In a text whose title is at the very least pedantic - "Theses on the spring 2006 students' movement in France" (International Review 125) -, the so-called guardians of the ICC political integrity pretend to expose the essential lessons we should draw of this struggle.
Doesn't the title, by itself, actually refer to an historical document ? A theoretical document of exception offering to draw the lessos of a major movement for the future of the proletariat ? A document destined to mark the consciousnesses, to inspire them and to largely contribute to make advance the workers consciouness ?
The text talks a lot and with great emotion of the "the young generations" ; it flatters with no restraint these "young women and girls (...) less involved in political organisations", but who are so much talented for non-violence and who, thanks to the latter, have taken a predominant part in "the great maturity of the current movement" ; it talks of the "intituitive manner" of these "young women and girls" which it opposes later on to the "the violence of the gangs" from the suburbs 1 (refering to the suburbs riots in France at the end of 2005 which, by the way, the ICC has forgotten they've been launched after two kids were killed electrocuted while they were pursued by the police). And if, according to the present ICC, "the depth" (?) of a movement can be measured to some degree by the proportion of women workers involved in it", then the one of the 2006 movement is "historical" thanks to "the high degree of participation by young women and girls".
For the moment, we'll content with the following extract, one of the most demonstrative, of what we've just summarize :
"One of the reasons for the great maturity of the current movement, especially on the question of violence, is the very strong participation of young women and girls in the movement. It is well known that at this age, young women are generally more mature than their male comrades. Moreover, on the question of violence it is clear that women in general are less likely to be dragged onto this terrain than men. In 1968, female students also participated in the movement but when the barricades became its main symbol, the role they were given was often that of supporting the masked “heroes” standing at the height of the barricades, of being nurses to the wounded and bringing sandwiches so that the young men could revive themselves in between clashes with the CRS. This is not at all the case today. On the picket lines at the university gates, there have been many female students and their attitude has exemplified the meaning that the movement has inspired in the pickets: not a means of intimidation towards those who wanted to get to their classes, but a means of explaining, of arguing and persuading. In the general assemblies and the various commissions, even if, in general, the female students are less “loud-mouthed” and less involved in political organisations, they have been a key element in the organisation, discipline and effectiveness of the assemblies and commissions, as well as in their capacity for collective reflection. The history of the proletarian struggle has shown that the depth of a movement can be measured to some degree by the proportion of women workers involved in it. In “normal” times, working class women, because they are subjected to an even more stifling oppression than the men, are as a general rule less involved in social movements. It is only when these movements attain a great depth that the most oppressed layers of the proletariat throw themselves into the struggle and into the general reflection going on in the class. The high degree of participation by young women and girls in the current movement, the key role they are playing within it, is an added indication not only of the authentically proletarian nature of the movement but also of its depth."
We won't elaborate on one of the first and grave problem this document raises from the marxist point of view : for analysing and evaluating a struggle mouvement, it refers more to sex and age criterions, and indeed biological and psychological ones, than to criterions which characterize the social class terrain ; it means essentially criterions of organisation and political consciousness. And that's precisely a tangible sign of a progressive distancing from marxism and of a increasingly asserted tendency to put forward (and to defend) bourgeois and petit-bourgeois fashionable values (the cult of youth, feminism and above all the "non-violence").
Forgetting - if not definitively giving up - any notion of class and classes struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, the so-called representatives of the present ICC are free (not only in this text but also in all their intervention all along the Spring 2006 movement just to limit ourselves to this event) to betray, to travesty what are and have always been the true positions of our organisation in regards to such a fundamental question as violence for the proletariat.
Today they liquid the importance and the need for the working class use of violence. Since in this document, as in many others published by this organisation, all is done to distort, to divert, to reduce the importance, and finally to deny the question of the working class violence about which all the revolutionaries of the past have brought clarifications, for which they led struggles with no concession and which they all defended as an inevitable.
Those who today claim to represent the ICC express position in opposition, in contradiction to those developped by our organisation since more than 30 years.
What actually was the statement of the today ICC during the social movement of last Spring ? And what was its intervention regarding the question of violence in this movement ? What positions has it put fowards in front of the repression exerted by the bourgeois State ? What concrete perspectives has it proposed to confront this repression ?
