In our previous bulletin, we had exposed "what are for us the basic aspects of marxism on morality, on the struggle against bourgeois morality and the characteristics of proletarian morality". As we pointed out in our presentation, this was necessary before getting on the critic of the "Text of Orientation" published by the present ICC under the title Marxism and Ethics (see International Review #127 and 128), "given the confusion that presents, not the subject, but the ICC text itself [:] a half digested porridge, a mixture of kantism, of toltstoaïan christianism and revisionism dredged with a small pinch of watered down marxism" 1. We had already the writing of the first part of our document when a second part appeared with more "extracts" of this text of the new ICC. What's the result ? The porridge contains even more ingredients : a dosis of Freudian psychoanalytical theory, an other of mysticism, an other of pacifism... and even more revisionism and opportunism.
All this confirms the need for fighting this Text of Orientation which clearly constitutes an attempt to introduce bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideologies not only within the ICC but above all within the whole proletarian camp ; this attempt is even more dangerous since the liquidators of the ICC make it cynically pass for "proletarian morality" and for "marxism" while they perfectly know - the text itself lets it see - that it's an attack against the foundations of the revolutionary theory of the proletariat.
After three pretentious pages devoted to present and justify the internal debate of the ICC on morality (on which we could possibly go back), the Text of Orientation of the "new" ICC, Marxism and Ethics, really starts at the third chapter with the development of an idea which represents the theoretical core of this text :
"Morality is an indispensable guide of behaviour in the world of human culture. It identifies the principles and rules which regulate the living together of the members of society. Solidarity, sensitivity, generosity, support for the needy, honesty, friendliness and politeness, modesty, solidarity between generations, are treasures which belong to the heritage of humanity [the French version says "moral heritage"]. They are qualities, without which society becomes impossible. This is why human beings have always recognised their value, just as indifference towards others, brutality, greed, envy, arrogance and vanity, dishonesty and infidelity have always provoked disapproval and indignation" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.1, The Nature of Morality, we underline as well as in the following quotations).
According to the present ICC, morality is thus an "indispensable guide of behaviour" made up with "principles", "rules" and "qualities" good for "society" as a whole, it means for all the "human beings" without distinction, for all "humanity" ; and since the moral values form an "heritage", a patrimony of "humanity" and since the "human beings" always acknowledged the moral qualities, morality isn't only unique, but also eternal, valid for all period of time. So the theoretical foundation of the ICC Text is the idea of the existence of a general human morality, independant and above the divisions which existed up to now in human society, and particularly independant and above the social classes. Of course, the Text affirms the existence of different moralities in relation to the different historical epochs, to the groups and social classes. But it does so whether as if they were only particular expressions of the general morality, whether it existed a kind of "human" morality which would transcend any particular or "class" morality. Let's see just a few examples :
"Another fundamental characteristic of the moral realm is that, while expressing the needs of society as a whole, its existence is inseparable from the very personal and intimate life of the individual..." (idem).
"The moral feelings of society at large have always been used by the exploiters..." (Marxism and Ethics, Part. 1, Why the idea of "proletarian morality" was considered suspect after 1968).
"...the proletariat is called upon precisely to help free morality, and thus humanity, from the scourge of the guilty conscience" (idem).
Thus, following the ICC, in a class society, and in particular in capitalism, a morality of "society at large" exists beforehand and above the classes ; this is re-affirmed when it says that morality is "used by the exploiters" and that the proletariat must "free" it (sic !).
Another example : "The class character of a given morality should not blind us to the fact that each moral system contains general human elements, which contribute to the preservation of society at a given stage of its development" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.1, The Nature of Morality).
Here, the idea can't be more limpid : the different "class" moralities aren't but the envelopes [the forms] which "contain" what is truly essential, it means the "general human" moral elements which "contribute to the preservation of society". For the present ICC, this "general human morality" constitutes the true cement of society. And, so that no doubt remain, all that has been said before is underlined through the means of the theory of "social decomposition" of the "new" ICC :
"...capitalism has entered its terminal phase of decomposition, characterised by the gradual dissolution, not only of social values, but of society itself. Today, in face of the “each for himself” of capitalist decomposition, and the corrosion of all moral values..." (Marxism and Ethics, Part.1, Capitalism's decomposition undermines confidence in the proletariat and in humanity).
Since some years, the ICC has defended that "capitalism in decomposition" tended to cause the "lost of class identity of the proletariat" or "the difficulties for the development of its consciousness". Now, the ICC expresses a new preoccupation, not for consciousness, nor for the proletariat's morality, but above all for the dissolution of the "social values" (sic !), for the "corrosion of all (general human) moral values".
This idea of a human generalised morality which hangs over the historical and concrete class moralities, idea which is the directing line running the two parts yet published of this Text of Orientation, from its introduction up to its conclusion, and around which constantly turns its argumentation, has a serious and deep meaning regarding the present ICC : above all, it means a total giving up of the materialist historical method of marxism 2.
Marx in The Holy Family (ch. The Mystery of Speculative Construction), affirms that "a few words will suffice to characterise speculative construction in general". Human generalised morality put forward by the ICC gives us a perfect example of this kind of construction. Let's carry on with Marx with a passage of The Holy Family about the Speculative Construction in which we'll just replace the word Fruit by the word Morality, or Human Morality, and the words Apple, Pear, etc... by Bourgeois Morality, Feudal Morality, Proletarian Morality (see at the end of this text Marx's original passage corresponding to the ones quoted just below) :
"If from real [feudal morality, bourgeois morality, proletarian morality, real moralities] I form the general idea [of Human Morality], if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea [of «The Morality»], derived from [real moralities], is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the [feudal morality, bourgeois morality, proletarian morality, real moralities], then in the language of speculative philosophy — I am declaring that [Human Morality] is the "Substance” (or as says the Text of Orientation, the "nature") of the [bourgeois morality, proletarian morality, feudal morality], etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be a [bourgeois morality or a proletarian morality] is not essential to the [bourgeois morality], that to be [a proletarian morality] is not essential to the [proletarian morality]; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea — [«The Human Morality»]. I therefore declare [feudal morality, bourgeois morality, proletarian morality], etc., to be mere forms of existence, modi, of [«The Human Morality»] (...). Particular real [moralities] are no more than semblances whose true essence is "the substance" — [«Human Morality»] (...).
Having reduced the different real [moralities] to The one [Morality] of abstraction — «The [Morality]», speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from «The [Morality]», from the Substance to the diverse, ordinary real [moralities], the [bourgeois], the [proletarian], the [feudal ones], etc.
But for this purpose, after the chapter on The Nature of Morality (Part.1), the writer of the Text of Orientation of the ICC "therefore relinquishes the abstraction «the [Morality]», but in a speculative, mystical fashion — with the appearance of not relinquishing it. Thus it is really only in appearance that he rises above his abstraction. (...) The different ordinary [moralities] are different manifestations of the life of The «one [Morality]» (i.e. means Human Morality) ; they are crystallisations of «the [morality]» itself. Thus in the [bourgeois morality], «The [Human Morality]» gives itself [a bourgeois morality]-like existence, in the [proletarian morality] a [proletarian morality]-like existence. (...) Thus «The [Human Morality]» is no longer an empty undifferentiated unity; it is oneness as allness, as "totality” of [moralities], which constitute an "organically linked series of members” (or as says today the ICC which "forms a coherent whole" 3 ) . In every member of that series «The [Human Morality]» gives itself a more developed, more explicit existence, until finally, as the "summary” of all [moralities], it is at the same time the living unity which contains all those [moralities] dissolved in itself just as it produces them from within itself (...).
