Revolution or War n°8

(Biannual - September 2017)

PDF - 1.2 Mb

HomeVersion imprimable de cet article Version imprimable

On the Real Class Political Positions of the Movement {Interventionistische Linke} in Germany and on the “Black Bloc” and “Antifa” Movement in General

Less than a year ago, one comrade got in touch with our group. He claimed his agreement with our programmatic positions and wanted to participate to our activities. Besides a physical encounter, we developed a correspondence which revealed, according to us, differences of approach and understanding of the concepts and the categories, of the “Marxist” words and language, we utilized. In particular, the confusion appeared in regards with the radical political scene such as the “black-bloc” or the “radical Left” and, most notably, in regards with a German group Interventionistiche Linke. Our comrade believes the political approach of this group (or movement) is compatible with the international Communist Left and its positions.

Given the growing influence that this political so-called radical scene seems to get on a significant part of the young (and not so young) who are sincerely revolted and who look for a path for breaking with capitalism, we believe important to make public our correspondence with the comrade and our own reflection.

Comrade Dusan Samuel’s Letter

Dear comrades,
My reflection has gone on and has been fuelled by a stay in Germany and meetings with the German left. Indeed, I am still in agreement with the orientation and the positions of the group, particularly from the point of view of the historical affiliation and the constancy of the communist positions of the left within the communist movement. Yet, from these observations, I finally arrived at the conclusion that it is essential to now develop a convergence of the overall radical left on an “extra-parliamentary” basis. This does not necessarily mean “anti-parliamentary” even though it is obvious that some analysis and positions will no doubt be in opposition to the bourgeois political practice. Thus I’m convinced that the only viable tool we must develop is a “platform” of the different radical left tendencies which may be capable to efficiently intervene in the public space, be visible and equip themselves to fight the ruling class’ hegemony. This reflection is fuelled by the approach developed by the “German interventionist left” (Interventionistische Linke), which succeeded in gathering around political events of struggle different groups, which all, according to their methods and militant forces, contribute to a genuine emergence of an extra-parliamentary counter-power. I’m interested in know how you perceive this approach.

In preparation, I’m presently writing an article based on an analysis of the practices and the development of this German movement with an historical perspective of the extra-parliamentarism on the two banks of the Rhine.

So, if I fundamentally share the positions of the Communist Left, what I pompously call the “hypothetical imperative of strategic reason” comes to take the upper hand in the development of my reflection. Consequently to respond to the questionings in regards to the nature of my engagement towards you, I think it is possible to affirm that I formally adhere to the group through an activity of active sympathizer although the political will that I’ve just formulated can be understood as “a different political definition but remaining on the class terrain”. I don’t believe there is a “class disagreement” even though I’m not sure of the meaning of these words.

My reflection fits in the perspective that you described in your last letter : “no organisational rule ‘of party’, nor any ‘party discipline’ can respond to a weakening of the militant conviction, absent the capacity of the organization, the collective body, circle, group, organization, party, proletarian camp as a whole, to maintain an effective internal political life”. Thus, I don’t think that the conclusion which I get to contradicts the requirements linked with the weakening of the “militant conviction”. Once more, your position on this point would enrich my thought. (...)

May 16th 2017, Dusan Samuel

Our Response to the Comrade DS

The IGCL to the comrade Dusan Samuel,
Dear comrade,
We recently noticed (after the Hamburg anti-G20 demonstrations) that Interventionistische Linke (IL),, had translated some texts into English, French and even one in Italian. This enables us to give you a first political assessment without waiting any longer for a translation from German, and to provide you, we hope, some elements of critical reflections. Our response is essentially based on the following texts : the late June call for the anti-G20 demonstrations in Hamburg No complacency in the face of the injustice and irrationality of war [1] ; the one for the May 1st 2016 demonstration Berlin, Let Us begin the Offensive, Get Ready for May day ; one text in French Pour une fin de la tristesse [2], which announces the setting up of the IL group in Berlin in September 2015 ; and No Submission. An Answer to Paris Lies in Athens [3], after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and just before the electoral victory of Syriza in Greece.