What position the present ICC has adopted while the bourgeois State massively sent its CRS [anti-riot police units, Translator's Note] against the students in Spring 2006, while these same police units trapped the students and the workers, kicked the isolated, sent many to hospitals, and while hundreds others were driven to police stations and jails before being sent to bourgeois court justice ? Well, the ICC has supported... the expressions of "sympathy for the injured CRS" (Notes from the student movement, March 9th 2006, english ICC pages), it has saluted those who "recognise that the children of the low-paid CRS are themselves concerned by the attacks of the government" (idem), it also salutated as a "proof of maturity and consciousness" which is, at the best, an extreme naivety of these young students who, according to the ICC expression, "know that, behind theirs shields and theirs billies, these men armed to the teeth (the anti-riot units, the CRS) are also human beings, family fathers" (March 11th leaflet, "unfortunately" not translated into english by the ICC itself). In other words, the armed hands of bourgeois repression are themselves "oppressed" and "exploited" that we must understand and defend. Seen like this, aren't their interests the same as the proletariat's ?
That this disgusting and mystifying discourse is tempered by some all purpose phrases directed at feigning the "radical" denounciation of the bourgeois State and its repression, doesn't change anything to the central statement, the one the present ICC has put forward in its intervention. It is exactly the opposite of the one the ICC has always defended according to the tradition of the workers movement.
What is, what was in similar situations, the true position our organisation used to defend ? First, it always exposed the reality of the capitalist system, of its permanent violence legalized by the law and the institutions in the service of the exploiting class, the bourgeoisie, against the exploited classes, in particular against the proletariat. It constantly recalled and denounced the democratic mystification whose aim is to make us believe that the bourgeois State apparatus has the function of fairly arbitrating the conflicts between classes. And above all, it never stopped putting forward clear perspectives for the indispensable and violent overthrow of this exploiting and barbaric system.
Beyond the active participation everywhere we could defend our analisis and positions, orientate and propose perspectives of action, our organisation intervened without ambiguity, in particular through its international press and with a single and same voice, according to a single and same orientation, to denounce with no concession the attempts of the medias, the unions and the leftists to make respect the so-called "democratic values".
In December 1978, while denouncing the main French union, the CGT, which was flying to police's assistance by calling for more police forces, our organisation asserted : "Do they want us to believe that our ennemies are the delinquents and the burglars ? Are we so stupid that we can't distinguish those who, deprived of any mean of existence, pushed to despair, are driven from criminilaty to prison ? Since, such is reality : an exploiting system in bankruptcy which marginalizes increasing important parts of the population and which calls for denouncement against those it reduces to misery. (...).
Police can't be other thing but what it has been designed for : a specialized force at the service of bosses and the State which is in charge of repressing all which questions exploitation and daily oppression (...). Because to defend the "working" conditions of policemen, it's working for strengthening an organ whose fondamental task is repression against workers. To make the workers believe that they aren't the same individuals who move on traffic or protect postmen (as the CGT demands) than the ones who repress the demonstrations of these same postmen, is making believe that the capitalist system is not the capitalist system and that the workers can walk hand in hand with those who beat them up and murder them. Between the unionist false friends and the CRS [the French riot police units],the proletariat has no other choice than to destroy the union apparatus and the police apparatus. (...).
Confronting the CRS is a political act par excellence. It is a step on the path which drives to the destruction of the ruling class power" (Révolution internationale 66, october 1979, translated by us)
"As we said before, repression will be every time more open, more massive and systematic. The problem of the struggle against repression and class violence is going to be acute. On this point, and from the recent living experiences, we can draw (...) : against the mystifications which, no doubt, the bourgeois fractions not in power will launch, the best defence against repression isn't and never will be the legal and juridical guarantees of the "Right of strke" but the very own struggle of the proletariat. It won't be a "democratic", "national" police which would be "the People's daughter" as the PCF [the stalinist French Communist Party] shouts out to all points of the compass, but the workers mass assaults against the police stations for snatching the prisoners from the police's clutches ; it won't be a Left government which will be "less repressive" than a Right government but the outflanking of all the unions, legal and Left shackles" (International Review 18, 1979, The evolution of class struggle, translated by us).