Hence what is delightful in this speculation (of the ICC Text of Orientation) is to rediscover all the real [moralities] there, but as [moralities] which have a higher mystical significance, which have grown out of the ether of your brain and not out of the material earth, which are incarnations of «The [Human Morality]», of the Absolute Subject. (...) Your main interest is then to point out the unity of «The [Human Morality]» in all the manifestations of its life — the [feudal morality], the [bourgeois morality], the [proletarian morality] — that is, to show the mystical interconnection between these [moralities], how in each one of them «The [Human Morality]» realises itself by degrees and necessarily progresses, for instance, from its existence as a [bourgeois morality] to its existence as [a proletarian morality].
As the Text of Orientation underlines it, "the class character of a given morality (- it means the various real, concrete, historical, moralities -) should not blind us to the fact that each moral system contains general human elements (it means "The General Human Morality") which contribute to the preservation of society"
"But when [the author of the Text of Orientation - replacing "the philosopher"] expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the [bourgeois morality], the [proletarian morality], etc., out of the unreal creation of the mind «The [Human Morality]», i.e., by creating those fruits [moralities] out of his own abstract reason, which he considers as an Absolute Subject outside himself, represented here as «The [Human Morality]». [Finally, he declares] his own activity, by which he passes from the idea of [bourgeois morality] to the idea of [proletarian morality], to be the self-activity of the Absolute Subject, «The [Human Morality]».
In the speculative way of speaking, this operation is called comprehending Substance as Subject, as an inner process, as an Absolute Person, and this comprehension constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method" that the present ICC resumes all along its Text of Orientation.
(See Marx-Engels, The Holy Family, ch.5-2, The Mistery of the Speculative Construction, 1844, the exact quotation is reproduced at the end of this text).
But the giving up of historical materialism isn't but the starting point of the critique that the Text of Orientation of the ICC deserves. Actually the speculative method which is developed isn't but the "key" which, as we'll see in the following, leaves the door wide open to a series of distortions and giving up of the basic positions of marxism and to concessions to bourgeois ideology as well as to an opportunist policy always more affirmed and open.
From the idea of the existence of a "general human Morality" whose goal is to preserve "society" - and not a particular, real, society, but The "society" considered in abstract (independently of the epoch and of the social divisions) -, the ICC Text "goes down" afterwards to a more "concrete" level, although still ethereal, when it affirms the existence of diverse moral "systems". These moral "systems" "contain" necessarily the general human elements, it means they are the incarnation of the general Morality. The ICC carries on "going down" in its speculation up to finally get to the "concrete" morality, or rather to the different real moralities which correspond to determined social groups, and particularly to determined social classes. But it does it, as we said above, without giving up the idealist speculation, it means presenting them as much envelopes of the "general human" Morality. It's so that it gets to the conclusion - fallen from the sky - that the morality of a ruling class, since it's the ruling morality, the one which really exists at a given moment, contains "necessarily" the "general moral interest" :
"In general, the ruling morality of society is the morality of the ruling class. Precisely for this reason [?], each dominant morality, in order to serve the interests of the ruling class, must at the same time contain elements of general moral interest holding together society as a whole. One of these elements is the development of a perspective or ideal of social community. Such an ideal is an indispensable factor of the curbing of anti-social impulses" (ICC, Marxism and Ethics, Part 2 - The struggle against the effects of capitalist decomposition).
Thus, for the present ICC, the morality of a ruling class contains elements of "general interests". It means it doesn't only contain the "interests" of the ruling class but also the "general" interests, the ones of all individuals or, to say it concretely, the interests of the dominated classes. Thus, this implies, for instance, that the "moral interests" of the proletariat are themselves contained in the bourgeoisie's morality. Or, which comes to the same thing, that the bourgeoisie and the proletariat do share certain "interests" ; that they have "common general" interests.
But why should the ICC limit itself to the field of morality ? It could say so also for all the ideological forms of the ruling class : law, religion, philosophy... ; it means they "contain elements of general human interests". In reality, it's the essential quibble of the present ruling ideology against which marxism has arisen since its origin :
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. (...) The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. (...) For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones" (Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, ch. Feuerbach, Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas, 1846).
A quarter century later, Engels has come back on this fundamental conception of historical materialism and has even showed how, already in the course of the bourgeois revolution, the interests of the proletariat had begun to come up ; that is to say, how, already in that epoch, the trickery of "general human interest" appeared behind the ideals of the new ruling class :
"We know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealised kingdom of the bourgeoisie; that this eternal Right found its realisation in bourgeois justice; that this equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the essential rights of man; and that the government of reason (...) came into being, and only could come into being, as a democratic bourgeois republic (...).
But, side by side with the antagonism of the feudal nobility and the burghers, was the general antagonism of exploiters and exploited, of rich idlers and poor workers. It was this very circumstance that made it possible for the representatives of the bourgeoisie to put themselves forward as representing not one special class, but the whole of suffering humanity. Still further. From its origin the bourgeoisie was saddled with its antithesis: capitalists cannot exist without wage-workers (...). Yet in every great bourgeois movement there were independent outbursts of that class which was the forerunner, more or less developed, of the modern proletariat. (...) There were theoretical enunciations corresponding with these revolutionary uprisings of a class not yet developed (...). It was not simply class privileges that were to be abolished, but class distinctions themselves" (Engels, Anti-Dühring, Introduction, General, 1878).
In this manner, marxism firstly explains that, in a society which is divided in classes, the ruling ideas aren't but the ideas of the ruling class, that is to say the ideal expression of its domination, and not the "human" ideas of "eternal general value" as the ruling ideology itself precisely trumpets it. And, in second place, it explains how this ruling ideology adopts the appearance of the "general" interest : in order to put forwards its own class interests - it means to put down the feudal nobility -, the bourgeoisie needed to lead all the other classes behind itself ; that's why it had to "present" its class interests with the veneer of the "common interests". Once in power, its interests revealed to be not so "general", but only those of the new ruling class.
Whereas the today ICC finds the "general interest" in the ruling ideology, on the contrary, for marxism, the latter isn't but the expression of the ruling class relations. Whereas for the today ICC, the interests of the dominated class are also really and necessarily contained in the interests of the ruling class (the ruling class and the dominated class have "common" interests"), on the contrary marxism denounces the mystification of the common interests as a mean for the ruling class to carry behind itself the other social classes and to make them accept the new class domination. Thus the ICC gives up, on this question, marxism.
Certainly the present ICC doesn't frankly and openly reject marxism. It abandons it through its distortion, turning it upside down, making it say exactly the opposite of what it wants to express. For instance, it puts in Engels's mouth the speculation about the existence of "general human moral elements" :
"The class character of a given morality should not blind us to the fact that each moral system contains general human elements, which contribute to the preservation of society at a given stage of its development. As Engels points out in Anti-Dühring, proletarian morality contains many more elements of general human value, because it represents the future against the morality of the bourgeoisie" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.1, The Nature of Morality).