Firstly, the different political assessment we have on IL in regards with yours comes to confirm one of the conclusions we had drawn after our meeting of late February : “this first discussion has revealed different understandings and approaches of the political positions and principles” (report of our discussion of February 6th 2017). This first observation obliges us to debate and clarify the political positions and concepts we utilize in common, but which cover different political comprehensions and approaches. More generally, the question you raise about the Radical Left is even more important to tackle since we have been confronted with it, or at least with one of its components, during the mobilization against the El Khomri law [the 2016 attacks against the legal “labour market” in France, editor’s note], and lately during the two rounds of the French presidential election. The “head of the demonstration” [4] were in great part animated by “young” (often presented by the press as “black-blocs”), though not exclusively, who favour violent confrontations with the cops and more widely a form of political “radicalism” displayed on banners or shouted through anti-capitalist, revolutionary, communist, etc., slogans. Later, between the two rounds of the French presidential election, the slogan neither Macron, nor Le Pen, nor banker, nor fascist” could be heard, which seems to join, at least at first glance, the abstention political position put forwards by the Communist Left. This milieu, at least in Paris, remains quite “closed” and above all very unwilling to any serious political and theoretical debate, and rather inclined, as far as we could see, to a so-called “radical” street activism [5]. Nevertheless, this immediate report on these movements does not take away our political position on the street demonstrations against the El Khomri law (see Reflections and Balance-Sheet of the Spring 2016 Working Class Struggle in France [6], Revolution or War #6), which had expressed an important moment of the class fight in this country.

1) Interventionistische Linke and the Communist Left

What do the IL texts that we could read reveal? The declaration of constitution of the Berlin group Pour une fin de la tristesse [For an End of Sadness only in German and French] puts forwards that “making the Black Bloc more colourful is not enough. We want to contribute to the setting up of a radical social left that helps to bring real social changes and that, at the same time, is capable again to concretely question the post-capitalist society. (…) We want a radical left turned towards a revolutionary break with national and world capitalism, with the power of the bourgeois state and all the forms of oppression, of privation and discrimination. In brief, we want a new radical social left that fights against the political hegemony and organizes itself as counter-power. (…) So as to play our role in the struggle for the social hegemony of a left bloc, we focus on these great alliances that create social experiences and political success, without dominance policy and with honesty towards our political partners” (translated from the French version by us).

The reference to the Black Bloc enables any reader to set what political scene IL intends to be part of. On the other hand, the terms of “radical social left”, of “post-capitalist society”, to “fight against the political hegemony and organize itself as counter-power” are apparently much looser and general for most of them even though any serious reader can understand that the “focus on great alliances for a left bloc” aims to constitute a kind of… united front of all the organizations and movements of the so-called radical left (without specifying its political extent… up to and including the Stalinists, Die Linke, the Trotskyists… ?). We can already state that the terms or categories utilized are very loose and that they differ from the much more precise categories utilized by the working class movement and more particularly by the communist movement, which always refer to the contradiction between Capital-Labour and bourgeoisie-proletariat, that is to the class struggle and the history of the working class.

On the “programmatic” level, this declaration of revolutionary “good will” remains fundamentally, from the proletarian and communist point of view, within the framework of capitalism (some would call it “reformist”). Actually, it is of the same order as any somewhat “radical” declaration of the classical capitalist left. For instance, in terms of “radicality”, it is even below the former French President Mitterand’s speech at the 1971 congress of the French Socialist Party (as the response of the bourgeois “radical left” after the massive general strike of May 1968), which appealed even more directly for “breaking with capitalism” and the “seizure of power” – we can read it again today with interest [7].

