Revolution or War n°6

Biannual - September 2016

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The correspondence with a comrade of North America which follows, is interesting for two main reasons. First, it reveals the differences between the countries with ’Anglo-Saxon’ kind of union tradition where, still today, a great part of the workers, above all in the most important companies, are obliged to be unionised contrary to the ’Latin’ tradition countries as in France or Italy. In these countries, not being member of the union does not change nothing to the working contract, nor to the possibility to be on strike and participating to the struggles. This difference had often provoked political misunderstandings amongst the communist groups about the attitude to adopt vis-a-vis the union ’meetings’ or about what exactly represent the General Assemblies (GA or AG in French) whether they be called or not by the unions. The other reason is that this correspondence raises the question of the relation between the economic dimension and the political dimensions of the working class struggles. This a question to debate and clarify within the Proletarian Camp.

A Sympathizer’s Mail:

I’ve read in your balance-sheet of the world working class struggles that you mention the unions’ strikes. Is it correct to just associate the strikes under union initiative with the working class struggle itself? Does it not lead to confusion? For instance, the union I work for, plans to go on negotiation for the renewal of the convention in the hostel sector and, probably according to them, there’ll be a strike because they think the negotiations will be tense. In this situation, it is not at all of my initiative, nor of my work colleagues’, we are not in struggle, we obey and that is all. If we consider only the struggles initiated by the workers, I’m sure that there would not be so much in your balance of the world struggles, would not be? My question is: can we really consider the struggles under union initiatives and their contingent of opportunist workers as being expression of the class struggle? Today? And if yes, why?


Our Response :

Dear comrade YS,

We appreciate your critical comment about the articles Working Class Struggles around the World in our journal. At first, a struggle outside the union framework is not automatically political or revolutionary. Like it is the case of numerous strikes in China, it can be only an economic struggle which reflects the worsening of the life of the proletarians at their work. For this, they are necessary even though they don’t question the capitalism itself.

You are right to say that there are strikes which are on initiative of the unions. Most of these strikes are of one day staggered on several weeks or even months. They aim at preventing a general strike, dividing the proletarians by sector, region, country and by union. The unions so show that they are organizations defending capitalism and sabotaging the struggles.

So why do we mention the "unions’ strikes" in the world? For keeping a minimum of credibility, the unions are obliged to accept some demands under the pressure of their members as well as the means of action up to strikes. Later, they’ll put forward the compromises during the negotiations and the sabotage of the struggle. As says the introduction of one of the articles on the Working Class Struggles around the World, The outpouring of anger and fighting spirit overflows into all countries, on all continents. But for all that they fail to fend off the attacks. Because the working class, for the most part, remains behind the slogans and demands of leftists and the unions - slogans and demands which constrain and limit the struggle within the framework of state and capitalist ideology. Because it has yet to take up the fight against the sabotage and corruption of its struggles, against the very forces responsible for setting them up. Because it can’t seem to pull itself up to the level of conscious political struggle; i.e. up to political confrontation against all forces of the bourgeois state apparatus, particularly against those which impose themselves on the workers’ terrain, the unions, official or rank and file, of the political Left and leftist forces, including those hiding behind the various and diverse apolitical and democratic mystifications.

If we look for the ideal strike or struggle outside the union framework, we won’t mention anything. The present struggles reflect the level of the working class’ consciousness. This level of consciousness develops during the struggle whether they be economic and/or controlled by the unions. ’Political and economic strikes, mass strikes and partial strikes, demonstrative strikes and fighting strikes, general strikes of individual branches of industry and general strikes in individual towns, peaceful wage struggles and street massacres, barricade fighting – all these run through one another, run side by side, cross one another, flow in and over one another – it is a ceaselessly moving, changing sea of phenomena. And the law of motion of these phenomena is clear: it does not lie in the mass strike itself nor in its technical details, but in the political and social proportions of the forces of the revolution’ (Rosa Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, 1906).

That means that the workers’ consciousness develops during the movement of demands. To silence these demands would be idealism. It would be censoring the combativity and the anger of the proletariat at the world scale. It would be believing that the level of consciousness develops by sermons. But admitting that the whole or even the majority of the working class, given the domination of capital, can acquire a communist consciousness before the seizure of power and the establishment of the Dictatorship of the proletariat, is simply idealism’ (Marxism and Class Consciousness, translated from French by us,

Fraternally, Normand