Revolution or War n°18

(May 8th 2021)

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Warning to our English speaking readers :
We could not translate several articles of this issue by an English speaking comrade. Thus, there can be some unease to read them and, more important, some political mistakes. In that case, or any doubt or questioning, we refer the comrades and readers to the French version.

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What Future for the ICT’s 1919 Journal in North America? Publication of the Communist Left or Trojan Horse of Leftism?

"Revolutionary ideas are not the property of any single organization, and the affairs of any component part of the proletarian camp are of interest to it all. While reserving our right to criticize, we unreservedly must welcome any moves in other organizations which we feel express a positive dynamic... The issues raised by the WR Congress are too important to remain the private affair of any single organization, and are, and must visibly become, the concern of the whole proletarian camp." (Workers’ Voice 20, journal of the CWO-ICT in the 1980s).

The new North American sections of the ICT [1] which present themselves as "affiliates of the Internationalist Communist Tendency" have begun publishing a journal called 1919. It is said to be the result of a process of political discussion and clarification around the former journal Intransigence. If, in itself, any new publication affiliated to a group of the Communist Left is welcome and to be saluted, the reading of its first issue leaves us doubtful, to say the least. We fear that it is far from representing a real step forward for the political presence of the Communist Left in North America. Indeed, on the one hand, there is no reference to the political points and positions on which the comrades have regrouped, to the content of the debates that have animated Intransigence, no reference either to the programmatic positions of the Communist Left and even to the platform that the ICT has just updated and published. As Lenin defended in his fight against the Mensheviks: "But now that I have become a member of a party, I am obliged (...) to cite a formally established principle of our programme..." [2]

On the other hand, and even though there are many aspects to be dealt with, from the sometimes interesting analysis of the imperialist interests behind the vaccine race to the thinly veiled defence of the principles of Christian charity [3], the political analysis and position adopted on the class struggle in the US is politically very worrying. Indeed, in its analysis and political stance on the riots and demonstrations arising from the tragic murder of George Floyd as well as the invasion of Capitol Hill by Trumpist militias, 1919 is unable to distinguish itself from the ideological and political campaign being waged by the entirety of the parties and groups on the left of US capital. Again, explicit mention and reference to programmatic issues and class frontiers, especially for a first issue, would likely have helped the new affiliates limit the extent of concessions to the capitalist left that are put forwards in this journal.

The journal sees the riots and demonstrations that followed the assassination of G. Floyd as an authentically class movement, as "an intense working class response... against the police state and the capitalist state." [4] It bases its assertion on a narrowly sociological view of the protests, "the class composition of these initial protests was also largely proletarian." [5] The individuals participating in the riots are largely proletarians. Thus, it must be a class movement! But in making this reductive analysis, 1919 turns its back on the lessons of the Communist Left. The social composition of a movement can certainly have its significance, but what counts in the first instance is its political orientation. For example, the Communist Left denounced the false alternative between fascism and anti-fascism during the Spanish Civil War because the fighting on the military fronts, whose soldiers were largely proletarian, was in defence of the bourgeois republic. How can it be so blind to the same false alternative between racism and anti-racism that is currently being played out in the US?

"While the slogan of and movement to “abolish the police” has some issues (…), it is clearly a threat to the capitalist class as it challenges the institution of policing." [6] How can an ICT publication take on its own account such a caricature of petty-bourgeois radical anarchism? How can 1919 later complain that in a second phase the movement adopted the less "proletarian" slogan, according to it, of "defund the police"? How can it be so ignorant of the leftist manoeuvres of movements like Black Lives Matter and the entire state apparatus, starting with the Democratic Party? This movement aims only to renovate bourgeois democracy by purging it of its racist baggage and has largely succeeded in turning many proletarians back to bourgeois democracy since the vote participation in the last presidential elections reached a level not seen for decades.