Here is the genuine and unequivocal position of the ICC regarding firstly the nature of the bourgeois repression forces and above all the clear and vigourous policy that any demonstration or struggle of the working class must oppose to them. That is precisely the position we carry on defending.
And to avoid any ambiguity, the intervention of the genuine ICC has always warned the working class against all democratic values, against the "legal and juridical guarantees" of the "Right of strike" for instance, behind which the bourgeois forces will always attempt to lead the workers. It's precisely what the statement adopted by the present ICC doesn't do anymore when it didn't hesitate to call the demonstrators of 2006 to defend in the street these same democratic rights : "We call the students to make hear their voice through the massive and calm participation to the March 18th Saturday demonstration against precarious work and unemployment, against the attacks to the Right of strike. The Right of strike, the liberty of expression are acquisition of the working class struggles of 19th Century 2." (leaflet of the ICC, March 16th 2006, translated by us 3).
Such are the positions of our Current in front of bourgeois repression and its different servants. It's true that these positions find their solid foundations in the workers movement, in the historical experience it won through its struggles and through its confrontation to the ennemy class.
In March 1979, our french newspaper Révolution internationale 59 set the tone by greeting the Longwy city workers who were opposing the repression coordinated by police and unions :
"We want to salute the active riposte of the Longwy workers to the evacuation of the TV transmitter by the police forces. Since the evacuation (...), workers of the neighbouring factory take it over again, the workers on duty call to arms through loudspeakers in the city streets and they activate the factories fire alarms and sound the tocsins. Workers at work come out on strike and arm themselves with iron bars, others join them. Men and women, all regroup into a demonstration which decides the attack of the police station. Equipped with a bulldozer, more than two hundreds demonstrators attack during two hours the policemen which respond with teargas. It will last all morning, during which the boss union office is sacked by the demonstrators and the police station attacked again, for the unions and the French CP city mayor manage to calm down anger. The unions will make raise the siege of the police station..." (translated by us).
At the time, the ICC based itself on this example, not for denouncing the demonstrators armes with iron bars, not for warning against this justified violence, but for denouncing the anti-workers role of the unions, of the Left which acted hand in hand with the police, for denouncing the campaign made against the so-called "uncontrolled groups". It took advantage of this situation to denounce the pacifist demonstrations organised by the united political and unions bourgeois forces for take up again the control on the situation :
"The mayor has denounced the «uncontrolled groups» in order the fight was avoided. The collective and active workers riposte gathering up to two thousands people at the end of the morning, ended up lost in the impasse of a farce demonstration and in an attempt of a new operation «dead city».
Two lessons are to be drawn from this event : this time again, the Longwy workers have shown that it's possible to oppose CLASS VIOLENCE to State and police violence. Thanks to collective action, to solidarity, to the regroupment of the maximum of forces, class violence knows how to find the means for fighting the bourgeois State repression. All those who don't cease but denigrate workers violence and responsibilize for it «strangers elements», lie and side with the capitalist violence advocates. The working class CAN and MUST organize its violence in front of bourgeoisie's attacks. The working class knows how to eliminate the «agitators» when they do exist. The «uncontrolled», the «autonomous», are a pretext that unions utilize to try to bring back the workers to respect their control, public order, capitalist order, to disarm them in front of repression (...)" (idem).
After the streets fights with the police, after the attacks of police stations and besieged «sous-prefectures» 4, after the sacking of bosses headquarters in the cities of Denain, Caen, Nantes, Longwy, our organisation has supported the expression of the workers anger which was behind these massive actions generalised to various cities of France.
Against the bourgeoisie which presented these events as realized by a handful of agitators, we put forwardst that "the first glimmers of a returning proletarian outburst, taking advantage of the support of an entire city population, mobilizing solidarity of entire regions, can hardly be assimilated to «examplary actions of autonomous and disoriented elements»" (idem).
At that time we talked of "the examplarity of these struggles and this workers violence". We greeted "an important step forwards in the working class resolution to fight" and "a qualitative leap accomplished by the proletarian movement whose anger has swept away a demoralising and defeating wing blowed by the unions for years" (idem).
