Communism is not a political movement. It is the critique of the State and of politics.
The intention of the revolutionaries is not to conquer and wield state power, even if it were for the purpose of destroying it. The party of communism does not take the form of a political party and has no intention of competing with organizations of that kind.
With the establishment of the communist community all political activity as a distinct activity oriented towards the acquisition of power for the sake of power will disappear. There will no longer be, on the one hand, the economic—the sphere of necessity, and on the other hand, the political—the sphere of freedom.
• The End of the State
The cult of the state is fundamentally anti-communist.
This cult is paradoxically spawned from and reinforced by all the shortcomings, all the weaknesses, and all the conflicts that are engendered by capitalist society. It is the supreme saviour; the last resort of widows and orphans. Incidentally, and although it pretends to be above all classes and presents itself as the guarantor of the general interest against the excesses of individuals and groups, it is devoted to the defence of property and privilege.
There was a time when the rising bourgeoisie exhibited anti-state sentiments. Today the most that it exhibits with regard to the state is annoyance. The era when bourgeois revolutionaries claimed that the happiest peoples were peoples without a state is far behind us. The increasing threat posed by the proletariat, the rise of competing imperial powers, and the scale of economic crises have demonstrated the value of possessing a powerful state machine that is primarily a good repressive apparatus.
The political parties fight among themselves to conquer, in the name of the people, this state machine that is presented as a neutral instrument. Consistent Leninists proclaim the class nature of the state and the impossibility of controlling it through a simple electoral victory. They conclude from this the need to dismantle it, but only in order to replace it with a “workers’ state”.
It was to the honour of the anarchists to have maintained a fundamental anti-statism.
However, even more than with respect to money, the whole world believes in the duty of heaping abuse on the state. Everyone complains about the stupidity of its administration, the high taxes, the arrogance of the police, the venality of the politicians, the ignorance of the voters…. But what apparently lies beyond the pale of their imagination is the prospect of the State’s disappearance. And this is what they get: power without imagination.
The state has intervened ever more openly in social life over the last few decades. The rise of Stalinism and fascism signified merely a few more flagrant steps in this direction. Where some have believed they could see the state becoming a people’s state, it is necessary to see instead the accentuation of the control of the state over its population.
Of particular importance in this regard is the usurpation or the integration into the state apparatus of the organizations of workers’ defence and solidarity. Through various channels such as social welfare measures, the trade union apparatuses have been subjected to the state. This has allowed them to act more or less like political special interest groups. We must not be deceived by their declarations of independence and opposition, since they are just performing their assigned roles.
This integration of the struggle and this bureaucratization of social groups have obviously been presented as great victories of the working class. The workers’ struggles benefit a layer of specialists in contestation and result in an increasing institutionalization of the “workers’” organizations. Often, these “victories” do not result in even a redistribution of resources towards the most disadvantaged layers but instead just end up costing them more money. This is true regardless of the hypocritical claims of the trade unions and state officials.
Increasing state control must not be considered solely as a factor weakening the proletariat. It corresponds, to the contrary, to the need to control the proletariat’s increasing power. This increasing state control compensates for the fragility of modern societies; but it is not itself exempt from this fragility. The statist regimentation of the population is only possible thanks to the complicity of the population. The anti-political revolution will reveal the utterly superficial nature of this regimentation.
Unlike politicians of every stripe, revolutionaries are very careful not to appeal to the responsibility of the state when a problem arises. They systematically assert, first of all, the autonomy and the self-organization of the proletarian class. Invoking the weakness of the proletariat in order to justify reliance on the state is to justify and confirm this weakness as eternal.
Revolutionary society will have institutions of coordination and centralization. It will in many cases allow for a higher degree of worldwide centralization than is currently allowed by capital. But it will not need a state in which power will be concentrated, that whole machinery of repression, identification, control and education. In revolutionary society the administration of things will replace the government over men.
The problem lies in the need to avoid recreating some kind of state in an insurrectionary or transitional stage, while nonetheless ensuring that administrative and repressive, and therefore typically state, functions, are carried out. Those who do not want to face this problem, like the anarchists, will only succeed in being crushed by the statists or will be obliged to become statists themselves. The participation of anarchist ministers in the Government Junta during the Spanish revolution illustrates just what can happen to those who persist in this attitude.
The solution to this problem, to this contradiction, has been outlined by proletarian insurrections since the Paris Commune. It is the workers’ council, the councilist organization of social life.
• The Workers’ Councils
The Paris Commune already provided an initial glimpse of what a workers’ government would look like.