But it suffices to read with some attention the Anti-Dühring to realize that it's not Engels's conception, but precisely Dühring's one, the one he fights against :
"The world of morals, «just as much as the world of general knowledge», has «its permanent principles and simple elements». The moral principles stand «above history and also above the present differences in national characteristics» (...). «In the sphere of ethics, the denial of general principles clutches at the geographical and historical variety of customs and principles, and (...) it believes itself so much the more to be above the recognition of the great importance and actual efficacy of concordant moral impulses. This mordant scepticism (...) resolves itself ultimately into a real Nothing, in fact into something that is worse than pure nihilism» (...)" (E.Dühring quoted by Engels in Anti-Dühring, Philosophy ch.9, Morality and Law, Eternal Truths).
For Dühring thus, the differences in the moral rules of different peoples "should not blind us" to the existence of moral "simple elements" and "general principles". In the same manner, for the present ICC, the differences in the moral rules of the different classes "should not blind us" to the existence of "general human elements". The ICC takes up almost literally Dühring's words. (The only "substantial" difference is that the Text of Orientation of the ICC restricts the "moral principles of general value" to the "human being" whereas Dühring considers them valuable also for the inhabitants of other worlds ; as for Kant, the imperative validity of the general moral principles expands to the "Supreme Being").
It's precisely this idealist speculation on the "human principles with general value" which is at the core of Engels's struggle :
"We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatsoever as an eternal, ultimate and for ever immutable ethical law on the pretext that the moral world, too, has its permanent principles which stand above history and the differences between nations. We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. (...) A really human morality which stands above class antagonisms and above any recollection of them becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life" (Engels, Anti-Dühring, Morality..., Eternal Truths).
For marxism, the present ruling ideology has the function of "justifying the domination and the ruling class's interests", to reinforce the mystification within the proletariat that the actual capitalist society is the unique possible "human society" with its "democracy", that it's enough to simply "improve" or to remove its "bad sides". By showing that the presently ruling ideology isn't but the ruling class's ideology whose interests hide behind the mystifications of "general human value", marxism enlightens the proletariat's path towards its revolutionary class consciousness ; towards the breaking with this ideology and towards the understanding that historical and material conditions exist in order to build up a different society, without salaried exploitation, without social classes, and for which beforehand it's necessary to destroy the present social order.
In opposition, for the Text of Orientation of the present ICC liquidators, the ruling ideology contains "elements of general human value". This text contributes so to validate, to reinforce the ruling ideology. Even more, it opens, at least at the level of the "morality", an area of collaboration between classes, at the intersection of what, according to the present ICC, would correspond to the "general interests", common to the bourgeoisie and as well to the proletariat.
Once the ICC Text of Orientation has "established" the principle according to which class moralities aren't but the forms which embody the "morality of general human value", it launches itself in a morale crusade in all directions in order to "apply" this principle. Its results are more than surprising. Let's take the "exemplary" chapter The marxist struggle against ethical utilitarianism :
"Despite its weaknesses, bourgeois materialism, particularly in its utilitarian form - with the concept that morality is the expression of real, objective interests, represented an enormous step forward in ethical theory. (...) The working class, from an early stage, already drew its own, socialist conclusions from this approach. (...) The influence of the utilitarian approach remained strong within the workers movement, even after the emergence of Marxism. The early socialists revolutionised Bentham's theory, by applying his basic postulates to social classes rather than individuals, thus preparing the way for the understanding of the social and class nature of moral history (...). But despite the progress it represented, this utilitarianism, even in its working class form, left a number of questions unresolved.
Firstly, if morality is nothing but the codification of material interest, morality itself becomes superfluous, disappearing as a social factor on its own account. (...) In particular, the identity of interest and morality implies, as Jesuitism already claimed, that the end sanctifies the means.
Secondly, by postulating social classes as "collective individuals" merely pursuing their own interests, history appears as a meaningless squabble, the outcome of which may be important to the classes involved, but not to society as a whole. (...).
Thirdly, the utilitarian approach leads to a sterile rationalism which eliminates the social emotions from ethical life.
The negative consequences of these bourgeois, utilitarian leftovers, became apparent (...). The investigation into the plot of the Alliance against the International (...) reveal the «introduction of anarchy into morality» through a «Jesuitism» which «takes the immorality of the bourgeoisie to its conclusion».
As we know, the workers movement as a whole did not profoundly assimilate the lessons of the struggle against Bakuninism. In his "Historical Materialism", Bukharin presents ethical norms merely as rules and regulations. (...).
But the enforcement of utilitarian morality after 1917 in the USSR was above all a reflection of the needs of the transitional state. (...) Even Trotsky is not free of this influence, since in "Their Morality and Ours", in an unspoken defence of the crushing of Kronstadt, he basically defends the formulation that the end sanctifies the means.
It is certainly true that every social class tends to identify "good" and "virtue" with its own interests. Nonetheless, interest and morality are not identical. The influence of class on social values is extremely complex, incorporating the position of a given class in the production process and the class struggle, its traditions, its goals and expectations for the future, its share in culture, as well as how all of this manifests itself in the form of mode of life, emotions, intuitions and aspirations. (...).
As opposed to the utilitarian confounding of interest and morality (or "duty" as he here formulates it), Dietzgen distinguishes the two. «Interest is more the concrete, present, graspable well being, whereas duty concerns the extended, general well being, projected into the future» (...).
In reaction to the idealist affirmation of the invariance of morality, social utilitarianism goes to the other extreme, insisting so one-sidedly on its transitory nature, that the existence of common values holding society together, and of ethical progress, is lost sight of. The continuity of the feeling of community is not, however, a metaphysical fiction. (...)" (ICC, Marxism and Ethics, Part.2, The marxist struggle against ethical utilitarianism).
Let's analyse the points of this "struggle" of the current ICC against "ethical utilatarianism" :
1) We had to quote widely the chapter in order to show, in first place, how the liquidator's ICC weaves "the historical link" of what it calls "ethical utilitarianism" ; once the existence of a "general morality" hanging over History has been defined, in a speculative manner, nothing is easier and more "logic" than to make appear also a "general amorality" [immorality ? Translator's note] all along history. In this way, it's sufficient to attribute to a determined person a behaviour based on any "amoral" principle - for instance the one according to which "the end sanctifies the means" - to throw it in the dustbin of the "Bads" of history. It's thus that the ICC, starting from the bourgeois Bentham and passing by the pre-marxist socialists and the anarchist Bakunin, finally gets to its target : the Bolshevik Party !
We'll come back in the following on the positions of the "new" ICC regarding the Bolsheviks. For the moment, we just want to point out where its reasoning drives to : if a "value" or a "behaviour" is judged "bad", "immoral" or "amoral" from the "general human" point of view, the class nature of this conduct loses any importance. In this sense, for example when capitalists "hide" to workers their plans to realize massive redundancies, it's as "immoral" as when the workers "hide" to their bourgeoisie their intention to launch without notice into a strike. As well, "brutality" would be as blameworthy in the case, for instance, where anti-riot police would beat workers' cranium to end a strike, as in the case workers would take sticks to try to withstand their strike and would beat at their turn on some policemen's cranium. But moreover, "war" - an armed struggle between two camps - would be as blameworthy whether it's an imperialist war or a class revolutionary war. The method of moral judgement that the ICC establishes so, makes complete abstraction of the content of concrete action, of its goal and above all of its class character.