We also questionned : "Is it only for the violence of the fights" that we must salute this struggle ? "No. Since the consequencies of the growing crisis manifest, it isn't new to see workers confronting the police...". Because the new fact "is that the working class doesn't fear to take the offensive in front of the bourgeois attacks (...). It is like this that takes shape the taking in charge of the struggle which leads the workers not only to defend their work and their wages, but also to struggle in relation to their whole social life and to directly question the wheels of the bourgeois State (occupation of the Administrative Courts, of the State Taxes Offices, struggle for house rent cuts in the «HLM cités»... 5). In regards with the workers violence, it doesn't but express a necessary form of its struggle. It actually conveys the antagonistic and irreconcilable character of two social classes whose inescapable conflict polarizes the evolution of the whole society. As such, the confrontations, even limited and sporadic, of today announce the direct and generalized confrontation of the futur and bring in themselves the very need which surfaces back in the workers consciouness : the violent overthrow of the bourgeois State" (idem).
We underlined that, though it couldn't represent a goal in itself, "in class struggle reality, workers violence is never gratuitous. It always expresses itself as a response to direct attack by capitalism" whose form is not only through drastic economical attacks but also through "the very reinforcement of State terror utilized as a mean of intimidation by the bourgeoisie (which) can't but act as a factor of radicalization of the proletarian struggles in the long run" (idem).
This statement of origin of our organization about the question of violence is openly betrayed and liquidated today in the "Theses" adopted in April 2006 by the new ICC. Where the genuine ICC conjugated at the present and clearly and immediatly claimed the use of violence by the working class, included in "the confrontations, even limited and sporadic, of today", the "Theses" utilize the future for "postponing" this use of violence to a remote and hypothetical tomorrow. They condition it to the prior development "a whole process of growth in consciousness and organisation" :
"Unlike exploiting classes, the class that is the bearer of communism is not the bearer of violence; and even though it has to make use of it, it does not do so by identifying with it. In particular, the violence it has to use [the french version is the future here] in the overthrow of capitalism, which it will have [future] to use with great determination, is necessarily a conscious and organised violence and must always be preceded by a whole process of growth in consciousness and organisation through the various struggles against exploitation. The present mobilisation of the students, notably its capacity to organise itself and to discuss and reflect upon the problems it faces, including the problem of violence, thus marks a much clearer step towards the revolution, towards the overturning of bourgeois order, than the barricades of May 68" (International Review 125, Theses on the Spring 2006 student's movement in France adopted at the 17th congress of Révolution internationale, April 2006; we underline).
But someone could ask us : doesn't this defence of workers violence expose the ICC to praise the merits of minoritarian action supposed of giving example of "workers terrorism" dear to groups as the "Bordiguists" ones ?
Contrary to isolated action, our defence is based on organized and wide struggle of large fractions of the proletariat. So in the same presse quoted above, we affirmed in 1979 : "In France, what was the best defence for the workers in an occupied factory besieged by the police and the bosses militia ? It was precisely the huge demonstration of workers of other factories who surrounded the besiegers" (we translate).
After Longwy and Denain struggles, the workers have hesitated to push forward their struggle "because they feel the limits of violent action in itself, because this action drives to an impasse if it doesn't overcome the local character of the confrontations and doesn't come out onto perspectives for the organisation of the struggle (...). Their struggle can't go forward unless it breaks with isolation, it brings a generalisation in which it takes the step of a greater unity of the class. The problem of the class isn't to find a violent expression since it has no other choice but to realize a strengthening of its struggles" (idem).
Drawing the lessons of the struggles of that period, our organisation underlined the fiasco of the movements which let themselves enclosed in pacifist demonstrations, which believe in the efficiency of imploring petitions, in the respect for bourgeois legality and for union control. This fiasco doesn't drive but to demoralization and defeat.
In leaflets, we denounced the workers disarming by the union, their sabotage, in particular in the March 23th demonstration in Paris in which police and unions acted hand in hand against the workers. "To impose themselves in the demonstration, our comrades of Longwy had to jostle in various occasions against the CGT [the violent Stalinist union, T.N] militia (...). Even worse, since the first police attacks, it is the CGT which has protected the CRS from the workers anger !"