In 1905, insurgent Russian workers elaborated the form of the soviet. This institution formed by factory delegates was at first devoted to the coordination of the struggle. It was gradually transformed into an administrative institution whose purpose was to replace the official governing bodies of the state. Even part of the police force passed under the control of the Petrograd Soviet. Its existence came to an end with the arrest of its deputies by Czarist forces.
The same thing happened again in 1917, but this time with more extensive participation on the part of the military. The Bolshevik coup d’état in October 1917 was carried out in the name of transferring all power to the soviets. Its basis of support was the soviets, where the Bolsheviks controlled the military committees and had obtained majorities in the Petrograd and Moscow soviets. This victory was the beginning of the end for the soviets. With the reflux of the revolution, the onset of civil war, and the reinforcement of the power of the Bolshevik party and its administrative apparatus, the soviets were gradually deprived of their original content. The last show of resistance to this process, offered by the Kronstadt naval base, was crushed in 1921 by the Red Army led by Trotsky, the former president of the Petrograd soviet.
The proletarian revolutions of the 20th century have repeatedly led to the re-emergence of the soviet form. In the immediate aftermath of World War One and the Russian Revolution, workers’ councils were formed in Hungary, Germany and Italy. During the Spanish war, workers and peasants committees arose throughout the country. In Hungary, in 1956, factory delegates formed the Workers’ Council of Greater Budapest. In Poland, in 1971, the insurgent workers of the Baltic ports once again utilized this form of organization.
The word “council” actually embraces quite diverse organizational forms, even if we exclude those institutions of co-management or workers’ management that have nothing revolutionary about them. They range from the factory or neighbourhood committee to the soviet that administers a big city or even a region. It is incorrect to seek to distinguish among these organizations in order to confer the title of “workers’ council” only on some of them.
We do not advocate one or another variety of council. We advocate the council organization of society. This implies and requires different levels of organization that complement and sustain one another. What would be unfortunate, and this is what has regularly taken place, would be if one of these levels should be predominant.
For example, the factory committee could be reduced to the exercise of a simple function of workers’ control or strictly limited to managing one productive unit. The absence of real soviets in Spain and Catalonia, despite the flourishing base committees, left the field open to the republican state and the politicians; hence the anarchist dilemma.
The soviet, on the other hand, if it were to be separated from its base, could become a kind of regional state or workers’ parliament. In this case it would cease to be an active anti-political institution and would instead become a battleground for competing political parties.
What gives the workers’ council its revolutionary character and its anti-political content is principally the fact that it arises directly from the masses in action. It is composed of a pyramid of committees that give rise to one another, but without the apex of the pyramid ever being able to conceive of itself as independent of the base of the pyramid.
The committees are not simple voting assemblies that delegate power among themselves from the bottom upward. Each level carries out practical functions. Each committee is an active community. It delegates to a higher-level committee those problems which it cannot solve itself. It does not thereby abdicate its sovereignty. All delegates must explain their actions and are responsible to the base and revocable at any time.
The workers’ council does not reproduce within its structure the division between the legislative, executive and judicial powers. It endeavours to unify and concentrate these functions in its hands. Even if it lays down rules it acts, above all, in accordance with the situation, without hiding behind an arsenal of formal laws.
The workers’ council constitutes itself as a tribunal to adjudicate conflicts; to judge, to resolve, and to punish. These actions are carried out with reference to each concrete situation. What is subject to judgment is not the seriousness of the transgression, but the objective risks and dangers for the revolution and for society.
The legitimacy of the council is not based upon a few democratic elections that would make it a consecrated vessel of the people’s will. It is not the representative of the masses. It “is” the organized masses. The individuals and groups that assume responsibility for particular tasks are not necessarily elected. But when they commit themselves to act on behalf of the entire council they are responsible to its general assemblies. The council does not claim to be the general expression of all of society, or to be located above all the conflicts that affect the latter. It is an institution of the class and of the struggle. This implies that there must be a certain amount of agreement within its ranks. It cannot tolerate divergences of opinion that would paralyze it.
The workers’ council can be viewed as an ultra-dictatorial or as an ultra-democratic institution. It is both and yet neither. It is ultra-dictatorial in the sense that it is only answerable to itself and insofar as it casts the principles of the division of powers to the winds. It is ultra-democratic in the sense that it allows for a degree of debate and participation by the masses that was never achieved by the most democratic state.
Above all, the workers’ council is not a political institution, since it no longer separates the citizen from the social individual. In this respect it transcends both dictatorship and democracy, which are the two faces of politics, even if it makes use of forms or procedures that are democratic or dictatorial.