In fact, when the ICC places violence against one's neighbour in the category of "bad" values, of "anti-social drives", it should logically and clearly reject class violence of the proletariat and even more the necessity for proletarian insurrection. But the writer of the ICC Text of Orientation "voluntarily" hides this conclusion ; he deceives his readers ; he passes his time playing with the words "brutality", "drives", "readiness for fight" and "violence' without frankly saying his position : on one side, the Text places "brutality" in what is "bad" while keeping silence about the concept of "violence", on the other, it acknowledges the "necessity" of class violence while it avoids at any cost to put forwards its necessary "brutality". Nevertheless, the present ICC isn't the first one, far from it, to put forwards the question of moral and immoral general values as valid for all the classes : it's exactly what De Man 4 defended 80 years ago, though he was much more consequent :
"It is not through a bad means, the participation to war, that we can reach a good aim, the suppression of war, since the means of war put in action motives inspired by passion which are motives for war, since they worsen and extend it and survive to it. It's also all impossible to realize liberty through despotism, democracy through dictatorship, non-violence through the use of violence. That is why there have never been yet a violent revolution which hasn't smoothed the path to a despot. Every revolution has been one of these steps for progress which begin higher than they end up. The difference of level between the beginning and the end of the step has always depended upon the degree to which the revolution has employed violence, dictatorship and terrorism" (Henri De Man, Beyond Marxism, Ch. 9, 1926, translated by us from French).
The speculative logic is here irrefutable : since one can't reach a "good" end with "bad" means, it means that we can't get the suppression of wars by war and that a violent revolution can't but lead to despotism. The inevitable conclusion of this is the rejection of violent proletarian revolution and its substitution for the struggle for pacifist "reforms" and by the moral purification of the individuals. The process which is utilized here consists in emptying the events of their real, concrete, content (rejecting as equal imperialist war and revolution) and to interpret them from some pre-established abstract principle ; in this case, the one according to which "violence is bad".
2 ) "Interest and morality are not identical". Here the writer of the Text of Orientation uses an argumentation without consistency : he indistinctly speaks of three very different concepts : the class interests, the material interests and the selfish individual interests. Thus, he allows himself to weigh up the abstract concept of "interest" - any interest - against "morality". "Interest" would be the immediate, the selfish, the material ; as for "morality", it would be the radiant future, altruism, the ideal. This reasoning is very familiar to the workers : it's exactly the one the bourgeoisie uses when they launch themselves into struggle ; don't they defend "only" their "material and immediate selfish interests" in stead of caring for the "community" which they damage with their strike ? Don't they put into question "the future of the homeland, of the Nation", of "their children"...?
But let's carry on with the reasoning of the Text of Orientation. The "interests" - included the class interests - correspond to the "immediate", to "selfishness" and to "material". All right. Then what would be superior ? According to the Text of Orientation itself : "the existence of common values holding society together". But, don't forget that according to the ICC of the Liquidation, in the present and concrete world, the depository of these "common values" is the ruling morality :
"The ruling morality of society is the morality of the ruling class. Precisely for this reason, each dominant morality, in order to serve the interests of the ruling class, must at the same time contain elements of general moral interest holding together society as a whole" (ICC, Marxism and Ethics, Part.2, The struggle against the effects of capitalist decomposition).
No doubt, here too we find exactly Henri de Man's logical reasoning (up to the point where we have the impression that the writer of the Text of Orientation has plagiarized it which, knowing his moral probity, is indeed some thing impossible ; it might be just a simple coincidence). The only difference is that De Man is clearer et more direct :
"Morality of each epoch, that marxism describes as the morality of the ruling class of this epoch, is for this precise reason the morality of all the classes of this epoch. The domination of a class lies only in the last instance on the fact it creates the conditions which impose or suggest to other classes the norms of its morality. (...) No revolution claims Rights of Man newly discovered. Each one claims the eternal Rights of Man. It bases itself on the past in order to proclaim that theses Rights ensue from the moral nature of Man and it accuses the present to violate this nature" (Henri De Man, Beyond Marxism, ch. 8, translated by us).
It might also be a simple coincidence if the ICC argues, again and again, about the fact that capitalism "violates" man's moral nature : "The tendency of bourgeois society is to erode the moral acquisitions of humanity accumulated over thousands of years" (ICC, Marxism and Ethics, Part. 1, The struggle against bourgeois morality).
Well, but what is the conclusion which logically ensues from the reasoning of the "ICC-De Man" ? If the morality of the ruling class is the human morality of a determined epoch ("it contains elements" of The human morality) and if morality must be prevail over any kind of "interest", it follows that the bourgeoisie's values must prevail over the proletariat's class interests. For instance, the defence of the Nation (defence of the "general human community", of the "social cohesion") prevails over the classes struggle (defence of the "selfish, immediate and material interests"). Such is, more or less, the conclusion which De Man results in.
For its part, the ICC gets to the threshold of this same conclusion and it stops there : "But notwithstanding its deceitful and increasingly barbaric character, the nation is the only ideal which the bourgeoisie can put forward in order to hold society together" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.2, The struggle against the effects of capitalist decomposition).
De Man indicates it what is the next step.
3) If "...by postulating social classes as "collective individuals" merely pursuing their own interests, history appears as a meaningless squabble, the outcome of which may be important to the classes involved, but not to society as a whole" (idem, Part.2, The Marxist Struggle against Ethical Utilatarianism).
Here, we have the same idea, expressed differently : the aim of "society as a whole", it means its cohesion, prevails over the "interest" of any social class, over classes struggle. The only novelty here is that, for the current ICC, if the classes pursue their interests, it means that classes struggle is just a simple "meaningless squabble", with no importance for "society as a whole". Thus, with one stroke of the pen, just in passing, one of the basic lessons of marxism is thrown to the garbage can : "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles" (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto).
Of course, the ICC doesn't say that history has no meaning. All the contrary : the ICC attributes here to history a "sense", an "end" which goes far beyond that the prosaic and vulgar disputes between the classes : "History has a meaning, and forms a coherent whole" (idem, Part.1, Marxism and the origins of morality).
But where do this "sense" and this "coherence" come from if they are beyond the real and concrete classes interests which succeeded beyond, thus, the "material" ? What or who has given to history this "sense" and this "coherence" ? The idealist speculation resumes to ascend from the prosaic to the ethereal. The "meaning and the coherence of history" which hang over real classes struggle then can't be attributed but to the Great Architect of the world or rather to human nature :
"Supra-class morality inevitably leads to the acknowledgement of a special substance, of a ’’moral sense’’, ’’conscience’’, some kind of absolute which is nothing more than the philosophic-cowardly pseudonym for god. Independent of “ends”, that is, of society, morality, whether we deduce it from eternal truths or from the “nature of man”, proves in the end to be a form of “natural theology”. Heaven remains the only fortified position for military operations against dialectic materialism" (L.Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours, ch. Marxist Amoralism and Eternal Truths, 1938).
And once more, on this point, we find again by pure coincidence - so much coincidences seem even to be a miracle ! - what Henri De Man had developed in a clearer and more complete manner, it means the very conception of the present ICC on history as being "something more than classes struggle for material interests deprived of any meaning", as being a "coherent whole with a great end" :
"Thus if we understand socialism as something different and something more than an antithesis of modern capitalism, and if we relate it to its moral and intellectual roots, we'll find that these roots are the same as all our occidental civilization. Christianity, Democracy and Socialism then aren't but, even at the historical point of view, three forms of a single idea (...). Each one of the facts of this history (...) is not but a serie of steps in a vast evolution towards a great goal. And every action which makes us get closer to this goal links us to the global effort of all humanity" (H. De Man, Beyond Marxism, ch.3, translated by us).