But it matters to verify the concrete application of these declarations of “ revolutionary good will” on the very ground of the class struggle, that is in term of real political positions, orientations and activities. And there the conclusion is clear:

“ We will express our radical critique of the G20 and of global capitalism, but especially our ties to the Kurdish struggle for freedom in Rojava (...) where our Kurdish and international comrades fight against ISIS ” (No complacency in the face of the injustice and irrationality of capitalism, the call for the anti-G20 demonstrations in Hamburg, July 2017). Under cover of a so-called radical critic of the G20 summit and of capitalism (why “global”?), in the footsteps of numerous Trotskyists and Anarchists, who are always in search of new anti-fascist international brigades since Spain 1936, IL calls for support to the nationalist Kurdish forces of Rojava, who participate in an imperialist war (whether it is “local” or not does not change anything in its imperialist nature) alongside… the American and European military forces; that is to say that IL calls for participation in an imperialist war and opposes proletarian internationalism.

“ Syriza makes the election on January 25 a real referendum. In this sense Syriza and Podemos are placeholders for the social desires that wrote history in the movement of the indignant in Spain and at Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens (…). To bet on Syriza is to vote out of power the Greek parties of order and to deselect the fascism of Golden Dawn ”] ( No Submission..., January 2015). Instead of seeing that Syriza and Podemos (in Spain) are political expressions whose so-called left radicality only aims to maintain the working class discontent and struggles on the bourgeois and capitalist state ground, and whose anti-proletarian class character is to be denounced, on the contrary IL greets them as being steps forwards… like the leftists, Trotskyists or “classical” Anarchists, and supports Syriza (and Podemos certainly too).

“We collect signatures for referendums [and we] lead an anti-fascist work in the neighbourhood” (Pour une fin de la tristesse, the document announcing of the founding of the group). In no way does IL reject participation in elections and it fights on the anti-fascist ground. Thus, IL brings its “radical” credit to the bourgeois democracy and submits, if it does not actively participate in them, to the timings (for instance the electoral periods) and ideological themes (defence of the bourgeois democracy against the extreme right wing “populism”) dictated and launched by the ruling class, its political staff, its left and media forces.

Political conclusion : Interventionistischte Linke supports a national liberation struggle (Kurdish); calls for participation in an imperialist war and in the elections; displays a frontism with the bourgeois left forces; proclaims itself anti-fascist; and carries out a leftist kind of activism that wants to substitute itself for the movement of the proletariat [8]… Yet, and contrary to what you seem to believe, all these points are rejected and denounced by the whole Communist Left, not only by the so-called “Italian” left, after its fights against the degeneration of the Communist International, against Stalinism, Trotskyism and Anarchism of the 1920s and 1930s until today. It means that in the reality of the class struggle, the IL positions belong to the bourgeois and capitalist camp and not to the proletarian and communist one, whatever is the revolutionary sincerity and devotion of the individuals adhering to the movement.

2) Need for a the Greatest Theoretical and Political Rigour

From the communist and revolutionary proletariat’s point of view, the only “radicalness” that matters is the theoretical and programmatic rigour; or more modestly and to tell the truth, at least for ourselves, the search for the greatest theoretical and programmatic rigour. The theoretical and political confusion and eclecticism, as radical as they may appear, and above all if they place themselves in such a light, are a great danger for the revolutionaries and for the proletariat. The historical experience have largely shown it [9]. Moreover, today, and we could verify it in during the 2016 mobilization and demonstrations against the El Khomri law in France, the bourgeois ideology succeeded to derail the most militant parts of the proletariat, including the ones who participated in this milieu and at the “head of demos”, from any real political and theoretical interest based on the experience of the working class movement and communism, a variant of the “apoliticism” that benefits so much the bourgeois camp. And when it is not the case, for tiny minorities, it succeeded to swap the proletariat’s revolutionary theory, that is historical materialism (Marxism) and its political program, the Communist Program, for eclectic theories with a radical language that leads the militants who yield to it toward a theoretical dead-end (confusion and idealism) and to the political bourgeois ground (the cult of the Assemblies and the democratic fetishism like the Indignados in Spain, today Podemos, or Nuit Debout in France).

