing the branch on which they were sitted" ;
- the workers struggles in Great-Britain and in Italy of winter 2003-2004 consciously ignored and disformed in the French territorial press (see in particular our bulletin 23, February 2004).
Then, already there weren't simple occasional skids, or errors in the analisis and we raised the alarm against this opportunist drift which was appearing. Today, with Bochum, a step is taken. One more. But this one is particularly important since it deals with a fundamental principle of marxism and of the workers movement : the classes struggle. And since it distorts and it tramples underfoot one of the main weapon the proletariat uses against the bourgeoisie : the workers strike.
1. See in the bulletin 28 our analisis of this movement : "Wildcat" strike in Germany : revival of the class struggle in the core of Europe.
2. On the ICC intervention in the struggles of the years 1980, see the bulletin 20, the presentation of the article "On the revolutionaries' intervention : response to our censors..."
3 The French version of this text, Grèves de masses, parti et syndicats, Edition Maspéro, 1969, is sometimes different from the English version on marxism.org Internet site. For instance it doesn't use "historical inevitability", but "historical necessity".
4. In the midst of the political and theoretical rout, the fact the leaflet - reproduced as such in all the ICC press ! - ends with an "enormity" putting into question all the marxist vision on the capitalist crisis, becomes secundary. But... "This crisis leads to the dwindling of the purchasing power of the working population. This in turn hits retailing, the car industry, the whole of industry harder and harder. Accentuated competition obliges the capitalists to lower their costs, which further reduces mass purchasing power, and further sharpens the crisis." From this assertion, to defend the salary increase would be a remedy against the crisis... there is step to take since this door is also opened. But isn't exactly what say the unions, the Left and the leftitst ? Again !
Communist Bulletin Nº 29 - Internal Fraction of ICC