Of course, the ICC Text of Orientation doesn't let the opportunity to evoke the judeo-christian Ten Commandments in the framework of the evolution towards the great end : "The proletariat absorbs into its own movement ancient rules of community, as well as the acquisitions of more recent and complicated manifestations of moral culture. These include such elementary rules as the forbidding of theft [the English translator forgot - voluntarily ? - "theft and murder" as says the French version]" (Part.1, The morality of the proletariat).
Nevetheless, again, it stops at the threshold and doesn't arrive up to identify explicitly socialism with Christian religion and with bourgeois democracy as De Man does more consequently with his logical premises.
But let's go down from ethereal speculation about the "coherent whole" and the "great end" of history and let's come back to the down-to-earth classes struggle. What means - in the political practice - all this gibberish ? To the more prosaic parlamentarism.
"At long, a Party which wants to recruit members, and particularly voters, can't renounce to resort to the motives which make appear its program as one of general interest. Thus marxist theory can deny as much as it wants the existence of social links beyond class interests, practice disregards these scruples and establishes a compromise where the dogma edifies a contradiction. In reality, the existence of class parties isn't incompatible with the basic principles of political democracy" (H. De Man, Beyond Marxism, ch.3).
The present ICC, for its part, doesn't look to be interested by parlamentarism. Nevertheless, it shares with De Man the foundation according to which "social ties superior to class interests do exist", in particular "moral ties". Agreeing with De Man, the present ICC affirms that "the existence of class moralities isn't incompatible with the fundamental principles of the ruling democratic morality". This, we underline it one more time, opens to the ICC a wide field for collaboration between classes.
4) "The identity of interest and morality implies, as Jesuitism already claimed, that the end sanctifies the means" (ICC Text of Orientation, part 2).
We get to the fundamental principle from which, according the ICC of today, has been weaved the dark history of the "general human amorality", that is to say "the end sanctifies the means". As the Inquisition, the Text of Orientation launches itself into a fight against this principle (and its adepts) which, as the evil, reappears again and again in history. Finally, the ICC recalls us, as the Tables of the Law, the "the correct formulation of the problem" :
"Concerning the relationship between end and means, the correct formulation of the problem is not that the end sanctifies the means, but that the goal influences the means, and the means influence the goal. Both sides of the contradiction mutually determine and condition each other. Moreover, both the goal and the means are but links in an historical chain, where each end is in turn a means to a further reaching goal" (Text of Orientation, part 2, The Struggle of Marxism against Ethical Utilatarianism).
Very well ! The only objection we have regarding this "correct formulation of the problem" it that it "forgets" to mention its source. It's one of the main accused (by the present ICC) of jesuitism : Trotsky himself !
"It is naive, however, to expect from this abstract “principle” an answer to the practical question: what may we, and what may we not do? Moreover, the principle, the end justifies the means, naturally raises the question: and what justifies the end? In practical life as in the historical movement the end and the means constantly change places. A machine under construction is an “end” of production only that upon entering the factory it may become the “means”. Democracy in certain periods is the “end” of the class struggle only that later it may be transformed into its “means”. Not embracing anything immoral, the so-called “Jesuit” principle fails, however, to resolve the moral problem" (Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours, ch. Jesuitism and Utilitarianism).
"A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified. From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man. (...).
“Just the same,” the moralist continues to insist, “does it mean that in the class struggle against capitalists all means are permissible: lying, frame-up, betrayal, murder, and so on?” Permissible and obligatory are those and only those means, we answer, which unite the revolutionary proletariat, fill their hearts with irreconcilable hostility to oppression, teach them contempt for official morality and its democratic echoers, imbue them with consciousness of their own historic mission, raise their courage and spirit of self-sacrifice in the struggle. Precisely from this it flows that not all means are permissible. When we say that the end justifies the means, then for us the conclusion follows that the great revolutionary end spurns those base means and ways which set one part of the working class against other parts, or attempt to make the masses happy without their participation; or lower the faith of the masses in themselves and their organization, replacing it by worship for the “leaders”" (idem, ch. Dialectic Interdependence of End and Means).
As we see, the "only" difference on this point between the current ICC and Trotsky is : whereas the first one expresses the "correct formulation" in terms purely abstract, "philosophical", empty of content, the second one places himself firmly on the ground of the reality of the classes struggle, of the practical lessons for the working class.
Of course, what precedes doesn't mean that the idealist speculation doesn't go down, sometimes, to the prosaic, real, ground of history as we're going to see it in the following.
We've considered necessary to examine separately the "criticism" of the Bolshevik Party by the Text of Orientation. For proving the Bolsheviks' jesuitism, the ICC Text couldn't but resort at better "example" than the Kronstadt tragedy :
"Even Trotsky is not free of this influence, since in Their Morality and Ours, in an unspoken defence of the crushing of Kronstadt, he basically defends the formulation that «the end sanctifies the means». (...).
(...) The elimination of the emotional side of morality by the mechanistic materialist utilitarianism approach, is typically bourgeois.. According to the latter approach, the use of lies and deception is morally superior, if it serves the achievement of a given goal. But the lies circulated by the Bolsheviks, in order to justify the repression of Kronstadt, not only eroded the confidence of the class in the party, but undermined the conviction of the Bolsheviks themselves" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.2, The Marxist struggle against ethical utilitarianism).
All in all, all what - obviously - must be denounced as indignous and immoral - it means the alleged "utilitarian morality" of the Bolsheviks, their so-called jesuitism, their "defence" of the principle according to which the end justifies the means, their "recourse" to lies and trickeries - would be proven by the repression of Kronstadt. Well, we note. Such is the position of the present ICC. We're sure of one thing, the ICC isn't the discoverer of Bolshevik Party "jesuitism" : since always, it has been one of the preferred arguments of the bourgeoisie's ideologists in order to provoke the rejection by the proletarian masses of the greatest revolutionary party of history. The "only" originality" of the ICC is at the level of its use of the Kronstadt tragedy for this same purpose. Regarding the accusation of jesuitism, we prefer to let the old Bolshevik Party the care to undertake its own defence :
"Let us bend down lower and listen to these “revolutionary” indicters of Bolshevik amoralism. In a tone of ambiguous pseudo-praise the Neuer Weg proclaims that the Bolsheviks are distinguished advantageously from other parties by their absence of hypocrisy – they openly declare what others quietly apply in fact, that is, the principle: “the end justifies the means”. But according to the convictions of Neuer Weg such a “bourgeois” precept is incompatible with a “healthy socialist movement”. “Lying and worse are not permissible means of struggle, as Lenin still considered.” (...)
We thus come to the conclusion that lying, violence, murder are incompatible with a “healthy socialist movement”. What, however, is our relation to revolution? Civil war is the most severe of all forms of war. (...) The end (democracy or socialism) justifies, under certain conditions, such means as violence and murder. Not to speak about lies! Without lies war would be as unimaginable as a machine without oil.
Nevertheless, lying and violence “in themselves” warrant condemnation? Of course, even as does the class society which generates them. A society without social contradictions will naturally be a society without lies and violence. However there is no way of building a bridge to that society save by revolutionary, that is, violent means. The revolution itself is a product of class society and of necessity bears its traits. From the point of view of “eternal truths’ revolution is of course “anti-moral”. But this merely means that idealist morality is counter-revolutionary, that is, in the service of the exploiters.