It is not a question of adhering to a dogma or a written law, we have already expressed it, but to reclaim in a critical manner (through the debate and the confrontation) the Communist Program that the communist organizations of the past have developed and specified for long, starting from Marx and the Communist League until our days, and that it belongs to us to take up (modestly and patiently) the banner. This does not mean to retreat in our ivory tower and to wait until the proletarian masses are on strike, in the streets and in revolt (on the ground of their own class demands and not for blocking in itself a G20). On the contrary, this work of theoretical and political reappropriation and clarification can only be done closely linked with the reality of the class struggle (whatever be its level and intensity) and thus, also, through the militant intervention, as modest and limited as it may be, as moments and means of verification of the theory and the principles. It is also in this way that the revolutionaries regrouped in the communist organizations, circle, group, or party, can develop their capacity to orient themselves in the very events and, above all, in the midst of the revolutionary storm when it is launched and when it will be important to adapt the slogans and orientations from week to week, day to day, indeed hour to hour. And above all when it matters ‘not to make a mistake” as it had been the case, for instance, with the bloody defeat in Berlin in January 1919 whose dramatic historical consequences are still paid today by humanity with its misery, its tears and its blood.

Yet, without revolutionary theory and firmness of principles (reciprocally strengthening each other), the revolutionaries themselves, as “radical as they may present themselves”, can only fall into all the traps that the bourgeois ideology and political forces will set for them and already set for them daily.

“What appears to characterise this practice above all? A certain hostility to ‘theory’. This is quite natural, for our ‘theory’, that is, the principles of scientific socialism, impose clearly marked limitations to practical activity – insofar as it concerns the aims of this activity, the means used in attaining these aims and the method employed in this activity. It is quite natural for people who run after immediate ‘practical’ results to want to free themselves from such limitations and to render their practice independent of our ‘theory’.” (Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution, we underline).

It is peculiar to activism and leftist adventurism to ignore “our theory” (”our” meaning those who want to set themselves on the ground of the proletarian struggle) and thus to “free themselves from the limitations to practical activity that the proletariat’s revolutionary theory marks”.

3) The Struggle between the Classes as Method of Analysis and Intervention

The most striking aspect of the IL texts and similar Anarchist or more or less anarchistic movements is the absence of reference to the real class struggle. Yet the recognition and the constant reference to the struggle between the classes and the participation in the proletariat’s historical fight, as exploited and revolutionary class, are the connecting thread for any revolutionary activity against capitalism, the ruling class and its state. “The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves” is one of the main political principles of communism that defines, as Rosa Luxemburg said , the terrain and the methods of the class fight, and that “marks the limits”, among which is the rejection of any action of activist, putschist or adventurist substitution by a minority whatever it be, to the very action of the proletarians. But let’s go back to your letter.

For instance, you speak of a “radical left”. We speak of Communist Left. What do you mean by “radical left”? “Radical” does not refer to any class notion. Communist Left is based on the proletariat as exploited and revolutionary class and on the fight against opportunism and the degeneration of the Communist International, later against Stalinism during the deepest of the counter-revolutions.

IL Poster : “Long Live the Freedom of Kobane” and Long Live to International Solidarity! We salute the fighters of the Kurdish Self-defence forces!”

A platform with the different tendencies of the “radical left”? Unless you include the Stalinist CP and the Trotskyists, which we don’t believe, the political formula and intention are particularly confused (in the first case, it is very “clear” since it is openly counter-revolutionary). But maybe you can clarify so that we can debate it?

We don’t understand why you speak of an “extra-parliamentary basis”. What do you mean by this term? The communist position, that is of the Communist Left, about the participation in the elections is the one of abstention since the 1917-1919 revolutionary wave. On the basis of this position of principle, “extra-parliamentarism” or abstentionism as ideology or fetish are at best factors of confusion when they are not traps (see the bourgeois character of the campaign on abstention during the two rounds of the 2017 presidential election in France).

