Revolution or War n°24

(May 2023)

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France and Great Britain: Workers’ Struggles and Revolutionary Intervention (correspondence)

The rise of workers’ reactions at the international level is the de facto response of the international proletariat to the crisis and to the dynamic towards generalized imperialist war – the Third World War – that capitalism is announcing. It is a real expression of the massive confrontations between the classes that are coming. The crisis and the war, the former making the dynamic towards the latter the central factor of the historical situation, force each national capitalist ruling class to redouble its attacks against its own proletariat. One of the stakes of the coming historical drama will be the capacity of the revolutionary communist minorities and of the party, once constituted, to rise to the forefront of the class confrontation and to assure its political leadership. There is thus a whole experience of analysis and understanding of the dynamics of the phenomenon of the mass strike that it is up to communist groups to develop and, in part, to re-appropriate – especially for the younger generations of revolutionaries.

From this point of view, the massive proletarian mobilizations in the United Kingdom and France and the intervention of the groups of the Communist Left – we will limit ourselves to these –, although they are ultra-minority, provide us with an experience that must be shared at the international level by all the revolutionary and communist groups, what we call the proletarian camp. The groups of the Communist Left which, to our knowledge, intervened in the struggle in France by means of leaflets and articles were the ICT, the ICP-Le Prolétaire, the ICC and ourselves, to which we can add the nucleus in France of another ICP which publishes The Communist Party. In general, with the exception of the latter which calls for “real class unions”, all of them defended the same general orientations: denunciation of the union tactics of the days of action; emphasis on the necessity of the extension and unity of strikes and demonstrations. All of them, without exception, including the ICC – despite its congressional position excluding any risk of generalized imperialist war – were able to make the connection between the attacks on the proletariat, pensions and wage cuts, and the preparation of generalized war through the development of the war economy and arms production. The only criticism we will make here, not linked to the trade union question per se, will be directed at the councilist tendency of the ICC to fall into the fetishism of self-organization. It makes the general assemblies “the only place to organize the response to the repression and the defense of our means of struggle.” And, in the middle of the struggle and the confrontation with the state and its unions, it concludes once more with an abstract call, outside the immediate battle, without object for the proletarians confronted with the union sabotages, without concrete perspective of fight, to... discuss and debate: “we must meet, debate, draw the lessons of the past struggles, to develop our current struggles and prepare the fights to come.” (leaflet of March 27 against repression)

More seriously and fundamentally, the following correspondence between the ICT group in France, Bilan et Perspectives (B&P) and the IGCL is essentially about both understanding the dynamics of proletarian mobilizations in France and the UK and the intervention of revolutionaries. The difference is that the ICT defends that the unions are also organs of mediation between capital and labor, which we reject. If this difference did not prevent us from adopting the same orientations and slogans during the mobilization against pensions in France, to the point of intervening together, it was not so during the proletarian strikes and mobilization in the UK. We address this point in the last part of our letter of March 30. We propose and open this debate to the readers and to the whole proletarian camp.

2nd Leaflet of Bilan et Perspectives of February 2023
Neither Petitions nor Processions Will Make the Government Back Down! Let’s Organize Ourselves at the Base to Be Able to Really Fight!

The massive demonstrations of 19 and 31 January against the pension reform, the largest in years, have shown the extent of workers’ anger at this new attack by the bourgeoisie. The speeches of the bourgeoisie and its stooges, journalists and experts, did not deceive anyone, everyone understood that the objective was to make savings on our backs by reducing pensions.


The bourgeoisie, all over the world, is multiplying the attacks against the proletarians to save its profits, in the face of the economic crisis and the direct and indirect consequences of the war in Ukraine. In France, after cutting unemployment insurance, and while real wages have been falling for months, the government demands new sacrifices to remedy the supposed future deficit of the pension system. At the same time, it is increasing military spending by a third for the period 2024-2030, bringing it to 413 billion euros. What a bright future it holds for us! After having given our sweat, will we have to give our blood for their profits!

DEMONSTRATIONS, HOWEVER IMPORTANT THEY MAY BE, WILL NOT BE ENOUGH. The strategy decided by the trade union leaderships leads us to failure, as experience has already shown many times. The scenario seems to be written in advance and the roles are well distributed: the reformist unions are waiting to accept adjustments to the reform; the so-called radical unions are already preparing to cry betrayal, in the meantime they are organizing various symbolic actions and blockades for the most determined who will thus find themselves isolated in their companies.

