The trap of Fetichism of "Self-organisation" and "democracy"

In the perspective of the class fights to come, one of the lessons that communists must, in our opinion, underline is the danger of understanding the question of organisation of the struggle as a question in itself and, even worst too, as a garanty in itself for the quality and the strength of a movement.

Who hasn't been surprised by the bourgeois media cover (above all on TV) rather favourable to the students and particularly to their General Assemblies during the March and April 2006 mobilisation in France against the "CPE" ? The TV news commented and showed with sympathy those thousands of students gathered in assemblies and the press wrote laudatory articles which claimed to be "objective" about the democratic organisation of those general assemblies. Many of them, the Poitiers University in particular, were presented as example of direct democracy, as a lesson for the "outstanding" organisation of the debates where every one could express.

We noted too the ICC intervention which presented as "wonderful", with no restraint nor reserve, these assemblies which "function on the model of the workers’ councils. The richness of the discussion, where everyone can speak and express their point of view, the way the tribune organises the debates, the votes, the creation of different commissions, the nomination of delegates elected and revocable by the general assemblies, this whole dynamic, this method of struggle are those which have arisen in the highest moments of the class struggle: in 1905 and 1917 in Russia, in 1918 in Germany (...)" (Presentation of the so-called "public" meeting of the ICC in Paris, March 11th.). Is it necessary to recall that it was those same 1918 workers councils in Germany that the present ICC, more and more councilist, now presents as exemplary which excluded Rosa Ruxemburg and Karl Liebknecht from their ranks and thus banned them to intervene ? We know that it has been an important factor for the repression and the bloody defeat which occurred a few weeks later during the Berlin insurrection when the two communist leaders were murdered by the Social-Democracy in power.

It's above all striking that those student assemblies (which are indispensable for mobilizing, for going on strike and for deciding the action to lead), as massive and important they were, couldn't adopt an orientation of extension with concrete actions, except in some exceptional cases which weren't significant ; they were unable to put forwards the slogan of spreading the struggle to the salaried part of the working class, nor even to impose it as the question, as the true stake of the situation; as the only perspective to be realized at once. The defence of this class orientation as the central orientatin of the struggle would have inevitably lead up to an open political confrontation within the very assemblies with the student unions (mainly led by the Socialist Party) and with the various Leftist groups which controlled these assemblies. Useless to say that these assemblies would have inevitably lost their so-called exemplary democratic character and would have become the place of a true political confrontation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Reality has above all showed that the Left parties, the Leftists and the unions weren't at all questionned in these assemblies ; that they were globally considered as being full part of the struggle. Nothing (not a voice and even less a political orientation) in the movement could help to unmask them. The class ennemy acted within the struggle within any risk. We can say that the so-called "democratic" examplary character of these assemblies didn't express the strength of the movement but was in reality a sign amongst others of its weakness and in particular of the lack of struggle experience of the students. The student unions and the Leftist groups didn't have to sabotage the democratic character of the assemblies. On the contrary, they could present themselves even more easily as being at "their service" and as guarantors of their "democracy", precisely since they had no difficulties to swamp the few real propositions of extension of the strike to the rest of the class, to empty them of their genuine proletarian meaning and content ; and since they could easily impose their ground and the union tactic through their Days of Action which led to the dead-end.

To end with the question of "self-organisation", it matters to recall the Lessons of October that Trotsky drew in 1924. Warning against "the danger of treating soviets as a fetish, as some. self-sufficing factor in a revolution" (marxist.org, Trotsky, Lessons of October), and basing himself on the Rusian and German experiences, he defends that the soviets without content (it means as organs of insurrection, as organs of the proletarian power) are nothing, aren't but an empty form. It matters too to recall the lessons Bordiga developed against Gramsci and his "selfmanagement" ("autogestion" in french) vision, "councilist" vision, of the workers councils which empties them of their function, of their political content : "the fundamental political question of the network of the workers councils is based on the historical concept of dictatorship" (Il Soviet, September 14th 1919, translated by us from a spanish version; Ed. Anagrama).

The student assemblies, no question about that, were a necessary moment of the development of the struggle, to initiate it and above all to spread it. They were so, even though very partially, for the extension to other universities. It was not the most difficult task. But, without extension to the rest of the working class, these same assemblies became a form without real content since they didn't fulfil the essential task for which they within the working class.

The question it matters to recall constantly in the general assemblies as to the revolutionary minorities, is that what has a true proletarian value isn't "self-organisation" in itself but, if we can say so, is the "organisation of the setting up of the needs of the struggle" in relation to its different moments. For this, the General Assemblies are an important weapon. But not the only one, far from it. And nor a guarantee.

April 2006

Communist Bulletin Nš 35 / 36 - Internal Fraction of ICC