An “extra-parliamentary counter-power”? Counter-power? Of who? Of what? According to us, the experience of the working class movement on which we base our positions and verify (attempt to verify) the validity of the principles and the theory teaches us that only one counter-power can exist: the one of the working class during the period which prepares the proletarian insurrection. In this, the historical experience has come to confirm the theory developed by the historical materialism and concentrated at first into the Communist Manifesto. Moreover, the 1917 Russian experience has taught us that the only class counter-power that can rise in front of the capitalist state is the one of the workers’ councils in preparation for the insurrection.

There are other formulas that you utilize that seem to us at least lacking in precision (“to dispute the hegemony to the ruling class”). We too note that the working class, the proletariat, exploited and revolutionary class, is absent in your reflection about the “counter-power”, about “ disputing the hegemony”, etc. It is the same in the IL texts which speak of “people”. For us, for the Communist Left, the proletariat is at the core of our reflections and our fights. It is the subject of the revolution: the principle quoted previously on “the emancipation of the workers...” is not only an abstract or ethical, nor “democratic”, formula. It is at the core of the theoretical and political method of analysis and intervention whose connecting thread is the class struggle that the communists can’t leave aside, not even for an instant, at the risk of losing any compass. (…).

There, dear comrade, is our first reaction to your letter. We sincerely hope that you will accept to reflect and discuss our political criticism, continue to debate and confront our positions so that we can clarify them and, if possible, make them public. We are convinced that the political approach you submit to us is a topical question and the subject of a political and theoretical fight between the classes on the cusp of an historical situation which, obviously, announces great confrontations between them because of the economic crisis and the war into which capitalism precipitates the whole of humanity. As such, and far for any immediatism, that is the search for immediate results and “successes”, we are convinced that our debates apparently between a few more or less isolated militants, are of a crucial historical importance.

Fraternally, the IGCL.



[4. Translator’s note : since the working class mobilization in 2003 against one of the repeated attacks on the pension system, at every “big mobilization” such as 2007 or 2010, the place of the unions’ leaders in the first ranks, the “head of the street demonstration” [“tête de cortège”], have been increasingly questioned and disputed by many demonstrators. They don’t want to protest behind or within the “official union processions”. Some times they are specific militant part of the working class such as the Paris suburb teachers in 2003, other time they are just hundreds and thousands of individuals, and regularly they are joined by the “radicals” and anarchists who used to fight the anti-riot police at the end of the demonstrations and now are in the first ranks. In 2016, there were thousands of workers, some times up to 1/3 of the Paris demonstrations, who stand side by side with the “radical leftist” such as the “black-bloc” against the anti-riot police violent repression and who forced the unions officials to the far back. Since then, the “head of the demonstration”, which has been a political stake in 2016 tends to become a fetish and a dogma for every demonstration, which will be certainly used to empty it of any possible class political significance...

[5. We won’t deal here with the IL call for the anti-G20 demonstrations in Hamburg.

[7. « Reform or Revolution ? I want to say – don’t accuse me of demagogy, it would be easy in this congress – yes, revolution. And straight away, I want to be precise, because I don’t want to lie to my deep thought, that for me, without playing with words, the daily struggle for the categorical reform of the structures can be of revolutionary nature. But what I’ve just said could be an alibi if I don’t add a second sentence: violent or peaceful, the revolution is at first a break. The one who does not accept the breaki – the method comes after – the one who does not agree the break with the established political order, it goes without saying, it is secondary…, with the capitalist society, this one, I’m saying it, can’t be a member of the Socialist Party. (…) I would likeus to be disposed to consider that the transformation of our society does not start with the seizure of power, it starts at first with the consciousness of ourselves and the consciousness of the masses. But it goes too through the conquest of the power” (Mitterand’s speak at the Epinay congress of the Socialist Party, 1971, translated by us,

[8. The sole reference and claim to the history of the working class movement that we found in the IL texts, is precisely the catastrophic putschist action of 1923 in Hamburg launched by the already degenerating Communist International and by the German Communist Party (KPD) …

[9. Particularly in the early 1920s in Germany.