The council is neither the instrument of a popular democracy, nor the instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat. These expressions are not suitable for describing the phase that comprehends the break between capitalism and communism.
The workers’ councils of the past, with the exception of a few rare instances, never rose to the level of the program that we are sketching here. They were managerial, bureaucratic, indecisive, dispute-ridden, and incapable of attaining a perspective that was in accord with their own nature. They were destroyed. This does not prove that the council form does not work, but rather that it was assayed on a terrain that was still unfavourable for its development.
In 1956, the Workers’ Council of Greater Budapest, which then administered an entire region of Hungary, proclaimed its own suicide with its call for the reestablishment of parliamentary democracy.
Previously, the workers’ councils at least had the merit of having existed. They demonstrated the workers ability to run their own affairs, and to take factories and cities into their hands. They were connected with formidable movements by means of which the workers overthrew, at least temporarily, bourgeoisie and bureaucrats. If these experiences have been dissimulated and distorted this is because the prospect of the proletariat picking up where it left off in Catalonia, Poland and China is undesirable to some people: to dispense with masters and to proceed from there.
The counterrevolution, even in the Soviet Union, has never been able to coexist with councils. The fact that the councils have demonstrated their moderation is one thing. It is another thing entirely for the counterrevolution to show moderation in regard to the councils.
The best expressions of the workers’ councils were provided when they had to respond quickly, unambiguously and with a strong hand to their enemies. They were forged directly as an organization of struggle. Their program may have been limited but they were aware of this.
On other occasions they became entangled in administrative details and procrastination. At these times their only reason for existence seemed to be the absence of bourgeois power. They elaborated magnificent organizational plans. But this was carried out in a vacuum, removed from the imperatives of struggle. The apparent absence of danger led to the worst illusions.
In such cases, the council appeared to be more of a working class response to the vacuum left by the bourgeoisie than an organizational form imposed by the radical demands of the struggle itself.
We support workers’ councils but we are not in favour of the councilist ideology. This ideology does not perceive the councils as a moment of the revolution, but as the goal of the revolution. For the councilist ideology, socialism is the replacement of the power of the bourgeoisie by the power of the councils, and capitalist management by workers’ management; from this perspective the success or failure of the revolution is an organizational question. Where the Leninists make everything depend on the party, the councilists make everything depend on the council.
The workers’ councils will be what they make of themselves. The only way they can be victorious is to undertake and to embody the organization of communization.
For communists, the revolution is not a question of organization. What determines the possibility of communism is a certain level of development of the productive forces and the proletarian class. There are problems of organization, but they cannot be addressed independently of what it is that is being organized, of the tasks that are faced. Are we saying that the rules of organization are neutral, or that they are purely technical questions? Of course not. Such choices are of great importance. Some organizational rules are adapted and conducive to communist action. Others hinder it. But it is a serious illusion to believe that the implementation of certain rules, especially regarding the control of delegates, is sufficient to avoid bureaucratization, deception and schism. Bureaucrats are professionals of organization as a separate organization. They like to stress the preliminaries to action rather than action itself. Detailed and unsuitable rules, even if they are formally anti-bureaucratic, run the risk of actually facilitating bureaucratization.
However slight the progress of the councils, when they cannot be easily liquidated, the worst enemies of the revolution will claim to be councilists in order to more easily put an end to them. They will try to transform them into the private preserve of their manoeuvres, and to exclude the real revolutionaries from the councils.
Can we conclude, on the basis of the fact that the councils of the past often had little that was communist about them, that their time has passed, and that all institutionalization is counterrevolutionary?
We do not see the workers’ council as just one more institution. The revolution, whether we like it or not, will encounter problems of administration, the preservation of order, and the unification of opposed tendencies. It will be necessary to govern, if not men, then at least some men. One could very well maintain that looting is a healthy reaction to the provocation of commodity society and poverty. It could play a beneficial role in the phase of rupture, with the rout and downfall of the commodity. But looting cannot be institutionalized; it cannot be the normal mode of communist distribution of products. It is impossible to allow all products to be subject to free distribution. It will be necessary to organize, allocate, and restrict. This is the task of the councils.
As the scarcity of goods is diminished and the power of the counterrevolution declines, the councils will lose their statist character. They will not be abolished. They will have deep roots in the life of society.
To reject the councils due to purism is, from the moment when they arise to meet real needs, to situate oneself outside the revolutionary process. It would be better to participate in their creation, their operation and their eventual dissolution in accordance with the struggle and the correlation of forces between revolution and counterrevolution.