And we proposed : "It is ourselves who must take in charge our actions and lead them with the strongest willingness, included at the level of violence. It can't be real organization of our street demonstrations and of their defence if we don't organize our struggles on the workplaces. How many have been jostled, trampled, crushed during the escape in front of the CRS ? It is our responsability to be organized and equipped in front of the State violence. We must be able to prepare the defence of our organizations but also not to fall into the logic of the single military confrontation by enclosing ourselves on this ground" (March 24th, 1979).
"Longwy and Denain have confirmed that, for the working class, there is no different methods of struggle whether it happens in a «democratic» country or in a country with a «dictatorial regime». The methods to which the steel workers in France had to resort to - opposing workers violence to police violence, defying «State legality», and imposing their own needs of struggle without taking into account the «respect of the State laws» - are the same than those utilized at the same time by the metal workers in Brasil".
"The first of the violences the working class has and will have to exert, is the one which consists in organizing itself by itself. And for that, it will have to violently strike to the union and leftist forces. It is exactly what the struggle of this period do attest. In the assemblies, it is by the strength of the number and the fists that the workers will snatch the microphones from the unionists' hands ; in the streets, they'll force the unions and leftist cordons and the CRS's ones to take the lead of the demonstrations and go to call the other workers to the struggle. It is still by force that they'll impose the continuation of the struggle when it'll turn out to be necessary, against the unions which attempt to impose dead-end marches, demonstrations of ending struggle under the slogans of «defend the French steel», or «Lorraine [Longwy French region] will live»..."
"The problem before the revolutionary party, said Trotsky in Terrorism or communism, is to foresee the peril in good time, and to forestall it by action".
It belongs to revolutionaries, if they want to prepare themselves to play an active and central role in the process which drives the working class to revolution, to be particularly clear about all which concern the methods, the means of struggle that their class is and will be led to use in its fight in order to defend itself and to overthrow the capitalist system.
In this process, the question of violence of the working class remains, as it has always been, a central element on which it matters to have a definite and unequivocal position. And if it's far to be a guarantee of victory, it remains an inescapable and indispensable factor in every moment of the proletarian struggle up to revolution.
"The proletariat doesn't fear to affirm straight out the need of violence to break the capitalist shackles which shuts in the society, to fiercely and openly apply it against the counter-revolution forces. The very experience shows that it is impossible for the proletariat to realize its aim, socialism, without using organised violoence, without breaking bourgeois resistance". Such is the position our organization, the ICC; has always affirmed. It always has claimed highly and strongly the use of violence by the working class, not only during the insurrectionary period, but also in every step of its class struggle, in every movement where, for the own needs of its fight, the working class must confront forces which oppose it.
Claiming the use of violence by the working class is also anticipating it, preparing ourselves, organizing it.
On the contrary, "qualifying" and, even more, questionning its indispensable character is at once to deprive the working class of one of its essential weapons of struggle.
1 The ICC english version of this text translated "la persuasion face aux jeunes des banlieues" ["the persuasion in front of the youngsters from the suburbs"] by "persuading the youngsters from the «problem estates»".
2 When the call to defend the "Right of vote" in the electoral campaign presently underway in France ?
3 Note of the translator : this leaflet isn't available in english - at least on the ICC web site - despite all the international publicity the ICC makes about its intervention in the "historical" 2006 student movement in France. Is this simply a forgetting ? Or a discreet censorship by the english speaking militants ashamed of the incredible and crude leftist and bourgeois position which is defended here ? Any way, here is its French version for those who, still incredulous, would like to verify our translation : "Nous appelons les étudiants à faire entendre leur voix, à participer massivement et dans le calme à la manifestation du samedi 18 mars contre le travail précaire et le chômage, contre la répression, contre les atteintes au droit de grève. Le droit de grève, la liberté d'expression sont des acquis des luttes de la classe ouvrière au 19è siècle" (we underline).
4 Regional Representation of the State whose «prefet» is directly named by the government (Translator's Note).
5 The so-called "Moderate Rent House" of the French workers suburbs (T.N).
Internal Fraction of ICC - Communist Bulletin (Nº 37)