The failed reappropriation of the positions of the Communist Left leads 1919 to adopt the radical phraseology of anarchism : "The slogan of ’abolish the police’ was substituted with the reformist slogan of ’defund the police.’ While some defended this move as being in line with the abolition of the police, as defunding was supposedly the method to reach the goal of abolition, the adoption of the latter slogan clearly signaled a shift away from any sort of radical politics and back towards bourgeois and institutional terrain. The police were from then on not meant to be combatted or abolished in the streets, or at the hands of the working class’ own independent and revolutionary self-organization, but instead this was meant to take place in the halls of government of the capitalist state. (...) These protests ceased being a threat to the capitalist class (…). This new class orientation of the protests is another useful tool for examining why there were such disparities in police presence between the June BLM protests and last week’s storming of the Capitol." (idem)

Do the new ICT members in the US realise that their leftist argument leads them to defend that the protests called and organised by Black Lives Matter (BLM) in June were proletarian, or at least "a threat to the capitalist class"? Do they realize today that the protesters’ so-called questioning of "the institution of policing" was in fact, from a class perspective, an expression of and factor in the maintenance of the capitalist political and ideological order against proletarians and aimed at mobilizing them on the bourgeois terrain of interclass anti-racism and identitarianism, i.e., behind the Democratic Party and the state? Do they realise that they have found themselves, not in the vanguard of the proletariat, but at the tail end of petty-bourgeois leftism and the campaign launched by the Democratic Party and its leftist satellites, the BLM and other anarchist identitarians from American universities?

The role of communists is to defend at all times the historical interests of the proletariat. In concrete terms, this means intervening in proletarian struggles by responding to the needs and necessities of the struggles themselves. In other words, we must always put forward the independence and political autonomy of the proletariat, the "working class independence from capital" as the ICT platform itself emphasises, as well as the necessary extension of struggles beyond their basic geographical premises. It is also necessary for communists to assume the political leadership of the confrontation with the bourgeois state, which is always implicit in every struggle that starts from the defence of proletarians’ living conditions. It is politically harmful and dangerous to run after the ideological campaigns of the left of capital, hoping to make them proletarian by the magic of the Holy Party. On the contrary, the "revolutionary political organisations need to be in a position to lead the necessary political and organisational battles against the forces of the left bourgeoisie [which] are the material instruments of capital’s totalitarianism", as the ICT platform rightly points out.

We must be clear on the question of racism. As with fascism in the 1920s and 1930s, the only struggle that will be able to defeat racism is the struggle for the destruction of capitalism by the proletariat and from its class terrain, its class demands. The modern ideology of bourgeois anti-racism based on identity politics resembles in many ways to the inter-class coalitions defending bourgeois democracy against fascism in the inter-war period. Movements like Black Lives Matter only aim at turning all proletarians, and particularly the black proletarians whose feelings of revolt against racist killings are absolutely legitimate, towards the defence of a non-racist democracy and capitalism, while their real enemies are precisely democracy and capitalism.

The political orientation of the groups of the Communist Left must not be to try to radicalise the left of capital further. It is not a kind of vanguard of the class struggle which only lacks more political clarity. The left of capital has a historical function: to lead the proletariat astray from its class path and to lead it back to illusory capitalist "solutions" : sacred union and war. The class frontier between them and us must be perfectly defined. We therefore call on 1919 not to adapt to the local positions of the left of US capital, but to defend the positions of the international proletariat on the basis of the positions and political platform of the international organisation that heads the journal, that is the Internationalist Communist Tendency.

Robin, April 2021

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Notes:

[1. See our salute to the "2nd" Klasbatalo’s adhesion to the ICT and our critical comments in regards to the lacks we already pointed out in the process of political clarification (http://igcl.org/Greetings-to-Klasbatalo-s).

[2. Lenin, One Step towards, Two Steps Backwards (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1904/onestep/q.htm

[3. One has to see it to believe it : "We extend our solidarity to all other workers around the world and urge for them to take any measures that they can to keep themselves and others safe. We encourage regifting and handing on any unwanted presents and leftover food to those who are on the streets or are otherwise struggling to make ends meet – rather than throwing things out. All of the food that you will not eat before it expires? Someone else will. The dressing gown and slippers (some of the most disposed of presents) you don’t want? They could help keep another person warm at night. We also encourage checking in on friends, family, and co-workers, both now and whenever possible throughout the following year. Many of us are suffering financially, mentally, and medically on a level we never have before, and this weight is even heavier when we try to carry it alone. It is through building ties with other workers and recognising that the real ‘all in this together’ is our common, but varied, struggle that we can not only help better combat any daily feelings of alienation, helplessness, and loneliness, but can also work towards the revolutionary overthrow of the present state of things." (http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2020-12-31/new-year-same-crisis).

[5. "Democracy under Assault", Democracy for Whom? (https://mcmxix.org/2021/02/02/democracy-under-assault-democracy-for-whom/)

[6. idem