Participation in the councils does not mean that revolutionaries must renounce their own autonomous action and organization. The councils are mass organizations. Hence they will exhibit a certain degree of hesitation, and a slower rate of radicalization than certain fractions of the population. The development of the councils will to some degree be determined by what is done by those organized outside them.
It will be necessary to fight and to boycott the corporatist councils, the managerial organizations, the neo-trade unionist or neo-political groups that will seek to seize the organization of social life for the benefit of a minority. Organizations that will maintain commodity production, form police units, or demand the return of the capitalists, cannot be considered to be soviets….
The council is necessary when a territory has to be administered. It disappears when this necessity temporarily ceases to exist as a result of a certain relation of forces or permanently ceases to exist as a result of the consolidation of communism. Certain groups can, in accordance with a revolutionary situation, intervene and communize stocks of commodities without being capable of or wanting to take the production or distribution of these commodities in their hands on a more permanent basis. It all depends on when the revolutionary forces reckon they possess the means to advance from specific wildcat actions to the direct administration of a region. The advantage of taking such a step would be an improved position with regard to securing resources for feeding the population or waging the revolutionary war. The disadvantage would be that the liberated region would become a target for attack. From the moment that this risk is accepted the problem of the councilist organization of the liberated region is posed: the problem of the constitution of a revolutionary power.
This same power! Whilst it must attempt to acquire the broadest support and participation of the masses, should not accept formal democracy as its basis, by organizing elections, for example.
What on Earth could be more beautiful than democracy, the power of the sovereign people? As the word “capitalism” assumes more pejorative connotations, “democracy” gains adherents. The whole world is for democracy, whether constitutional monarchy or republic, bourgeois or people’s democracy. If there is one thing everyone accuses their enemies of, it is that they are not democratic enough.
Anyone who criticizes democracy can only be, in the best case, a nostalgic apologist for the old absolute monarchies. Generally the appalling label of “fascist” is the preferred epithet reserved for such people. The most fanatic mudslingers in this regard are often the Marxists and Marxist-Leninists who forget what the founding fathers said about democracy, and who praise democracy so much in order to conceal their own taste for power and dictatorship… Ironically enough, it is certain elements tainted with the brush of Stalinism that will hypocritically accuse us of being Stalinists.
Democracy seems to be the antithesis of capitalist despotism. Where everyone knows that it is a minority that really rules, it is common for people to set against this minority rule the power derived from universal suffrage.
In reality, capitalism and democracy go hand in hand. Democracy is the fig leaf of capital. Democratic values, far from being subversive, are the idealized expression of the really existing and somewhat less than noble tendencies of capitalist society. Communists are no more eager to realize the trinity of “liberty, equality, fraternity” than that of “work, family, fatherland”.
If democracy is the consort of capital, why do dictatorship and capitalism so often coexist? Why do most people live under authoritarian regimes? Why is it that, even in democratic states, democratic functions are constantly impeded?
Democratic aspirations and values result from capitalism’s tendency to act as a solvent in society. They correspond to the end of the era when the individual had his place in a stable community and network of relations. They also correspond to the need to preserve the image of an idealized community, to regulate conflicts, and to reduce friction for the good of the whole community. The minority yields to the will of the majority.
Democracy is not merely a lie or a vulgar illusion. It derives its content from a shattered social reality, which it seems to reunite into a totality. The democratic aspiration conceals a search for community and respect for others. But the soil in which it is rooted and attempts to grow prevents it from successfully attaining these goals.
Even so, democracy frequently poses too great a threat to capital or at least to certain powerful interests. This is why it is always encountering impediments to its existence. With few exceptions, these constraints and even unadorned dictatorship are presented as victories for democracy. What tyrant does not pretend to rule, if not through the people, at least for the people?
Democracy, which during calm periods can appear to be a useful means to pacify workers’ struggles, is shamelessly abandoned when this is required for the defence of capital. There are always intellectuals and politicians who are very surprised when they are so easily sacrificed on the altar of the interests of the powerful.
Democracy and dictatorship are two contrasting, but not totally unrelated, forms. Democracy, since it implies the submission of the minority to the majority, is a form of dictatorship. A dictatorial junta may very well have recourse, in order to make decisions, to democratic mechanisms.
It is often forgotten that fascism, Nazism and Stalinism have shared a predilection to impose both terroristic procedures and periodic elections. It is characteristic of them to oppose the masses of the population and their popular tribunes, on the one hand, to a handful of “traitors” and “unpatriotic” and “anti-party” individuals, on the other.