“Civil war”, will perhaps respond the philosopher caught unawares, “is however a sad exception. But in peaceful times a healthy socialist movement should manage without violence and lying.” Such an answer however represents nothing less than a pathetic evasion. There is no impervious demarcation between “peaceful” class struggle and revolution. Every strike embodies in an unexpanded form all the elements of civil war. Each side strives to impress the opponent with an exaggerated representation of its resoluteness to struggle and its material resources. Through their press, agents, and spies the capitalists labor to frighten and demoralize the strikers. From their side, the workers” pickets, where persuasion does not avail, are compelled to resort to force. Thus “lie and worse” are an inseparable part of the class struggle even in its most elementary form. It remains to be added that the very conception of truth and lie was born of social contradictions" (Trotsky, Their Morals..., ch. Stalinism – A Product of the Old Society, in French version the chapter is Morale et révolution).
For our part, we had like to recall what was the position of the ICC before, of the Marxist, revolutionary, ICC about the Kronstadt tragedy. In 1998, in the occasion of the 80th Anniversary of the October Revolution, the bourgeoisie re-launched its campaigns about the death of communism and it published books after books (the more "famous" having been the "Black Book of Communism" ["Le Livre noir du communisme"]) with which it "was proving" the continuity between stalinism and the Bolsheviks, as well as the "immorality", the "jesuitism" and the "crimes" of the Bolshevik Party 5. In front of that, the ICC of that time considered necessary to precise our position on the Kronstadt events because "if, up to now, the bourgeoisie hasn't utilised in its ideological campaign against communism and the Bolsheviks, the tragic events of Kronstadt, it'll do it at a given moment" (in an Internal Bulletin of the ICC, Synthesis of the discussion on Kronstadt, August 19th, 1998).
Since its origins 6, the "old" ICC was explaining the historical conditions and causes which drove to that tragedy within the working class and, from there, to draw important lessons for the future movment of the proletariat : the Kronstadt repression can't be explained but in the context of the beginning of the political degeneracy of the Rusian Revolution ; this one being, firstly, the product of the reflux of the international revolution, of the isolation of the revolutionary Rusia, of the exhaustion and the demoralisation of the masses after years of civil war and famine ; which pushed them to rebel against the Soviet State itself, to oppose to the economical and political measures every time tougher that the Bolshevik Party was compelled to institute while hoping for the international extension of the revolution ; this extension of the revolution failed and the insurrectional movements have been crushed in all countries. Furthermore, the degeneracy of the Rusian Revolution have been "accelerated" by the inexperience of the workers movement itself and its political parties regarding the exercice of power and by the return, in this context of ascendant counter-revolution, of historically superseded political conceptions such as the one according to which it was the Party which had to "take and keep power" in the name of the masses (this conception wasn't only the Bolsheviks' one but also of all the parties of the 2nd International). Such is the explanation that the true ICC has always put forwards concerning the political mistake the Bolsheviks made when they launched themselves in the repression of the Kronstadt revolt (without forgetting other mistakes still more serious such as the return to secret treaties with the bourgeois government) ; and from this, it drew the lesson that "revolutionary violence is a weapon of the proletariat in the face of and against other classes. Under no circumstances can violence serve as a criterion or an instrument within the class because it is not a means for the development of consciousness" (International Review 3, The Lessons of Kronstadt, 1975).
But never before, the ICC had attributed this repression to the "moral" or "immoral" nature of the Bolsheviks.Even the 1998 debate - which was focused on the question : "What is the main cause of the tragic events of Kronstadt ? The mistake of the Bolshevik Party on the question of the State or the isolation of the Rusian Revolution ? - had precised that, if the article of International Review 3 was globally correct, "it is not fully satisfying since, for its concessions to councilism, it focused on the responsability of the Bolshevik Party" (Synthesis of discussion on Kronstadt of the ICC Internal Bulletin, 1998).
This debate has been so worth and interesting that it got to foresee the arguments that the bourgeoisie could use :
"Thus we must analyze the events of the revolutionary Rusia not by looking for who is the bad guy or the irresponsible idiot, but by understanding their real concrete evolution and how this evolution has weighed on their actors. (...) And we must then compare with what they were led to do in a context of increasing counter-revolution, without falling into an infantile vision which consists in saying that the Bolsheviks have deceived everybody in order to reach their ends" (idem).
15 years after this debate, what has been foreseen has arrived. But the irony of history has wanted that the attack against the Bolsheviks by using Kronstadt came not from any "researcher" in the pay of the bourgeoisie but...from the ICC itself. That's so the liquidators of the present ICC give up, bury and betray, section by section, all the historical positions that the "old" ICC considered as indispensable to transmit to the working class. Positions and lessons which our modest fraction is the heiress and which it carries on defending.
But, once established the "disapproval and the indignation" towards Trotsky's and the Bolshevik Party's "immorality", let's ask : what does the present ICC offer us in exchange ? We've seen how the critic of the "utilitarian" morality drives this ICC towards "ethical socialism"and De Man's "surpassing" of marxism. On this path, this very ICC opens the way to Tolstoy's mysticism and to bourgeois pacifism. Do we exaggerate ? Let's go back to the principle of the ICC speculation about the "nature of morality" and the "eternal values" :
"Solidarity, sensitivity, generosity, support for the needy, honesty, friendliness and politeness, modesty, solidarity between generations, are treasures which belong to the heritage of humanity. They are qualities, without which society becomes impossible. This is why human beings have always recognised their value, just as indifference towards others, brutality, greed, envy, arrogance and vanity, dishonesty and infidelity have always provoked disapproval and indignation" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.1, The Nature of Morality).
It's from this "definition" of eternal moral values and by following its own speculative method that the Text of Orientation "logically" concludes that the "means" used by the revolutionaries such as "brutality", "lies and deceptions" aren't justified by the pursued "ends". But all this "reasoning" of the ICC isn't original at all. If we compare it with what Tolstoy preached a century ago, we find back almost the same terms :
"If you are one of these sincere person who wants to serve the people through revolutionary socialist activity, without mentioning the insufficiency of this end, of the material well-being which never satisfies anybody, think in the means you have to reach it. These means are : firstly immoral since they involve lie, dupery, violence and massacres and secondly they never reach their aim" (Tolstoy, To Political Men, ch.5, translated by us from Spanish version).
Thus, it's from the "inadequacy" of the end (which wouldn't be but, according to him, the "research" for material well-being and not for the "spiritual") and the "immorality" of the means (violence) that Tolstoy rejects openly and consequently any violent political revolution ; and, on the opposite, he deduces that the remedy to the social pains lies in the fact that the individuals must make on themselves a moral change, an "inner improvement" :
"(...) The activity of men who desire to serve their fellow man must orientate, not towards the institution of new forms, but towards the change and the improvement of themselves and of the other men. [For Tolstoy, all this is obvious but the task is hard since :] the transformation of men's qualities must begin by themselves and requires much struggle and work, whereas the transformation of the forms of the others' life is made easily made, without inner work, and has the aspect of very serious and important activity" (Tolstoy, idem).
In this manner, Tolstoy takes back the mystical religious tradition, in particular the "original" Christianity which ardently preached that : "The activity of men who desire to help to the stetting up of the well-being can't aim at other thing than inner improvement whose fulfilment is explained by the Gospel in these terms : be perfect as our Father in the sky" (Tolstoy, idem, ch.7).