As for the left-wing organizations, they are trying to push the movement in the hope of getting the credit for it. We can easily guess that through the proposal of an alternative reform to that of the government, they hope to channel the anger of the exploited towards the next elections. A field on which we will always be disarmed, left to the maneuvers of the various bourgeois stables. For the time being, they are still lining up behind trade union unity, which history shows still and always prepares... for a bad future. THE UNITY OF THESE FORCES HAS NEVER BEEN LACKING TO FRAME THE PROLETARIAT AND CONTAIN ITS ANGER!

LET’S RELY ONLY ON OURSELVES. As long as the trade union leaderships have a stranglehold on our movement, we won’t get anywhere. It is illusory to try to push them to really fight, they are organs of mediation between capital and labor, their role is to negotiate the price of our labor power with the bosses and the state. We have nothing to negotiate with those who attack us but to establish a relationship of forces. Our interests are irreconcilable.



Bilan et Perspectives, ICT, leaflet distributed February 7th 2023

IGCL Letter to Bilan et Perspectives (February 16th 2023)

The IGCL to Bilan et Perspectives (copy to the ICT),

Dear comrades,

In your February 7th e-mail, which included the French-language bulletin on the occasion of the street demonstrations in France, you indicate to your correspondents that you are “interested in hearing [their] criticisms and comments.” We take the liberty of responding quickly to this invitation, hoping to specify and clarify agreements and disagreements, which are of a quite secondary order for the latter. The bulletin includes three texts:

- the leaflet Neither petitions nor processional demonstrations will make the government back down! Let’s organize at the base to be able to really fight!

- the text The world bourgeoisie on the war path ;

- and a call to join the NWBCW committees So what can we do?

We express our agreement and support for the last two texts. Any observations would only concern emphasis, or even be of an editorial nature only, and would not express any divergence, or even significant political nuance. The leaflet, on the other hand, poses a certain number of problems for us from a political point of view.

The January 18 Leaflet and the Situation in France

Let’s remember that we made the Bilan et Perspectives leaflet of January 18 our own, to the point of distributing it – in collaboration with your militants in Paris – in the massive demonstrations organized by the unions on the occasion of the mobilization against the umpteenth pension reform in France. Its two slogans ’from tomorrow, let’s continue the strike [and] let’s organize delegations in order to extend the struggle to other companies and administrations nearby’ constituted the answer – the alternative – that the communists had to put forward at that time in the face of the days of union action. We will come back to the formulation, more confused in our opinion, of ’let’s organize at the base’. From our point of view then, the absence of autonomous dynamics or even of a particular workers’ initiative, such as the wildcat strikes of the spring and summer of 2022 in Great Britain had been able to express, for example, encouraged us to think that the bourgeoisie [1] kept all control over the situation and over the discontent and the relative, but real, combativeness of the proletarians in France. In particular, the planning of union days of action, once again, allowed the unions to occupy all the space or field that a consequent workers’ reaction could take, up to the most “radical” grounds. We will not elaborate here, as it seems to us that we are in agreement on this particular point. In this sense, the slogans of continuation of the strike after the day of action and of sending delegations in order to extend, remained the only ones that it was appropriate to advance then – even if we could consider/suppose that they were already out of immediate reach, for that moment, of the proletarians in struggle, because of the relation of forces existing then and established by :

- the absence of any particular workers’ initiative – no wildcat strike, no particular struggle in a workplace that could serve as a focus of reference, or even unification, for the struggle, no constitution (to our knowledge) of any struggle committee in one form or another such as inter-professional assemblies... ;

- the occupation of the field by the unions, national days of action and announcements by the most left-wing unions (CGT-SUD) of radical actions, of blocking the economy, even of renewable strikes... at later dates and split by sector with, in parallel, the political game between the government and the left-wing opposition and the parliamentary debate, aiming at focusing the attention of the proletarians on the bourgeois field.

It seems to us that the slogans of January 18 were still valid for the day of January 24, so much so that we continued to distribute it. This day and the absence of a renewal of the strike the next day, or of any particular workers’ initiative, definitively buried the unlikely possibility – for this moment or that episode of the mobilization – of a surpassing of the tactics of the days of action and of a real workers’ push. In doing so, both slogans lost their topicality and no longer corresponded to the immediate situation, from the point of view of agitation and political leadership. We stopped distributing the leaflet – as did you, it seems – and concentrated on distributing our communique, which was in fact more propaganda – on the war in particular – than immediate agitation. As of today, February 15, on the eve of the 5th day of union action, we can consider that nothing has changed in the dynamics of the ongoing workers’ mobilization and that no new perspective, let alone a particular orientation and slogan, is emerging from the proletarian point of view.