Communism is not the enemy of democracy because it is the friend of dictatorship and fascism. It is the enemy of democracy because it is the enemy of politics. Nonetheless, communists are not indifferent to the regime under which they live. They prefer to quietly go to bed each night without having to ask themselves if that will be the night when they will be dragged out of bed and taken to prison.
Critique of the state must not replace the critique of politics. Some attack the machinery of the state only in order to save politics. Just as some educational theorists criticize the school in order to generalize the educational paradigm to cover all forms of social relations, for the Leninists everything is political. Behind every manifestation of capital they see intention or design. Capital is thus transformed into the instrument of a political program that must be opposed by another political program.
Politics is supposed to be the terrain of liberty, of action and of movement, in contrast with the fatalism of economics. The economy, the domain of goods production, is ruled by necessity. Economic development and its crises appear to be natural phenomena that are beyond man’s control.
The left has the habit of emphasizing the possibilities of politics, while the right focuses on economic necessities: this is a false debate.
Politics is increasingly prone to become a carbon copy of economic life. During a certain period it was capable of playing a role in the establishment of compromises and alliances between social layers.
Today, the significance of politics as a factor of economic intervention has grown. At the same time, however, the political sphere has lost its independence. There is nothing left of politics but a single political program of capital, which both the right and the left are forced to implement regardless of the specific interests of their respective constituencies.
While the state appears to be an institution with more or less recognizable boundaries, politics is constantly exuded from every pore of society. Even if it is manifested in the action of a particular milieu of militants or politicians, it relies upon and is echoed by the behaviour of every individual. This is what gives it its force and lays the foundation for the widespread opinion that the solution of any social problem can only be political.
Politics derives from the dissociation between decision-making and action, and on the separations which set individuals against one another. Politics appears first of all as a permanent quest for power that motivates men in capitalist society. Democracy and despotism seem to be the only forms for regulating problems that arise between people. The introduction of democracy into romantic relationships and families passes for a new stage in human progress. It expresses, in the first place and perhaps in the least unacceptable way, the loss of the profound unity that could exist between human beings.
Communism does not separate decision and execution. There will no longer be a separation between two groups or even between two distinct and hierarchical moments. People will do what needs to be done or what they have decided to do without considering whether or not the majority approves. Thoughts about majority vs. minority presuppose the existence of a formal community.
The principle of unanimity rules in the sense that those who do something have reached an agreement in principle and this agreement has provided them with the basis and the possibility for common action. The group does not exist independently of, or prior to, the action. It is not split by a vote only to immediately be reunified by virtue of the submission of one part to the other. It is constituted in and through action, and by the ability of each individual to identify with and to understand the point of view of others.
It is not a matter of categorically rejecting all voting and all majority rule. These are technical forms which cannot be given an absolute value. It could happen that the minority is right. It could happen that the majority may yield to the minority in view of the importance of the question for the minority.
Is communism the advent of freedom? Yes, if by freedom you understand that men will have more possibilities for choice than they do now, and that they will be able to live in accordance with their inclinations.
What we reject is the philosophy that opposes free will and determinism. This separation reflects the opposition between man and the world, and between the individual and society. It is an expression of the anomie of the individual and his inability to understand his own needs in order to satisfy them. He can choose between a thousand jobs, a thousand kinds of leisure, and a thousand lovers, and will be influenced in a thousand ways, because nothing really concerns him. No certainty affects him. He doubts everything, starting with himself. As a result he is ready to put up with anything and often believes that he has made a choice. Freedom is presented as the philosophical garb of misery and doubt as the expression of freedom of opinion when it actually means wandering aimlessly, man’s inability to find himself at home in the world.
During the course of the revolution man loses his chains but, having become his own objective, he is simultaneously chained to his desires and the needs of the moment. He becomes passionate and begins to know himself. The extraordinary climate of joy and tension of the insurrections is linked with the feeling that everything is possible and that what is being done must absolutely be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible. There is no longer any reason for doubt and for staggering from one meaningless task to another. Subjective and objective forces merge.
• The Electoral Circus
If you confuse elections with democracy, we shall be told by subtle thinkers, this is because you know that you will lose.
We have no illusions. It is certain that, as long as the system is functioning normally, we would be utterly defeated in a general vote. Our program might not be considered to be entirely without its good points by the majority of the voters, but it would certainly be judged to be unattainable. Only by refusing to act as voters will it be possible for them to begin to perceive the possibility of its attainment.
If politics is the art of the possible, as they say, then we situate ourselves beyond the realm of that possibility.