As stupefying it can appear, it's the same Tolstoy's mystical reasoning that we find in the text of Moral Orientation of the ICC. As Tolstoy, the preacher - sorry, the writer - of the ICC Text underlines that "the highest ideal" we should follow, and which, of course, requires "much struggle and work" (Tolstoy), "a constant struggle" (today ICC), is the one of "inner perfection" (Tolstoy), it means "inner peace and harmony with the surrounding social and natural world" for the ICC of the liquidators :
"Although the highest ideal of humanity has always been inner peace, and harmony with the surrounding social and natural world, this can only be approached through constant struggle. The first condition of human happiness is the knowledge of doing what is necessary, of voluntarily serving a great cause" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.2, The Marxist struggle against ethical idealism).
"One more time, another slander and another lie of the fraction !". It surely is what the "liquidators" of the ICC are going to vociferate. And morally indignant, they'll show that while Tolstoy rejects any revolution, their Text of Orientation doesn't cease to insist on the proletarian revolution as a "great cause". But what precisely this Text does reveal, one more time, of what characterizes the "new" ICC, is the oscillation between two antagonistic positions. This Text is just another expression of the path the ICC covers from its revolutionary positions to positions always more collaborationist and even bourgeois ; such is its tendency since 2001, such is the process of opportunist degeneracy it's living. Thus, regarding the subject we're dealing with here, the antagonism is clear and sharp.
For the idealist Tolstoy, the change or the "moral improvement" of the individuals drives, by itself, to a "political and economical change" of society while the violent revolutions don't but take them away from this "improvement" :"The change of men's properties and of their conception of the world inescapably brings changes of forms in which men have lived, whereas changes in the life forms not only don't help to the change of men's properties and of their conception of the world, but still avoid even more this change by focusing human attention and activity to a false way" (Tolstoy, idem).
In De Man, we find again the same fundamental idea which is a "philosophical" foundation of bourgeois pacifism, about the opposition between the research for "human morality", for "inner peace and harmony", and the "violent" revolutions which don't but generate demoralisation amongst men :
"However, as far as my revolutionary feeling deepens, I move away of the superficial and romantic conception of a revolution which would attempt to force by an abrupt violence a growth which, as any growth, requires times and freedom. I believe in a more profound and essential task than what would be a revolution in the way of governing : it's the way of living which above all matters to change. It's more essential and difficult to change the morales ["moeurs" in French] than to change the laws ; now, the change of laws has no sense for socialism unless they are an obstacle to the consolidation of the new morales. The psychological metamorphosis that this required can't be favoured by violence ; violence doesn't only bring a reaction from the one who suffers it, moreover it demoralizes the one who uses it" (H. De Man, Beyond Marxism, ch. 16, Credo,translated by us).
For the dialectical materialist Marx, on the opposite, the revolutionary movement of the proletariat, the process of "social change" isn't only the base for the end of exploitation and social classes but also it is the one which brings the break with the ruling ideology and its surpassing. It's in the course of this movement that the individuals' "moral change" takes place :
"This revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew" (Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, ch. Feuerbach, Proletarians and Communism, The necessity of Communist Revolution, www.marxist.org).
But the bringing together between the ICC new formula and Tolstoy goes far beyond philosophical and moral aspects. It reaches also to the political level, the one of practical intervention in the classes struggle. Tolstoy's doctrine doesn't exclude politics, nor mass social movements. For him, the disappearance of the State, of political oppression and exploitation is also his "cause". The only thing is that, for him, this cause must not (and can't) be reached by a violent revolution (because this one morally belittles men), but only through the propagation of Christian morality and religion. Politically, this doctrine of "social change" by a movement of moral purification and of "civil" disobedience fully corresponds to bourgeois pacifist movements (like Gandhi - who, that's true, was also, in return, a Tolstoy's admirer - or Martin Luther King) : "(...) reasonable activity, in our time, for men of our Christian society is one : the profession and the propagation, by word and acts, of the last and superior religious doctrine we know : the Christian doctrine, (...) but this vital Christianity whose necessary condition isn't only the no-participation to government acts, but also the no-obedience to its demands since these demands - from the taxes and customs up to the courts and armies - are all opposite to true Christianity" (Tolstoy, idem).
The Text of Orientation of the ICC still recognizes the "need for revolutionary violence" but it does it so reluctantly by warning against its "excesses" and it adopts as its own, in a veiled manner, Tolstoy's and De Man's conceptions according to which "violence demoralizes the one who uses it" :
"And even in the context of the civil war against the class enemy, it [the proletariat] must be convinced of the need to counteract the rise of anti-social feelings such as vengeance, cruelty, destructiveness, since they lead to brutalisation, and dim the light of consciousness" (Marxism and Ethics, Part.2, The Marxist struggle against ethical idealism).
Nevertheless, we must notice that this text - The Text of orientation - has been written more than two years ago. Since then, we haven't stop denouncing the slidings of the present ICC towards bourgeois pacifism : for instance, its flirting with the "humanitarian" campaigns after the catastrophe of the Tsunami (see our Bulletin 30, The New ICC and its Participation to the Bourgeois Campaign "Help to the Victims of the Tsunami", March 2005), or its open calls to demonstrate "peacefully" and to "solidarize" with the anti-riot policemen who were wounded during the struggle against the CPE in France (Spring 2006, see Bulletin 35, Manifestations et grèves en France : Le nouveau CCI affirme sa solidarité avec les CRS et la police anti-émeutes !, article only in French or Spanish). Up to what level has bourgeois pacifism penetrated into the ICC of today after two years of moral indoctrination - sorry, of "internal debate" - ? Let's look at it closer.
What does Tolstoy say ? Essentially, given the strength and the means of repression at its disposal, it's impossible to overthrow by violence. That any attempt of violent revolution can't but lead up to repression and reinforcement of the government itself. Thus, its preach for a movement which transforms the individuals' morality, movement from which they consciously modify their life, their social "environment", by self-conviction and not by force : "The strength and cautiousness of the governments which defend their existence, are today so great that no ruse, no deception, no cruelty, can't not only overthrow them but even can't shake them. At present, any attempt of revolution doesn't but bring a new justification for governments' violence and increase their power. (...) In order men can live a common life without oppress one another, it's not institutions sustained by force which are necessary, but a moral state of men in which they'll act, by inner conviction and not by constraint, towards the others as they want the others act towards them" (Tolstoy, idem, ch.5).
What does the ICC, for its part, defend today ? We find a significant example in Revolución Mundial (the ICC publication in Mexico) when it tries to draw the main lesson of the recent events of Oaxaca 7:
"The first question which appears to the light of history is that the proletariat hasn't much possibilities to oppose violence to violence. Stones and bludgeons have small efficiency against tanks, firearms and toxic gas of the repression forces. It's not at that level that the class can "compete" with. The essential factor of the next revolution is consciousness. The world proletarian revolution isn't a problem of «looking at the one who beats up the strongest», it's its massive and conscious action which gives it a superior strength. For this, the proletariat will have to convince the non-exploiting and marginalized classes of the need to destroy capitalism. To violent repression by capitalism, the proletariat will have to oppose the arm of massive and conscious mobilization" (Oaxaca : Lessons to draw from a trap, Revolución Mundial #96, January 2007, publication of the ICC in Mexico, translated by us).
The ICC reasoning is exactly the same as Tolstoy's. First, it erases the class character of violence. At the same time, it underlines - making pretence of basing itself on history ! - that the "the proletariat hasn't much possibilities to oppose violence to violence", that revolution isn't a problem of "the one who beats up the strongest" (familiar sentence through which, again, it denies class violence). As substitute to violence, RM proposes... consciousness ! It underlines too that "to violent repression by capitalism, the proletariat will have to oppose the arm of massive and conscious mobilization" which lets understand that can't be, nor must not, be violent.