Good upstanding democratic trendsetters and opinion leaders, are you willing to submit certain questions to the population and to abide by its wishes? Lackeys of capital, we ask you: are you prepared to hold a referendum to discover whether or not capitalism should be maintained? There is a multitude of questions that you have managed to prevent from ever being addressed. They are ruled out from the start as not realistic. You are the ones who determine what is and what is not possible. But that is not enough for you. It is also necessary for your realistic programs and predictions to have never been implemented.
The state exists thanks to the taxes paid by its citizens. Its rule is based on their votes. If each one of its policies had to be directly examined and approved on an item-by-item basis by the taxpayers, it would risk losing many of its supporters. When he pays, the citizen has the impression of having been screwed. When he votes, even if he knows better he knows that he cannot do anything but keep his mouth shut, and feels flattered that his opinion should be solicited.
There is a dissociation between the system’s real management and the layers of officials who staff it on the one hand, and on the other, the politics of the parties, the spectacle-politics.
Electoral democracy serves to conceal the fact that all important decisions are beyond the control of the voters and even of the politicians.
The reality of electoral politics is becoming increasingly permeated by the commodity. Democracy appears as the direct reflection of the economic world. The voter is no longer even a citizen, but a consumer of programs and ideologies. The spectacle of politics and its privileged moments, known as elections, must be denounced for what it really is: just another way of making the people forget their nullity.
It often happens that the people take the hoax seriously. In the aftermath of an election that was annulled or after winning what seemed to them to be an electoral victory, they begin a rebellion. At this point they have gone beyond the reality of electoral politics.
We do not advocate participation in elections, let alone strict abstention. When the proletarians vote, even if they are not right, at least they have their reasons. This ritual will not seem to be really illusory, ridiculous and unfortunate until living conditions in their totality begin to really change. In the meantime voting will have its place in the armoury of the system.
Elections could very well be held in a communist organization. They will be for the purpose of designating delegates. But this election no longer has the appearance of a privileged moment. The designee does not have a blank check. He fulfils one function among others, one that is no more sacred than any other. Naming such a person or such a team of people, or approving of their previous activity, the rank and file is only establishing its own safeguards to ensure the implementation of its program. It is not the electoral procedure itself but the action that is undertaken that matters.
The formation of workers’ councils is not predicated on holding a referendum. Their task is not to liberate a region in order to hold elections there that would only be considered as valid by their organizers, as usual. With reference to this question we have the bad example of the Paris Commune.
Even if elections could be successfully conducted under these conditions, this would only succeed in dissociating decision-making and action and bringing about the return of professionals of politics. To have elections, voters must be registered and records must be kept.
The establishment of an administrative apparatus by means of elections presupposes the existence of such an apparatus! Power and the state were not born from elections, but the reverse.
The revolutionary organizations of the masses will be formed and consolidated in accordance with certain practical tasks. They will be born from the actions of minorities. You will not see 51% of the population suddenly take action, all at the same time, for the same purpose. These active minorities will be distinguished by the fact that they will not organize the rest of the population, but will tend to merge with the latter in attempts to resolve collective problems. Its success will depend on its ability to attract the participation of much more than just 51% of the population.
Communism cannot be established by means of a coup. Because it must confront the power of the state and its repressive apparatus, communism can only be victorious if it obtains the more or less active participation of a large part of the population, in which case its enemies would be an insignificant minority.
The proletarian revolution, by breaking the chains of the wage system, will make possible and necessary a degree of mass participation that cannot possibly be compared with that of the bourgeois political revolutions, even in those cases when the latter were popular revolutions. These popular revolutions, which the democrats invoke in their own favour, did not take place as a result of democratic deliberations. If the French people were given the choice in 1789, would they have voted for revolution? What actually took place was the result of one fraction of the population revolting against the superannuated privileges of the nobility. Driven forward by its successes and the consequences of its actions, the revolution swept away the worm-eaten system.
The party of communism will not follow behind the overwhelming majority of the population until the latter perceives communism as the direct means of resolving the problems of everyday life. The revolution does not take place because enough people have been converted to revolutionary views. People become revolutionary because the revolution causes a new way of life to appear, and it seems to them possible and necessary to live that way.
Today, when society’s vaults are still full, the disappearance of money seems impossible. Those who advocate it come off as naïve dreamers. When the market mechanisms cease to function, however, to continue to depend on money for one’s necessities will take on the aspect of meaningless acrobatics. People will come to support communism, not through ideology or even because of their loathing for a dying society, but due to a simple need to live. It will then become necessary to defend communism from the opportunists who are incapable of conceiving of a long-term perspective, and who will seek to gain immediate personal advantages from this situation.