But what "consciousness" does the present ICC speak of ? Up to now, we thought that the proletariat's class consciousness implies the consciousness of the necessity of destroying, at term, the bourgeois State - through the mean of revolutionary violence, of the insurrection, of the civil war -, which means of course a long period of preparation, of experience of class confrontations, of class fights more or less violent. It means that "the massive and conscious action" of the proletariat necessarily includes some methods of class violence in relation with the development of the movement itself.
Today, the "new" ICC puts forwards consciousness and massive mobilization as an alternative to violence ; it opposes "consciousness" to "violence". Thus so, according to the ICC, the "consciousness" that the proletariat should acquire, can't be but the one according to which it must act in a non-violent manner, according to which its massive mobilization must be non-violent. It's that non-violent "massive and conscious mobilization" which the proletariat and the other exploited should not only oppose to repression but also, still according to the present ICC, which would constitute the "essential factor of revolution" : an idea which comes close to Tolstoy's, De Man's, Gandhi's or Martin Luther King's doctrines, and all bourgeois pacifism in general.
We now understand the laudatory tone, full of emotion and without criticism - which must have surprised more than a reader and, we hope, more than an ICC militant - that the Text of Orientation uses in its first part dedicated to Tolstoy. For his part, Lenin had a more "critical" point of view about the political and moral positions of that one :
"On the one hand, the most sober realism, the tearing away of all and sundry masks; on the other, the preaching of one of the most odious things on earth, namely, religion, the striving to replace officially appointed priests by priests who will serve from moral conviction, i.e., to cultivate the most refined and, therefore, particularly disgusting clericalism" (Lenin, Proletari #35, Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution, 1908).
Today, the liquidators of the ICC cultivate too, more and more, a kind of clerical "marxism".
It remains still several themes to examine which are developed by the ICC Text of Orientation about morality. Nevertheless, the method we've employed - it means going back the literal roots of the criticized positions, to quote them as loyally as possible - has given to this document of criticism an extension which exceeds very much the limits of original plan and, surely too, the patience of our readers. We must thus, for the moment, stop here. If it turns out to be necessary and if our forces allow it, we'll deal in future issues of our bulletin with some other subjects in abeyance. Any way, it seems to us that we've dealt with the essential aspects.
From our critic, it ensues an increased fear for the trajectory of opportunist degeneracy which saps, more and more deeply, the present ICC. The Text of Orientation, Marxism and Ethics, represents an important step of this opportunist degeneracy. That's why we must reject it and fight it in a decided manner.
Theoretically, it comes in support of the ruling ideology as well as it falls into the most appalling revisionism of marxism. It omits or roughly distorts more than a foundation of the proletariat's revolutionary theory whereas it takes back almost literally a whole series of writers who express the bourgeoisie's point of view 8. In a veiled manner, it carries on the work of liquidation, one by one, of the theoretical and political acquisitions of the "old" ICC. The muddled form which it uses, expresses not only the speculative method which serves it as axis, but above all all its ambiguity and its oscillation between the defence of a revolutionary position which maintains with difficulty and a reactionary one which gains more ground every time.
Politically, by defending the concept of "human morality", it opens widely the door to class collaboration with the bourgeoisie. In an immediate manner, it justifies and reinforces within the present ICC the tendency to support the ideological, humanitarian and pacifist campaigns of the bourgeoisie. For the future, it constitutes a base for a possible betrayal of the proletariat when the critical moment will present itself in the classes struggle.
It represents a real attack against the proletarian camp, above all for the new elements of this camp, since it introduces old arguments of bourgeois ideology and the worst opportunism through a theme which hasn't been much developed. The groups and the elements of the proletarian camp, as having a permanent responsibility for fighting political opportunism and theoretical revisionism, must pronounce a clear rejection of this attack led by the liquidators of the ICC.
To the members of the ICC, before they adopt this Text of Orientation on morality, we recommend to read, at least, Henri De Man's work we quoted : Beyond Marxism. They'll find, exposed in much clearer and deeper manner, all the arguments that the new Text of Orientation the liquidators aims at make them adopt. But above all, they'll find already today the point of arrival which is promised to them if they carry on their trajectory in which they engaged these years and towards which this "Text of Orientation" "catapults" them :
"I'm not marxist anymore, not because such or such affirmation of marxism appears false to me, but rather because, since I became emancipated of the marxist way of thinking, I feel closer to the understanding of socialism, as manifestation, variable in accordance with the epochs, of an eternal aspiration for a social order true to our moral sense" (Henri De Man).
1. We refer to the Text of Orientation of the present ICC, Marxism and Ethics (internal debate of the ICC) which is published in two parts in the International Review 127 and 128.
2. Actually the 2001 ICC Text of Orientation about Confidence and Solidarity already foreshadowed this giving up of historical materialism even though it didn't get up yet to oppose so openly to the foundations of marxism as the present text does it today. See "la méthode spéculative du CCI" bulletin n°3 of the Fraction, Nov. 2001, not translated into english.
3. Marxism and Ethics, ch.Marxism and the origins of morality, ICC Text of Orientation. If we say that history has a "meaning", a "sense", it means then that it also has a "destiny" (which is precisely the aspect that gives it a "sense"). In other terms, humanity is "predestinated". This grazes pure religious mysticism.We'll see in the followings that it's not the only expression of mysticism of the Text.
4. Henri De Man : born in 1885 in Belgium, he is dead in 1953 in Switzerland. Figure of the Belgium Workers Party [POB], he was also a teacher of social psychology. Pacifist up to the 1914 declaration of war, he then became a determined patriot and enrolled in the army. Vice-President, then President of the POB when Emile Vandervelde died, he evolved through the years 1930 towards radical nationalism after having written in 1926 a book whose title is Beyond Marxism [as far as we know not translated into English]. He came close to fascism and ended up seeing German occupation as a safety for the European peoples. He was condemned after war for betrayal by the Belgium justice but he had already exiled to Switzerland.
5. See The Falsifications against the 1917 Revolution in ICC's International Review #92 (1998) where, for instance, we quote an article of the French newspaper Le Monde which says that "the techniques of mass violence have been inaugurated by the Communists and by which (...) the Nazis have been inspired" (translated by us from French).
6. See The Lessons of Kronstadt in ICC's International Review #3, 1975.
7. We recall the readers that the ICC is a centralised organisation. This implies, amongst other things, that its main political orientations are the same everywhere in the world. It's why the Revolución Mundial statement, on a theme as crucial as class violence, must represent the orientation of the whole organisation (unless RM expresses there a "minoritarian" position which hasn't been clarified by the ICC up to now).
8. It is particularly significant that the two parts of the Text reproduce very few quotations of marxist writers about the question of morality. And when it's the case, they seem to support the vision of an "Eternal Human Morality" if we take them in themselves and forget the context they are part of. On the contrary, none of the numerous and large passages which are clear and unambiguous on the theme are reproduced. For instance, vague references are made to Engels and his Anti-Dühring - "as Engels pointed out..." with no quotation - whereas he dedicated three entire chapters to the question of morality. It's true, that contrary to Tolstoy's quotations, they completly refute and denounce the anti-marxist position of ICC Text of Orientation on "Human Morality".
Internal Fraction of ICC - Communist Bulletin (Nš 39)