If we say that the revolution must be based upon the broadest participation possible, why don’t we proclaim our allegiance to democracy? This might pose a quandary for some of our opponents and perhaps even to some of our friends. But we are not, after all, politicians; superficial support is more hindrance than help. We need to be clear in order to unite and orient our supporters on a solid foundation. As for our genuine enemies, we do not want to make their jobs easier for them, but in any event what we really say or want makes little difference to them. Sometimes this is because they do not understand us, or because they want to slander us, except when they lift some ideas from the revolutionaries to spice up their program.
Democracy is supposed to be the power of the people, the power of all. The communist revolution does not expect to change the form of the power structure or to hand it over to the people. It wants to remove it from the entire world.
Power always needs external legitimization: God for the monarchy, the people for the constitutional monarchy or the republic. Are the people more real than God? No, God is a person, a representation full of humanity, while the people are nothing but a pure abstraction of humanity. This people that is invoked to legitimize the state is nothing but a reflection of the state. Between this ideal people, this political people, and the real, diverse, lively, stupid or intelligent people, the people revealed in everyday life, an abyss yawns.
It is not politics that expresses and embodies the ideas and the will of humans, but the latter become the vehicles for political opinions. They are themselves transformed into abstractions when, whether voters or militants, they express their opinions.
Why don’t the communists, who want to do away with exploitation and war, renounce the use of force and dictatorial methods?
Do you really believe that the ruling classes will renounce the use of such means? Do you think that in a period of social transformation the most democratic states will not dictate their beautiful principles at gunpoint? The capitalists, the privileged, and the servants of the most liberal political order might claim they are fighting for democracy. They will not openly try to defend their real interests before the public. But it is quite unlikely that they will fight democratically.
It is within a context of a crisis situation that we have to compare bourgeois methods with revolutionary methods. It is hypocritical to contrast the behaviour of the most democratic bourgeois states during times of social peace with the behaviour of revolutionaries during a period of social conflict. In all likelihood the revolutionaries will prove to be more human and more democratic than the defenders of order during a time of upheaval.
• The Strike
Democracy is negated with the spread of strikes and wildcat uprisings. The outbreak of action is not conditional on a democratic poll of the rank and file or their representatives.
A fraction of the workers, because they are the most combative and least alienated elements situated in the most advantageous conditions, revolt. There is no gap between decision and execution, between those who decide and those who act.
The fundamental problem is not necessarily that of rallying the whole population behind the revolution. From a key position in the production process it is possible to make the capitalists yield. Work stoppages could be a self-reinforcing objective; all it takes is an unauthorized break or a refusal to do a particular job.
It is possible that a breakthrough staged by a handful of people could provoke a generalized breakthrough. This is what we witnessed on the scale of an entire nation in May 1968.
The strike movement spread. A majority of the workers supported it. Their support was generated in the heat of the struggle rather than having been secured in advance by means of a poll of those who were affected by the strikes.
If the workers had been required to democratically decide beforehand whether or not to commence hostilities, perhaps they would have balked. A small number of people set the example and showed them the way to cast aside their fear of the authorities and the possible consequences of their actions. They would be swept along by the atmosphere of struggle and solidarity and would be much more determined to overcome the feeling of discouragement and resignation engendered by the powerlessness of their everyday lives.
Let us imagine that the strike was decided on by means of a mass consultation. In that case it would most likely have taken a different course. The workers’ offensive would have forfeited its unexpected quality. The enemy would have been informed of the nature, the form, the scale and the objectives of the movement. Organizational imperatives would have trumped action and would have muffled the independent initiative of the workers. The strikers would have remained more or less passive and, outside of the ranks of a minority of trade unionists or organizers, would have seen their strike as someone else’s affair.
When workers begin to become radicalized, the democratic demand acquires more and more of the character of a demand for recuperation. A vote is held to decide whether or not to return to work. The bureaucrats, specialists in negotiation, seize the initiative.
Democracy becomes the expression of resignation. At this time it becomes visibly what it is in its essence.
Reliance on a general assembly as the only sovereign body is not enough to stem the tide of bureaucratization. The assemblies can become the privileged sites for manipulation, for mass meetings of atomized and powerless individuals, fortresses of confused and useless imposture.
General assemblies are necessary. It is necessary for them to be able to know where they stand, to assess their own forces, and to control and hold accountable their delegates and special committees. But the assembly must not take the form of something upon which all else depends, for whose benefit all the rest of reality loses all of its specific importance.
• The Party
As the crisis of capital becomes more profound and the vanity of the capitalist solutions to the crisis becomes more obvious, a communist party will form within the population.
The formation of the party is not the cause that determines the outbreak of the crisis. It is only the prerequisite for the assault on capital. Its quantitative and qualitative development is, on the other hand, intimately linked to the emergence of this crisis. Its purpose is to facilitate the resolution of this crisis.
The party is not an association formed in accordance with a pre-established doctrine that will expand and grow without changing its nature. The party does not exist; it constitutes itself. It emerges slowly and proceeds by acquiring a clearer content and form. Its nature becomes more definite and its membership increases as the possibilities for breaking with the system become more apparent.
The constitution of the party is not, however, a new and unprecedented phenomenon. The party, as it is born at a particular historical moment, is the resurgence of a movement that transcends the limitations of this historical period. The modern party picks up the thread of a party whose reality and even memory have been erased by the counterrevolution.
During non-revolutionary periods, when communism can only be asserted timidly and haltingly, the party in the strict sense is condemned to remain an insignificant and forgotten fraction of the population. Alongside the conscious communists there are numerous unconscious communists who reveal themselves by their revolutionary actions. The party, in the fullest sense of those who demonstrate their more or less conscious commitment to communism in the increasingly frequent social conflicts, is invisible. Its image is not embodied within the reigning spectacle. Even at the level of this spectacle, however, its power is felt. Propagandists and politicians, in order to push their commodities, broadcast a distorted echo of its hopes. Bourgeoisie and bureaucrats tremble before this still nameless and faceless threat.
It is contradictory to claim to be a communist in a world that rejects communism by every means at its disposal. Communists are not supermen who already live in a different way than the rest of their fellow men. They do not remain untouched by the reigning misery. Their theoretical consciousness is of little avail in their attempts to transform their own lives.
It is essential, and perhaps inevitable, that conscious communists should appear and that they should endeavour to understand and to prepare for the communist revolution. But it does not make sense to oppose conscious communists to unconscious communists. What is important is to see how and why the conscious communist arises as a practical necessity.
There are certainly people who call themselves revolutionaries. The production of these “revolutionaries” is not independent of the escalation of the crisis. Most of them are not communists and do not even know what they are and what they want. The desire for revolution appears as the last and the most vapid of all possible desires in this society. It is an abstraction separated from concrete needs and expectations. The “revolutionary” can discourse about everything and passionately engage in strategic disputes, but he is incapable of defining what it is that he wants. IF he speaks of immanent transformations, his perspective is dominated by the question of power. The society he wants to build rests upon a redistribution of power. What he “wants” is people’s power, workers’ power, students’ power, the power of the councils (+ electrification or automation!), the power of the people over their own lives, the power of…
When the revolution corresponds to concrete needs and possibilities, however, the majority of those who will be revolutionaries will not feel the need to call themselves revolutionaries.
Only during a phase of open confrontation, when there is a possibility of communizing the social body, will the party be able to cease to be merely an association based on shared opinions or sporadic actions. It will finally be able to become a community of action.
When the great majority of the proletariat participates in the revolution, the party will not mistake itself for the class, since it does not claim to be the proletariat or to represent it. It is the most resolute and lucid fraction of the class. It coexists, collaborates with or confronts other fractions that are more moderate or that have an interest in the bourgeois apparatus or ideology.
Its action can be characterized in one sentence: to create a situation that makes turning-back impossible.
It is normal for there to be a lack of convergence between the action of the communists and the behaviour of the masses. This does not indicate a fundamental conflict. The party does not have to eliminate the mass organizations or movements. The councils and other base committees do not have to eliminate the party. If one of these things should happen it would necessarily signify the end and downfall of the revolution. This perception of such a conflict is a legacy of the Russian revolution and the councilist wave of the twenties. It has one defect: it perceives certain organizations as communist which were not communist.
The party will fight for the councils, since this struggle cannot be dissociated from the struggle for communism. This is true even if, with regard to this or that point or mode of organization the communists do not agree with the masses.
The party itself, which is not an organization, or worse, an institution managed from the top-down, will organize itself in the councilist manner. It is the community of those who stand for, beyond immediate tasks and interests, the defence of the movement as a whole. It must indicate the fortress to be stormed, it must concentrate its forces at strategic points, and it must propose solutions.
There is presently no organization that can call itself “the party”. The latter can never be identified with a sect or any kind of mass organization. The supporters of communism are revealed by what they do rather than by membership in any particular group. Organizational forms do not have to be established or laid down in advance. They will be discovered during the course of the movement.
End of Pamphlet Two