The February Leaflet of the Bulletin

The criticisms – let’s repeat: minor ones – that we are going to make about the February leaflet, about the bulletin, are of another type and do not concern the analysis and the understanding of the dynamics of the struggle itself. They are essentially of two kinds, the first being much less important than the second. The text makes well the link between the attacks undergone by the proletarians and the imperialist war: ’the bourgeoisie, everywhere in the world, multiplies the attacks against the proletarians to save its profits, facing the economic crisis and the direct and indirect consequences of the war in Ukraine.” Just as is clearly opposed on the one hand the anti-worker attacks and the explosion of military spending on the other. As far as we know, the ICT and the IGCL are the main, if not the only, communist organizations to clearly make this connection and focus their intervention on it. Nevertheless, the imperialist war is presented in your leaflet as an element on par with the crisis. Certainly, there is no doubt that the crisis is at the origin of the imperialist war and that the two feed each other. However, the imperialist war, materialized by the war in Ukraine and the march to the generalized war, has become – or in a more nuanced way: is becoming – the primary factor, certainly not the only one, dictating the economic, political, ideological and repressive attacks of each national bourgeoisie. And this is what we believe should be emphasized. Indeed, in the present circumstances, capitalism’s ineluctable drive towards war is expressed today in the universal attack on the working and living conditions of the proletariat.” [2] As a result, “for those proletarians who, without being directly called to arms, belong, together with their bourgeoisie, to an imperialist front which has direct, immediate or only future interests in the war, the discourse changes, but only for the immediate conditions in which they are called to move.” (ICT, La route difficile de l’impérialisme européen [3]). As you can see, the divergence is minor and does not change the class and... effective political vanguard nature of your statement.

The second criticism of the leaflet refers to a more important political question. It concerns the character and function we attribute to the unions and, incidentally, to the left-wing forces in the state apparatus. “Let’s rely only on ourselves. As long as the trade union leaderships have control over our movement, we won’t get anywhere. It is illusory to want to push them to really fight, they are organs of mediation between capital and labor, their role is to negotiate the price of our labor power with the bosses and the state.” And “as for the organizations of the left, they seek to push the movement hoping to draw the chestnuts from the fire.” (emphasis added) Instead of considering the unions as full organs of the capitalist state, with an anti-working class and counter-revolutionary political vocation and function, the formula organs of mediation between capital and labor opens the door to the idea that they would not be completely bourgeois and that they could still represent, at least in part, the immediate interests of the class since they are situated between the classes, as intermediaries or arbiters between capital and labor. The same is true in a certain way with the forces of the left that would seek to push the movement. But both the unions and the left forces of capital do not try to push the movement but to manage it, to control it, to sabotage it when there is a danger, indeed a real dynamic, of extension and unification, to extinguish it, so that it ends in an economic and political failure of this particular battle of the struggle between the classes. And this for capital and against labor.

In that sense, we would certainly refer, for our part, to the PCint Platform of 1952, which is politically clearer on the union question: “the party categorically affirms that in the current phase of the totalitarian domination of imperialism, the unions are an indispensable tool of this domination, to the extent that they even pursue goals that correspond to the bourgeoisie’s aims for its own preservation and war.” (our emphasis)

Political Implications of the Position on Unions Understood as "Mediators"

This criticism may seem to have no real militant stake, a simple political or even theoretical nitpicking. All the more since your February leaflet is clearly situated on the proletarian side of the class barricade of the moment. However, the position on unions as mediators can have political implications and consequences as to the immediate intervention, orientations and slogans that the party must put forward in any workers’ mobilization. Indeed, it is likely to miss or underestimate the directly anti-working class and counter-revolutionary political dimension of the unions – and of the forces of the capitalist left, including leftists. In doing so, one does not always understand well what concrete and immediate stakes their successive policies and slogans try to advance in the course of the struggles, according to the moments and the places. Obviously, it would be appropriate to take each particular proletarian mobilization to illustrate our point; to grasp what are the immediate class stakes of such or such particular battle; and to understand the immediate political meaning of the different slogans of the unions, official and those called base or radical. In particular, when they come, especially the latter, to call for renewable strikes, assemblies, coordinations, or even... self-organization; or still on certain occasions for the extension itself. [4] In general and to make it simple here – no doubt we will have the occasion to come back to it – they aim not to build on such or such workers’ dynamic to negotiate the price of the labor power but on the contrary to suffocate it, to sabotage it and to extinguish it. And this is what the communist vanguard, assuming its role of political leadership, should respond to by offering alternative orientations to the different moments of the various sabotages and union maneuvers.

In the current massive workers’ mobilization, which so far is similar to the previous ones of 2003, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019, the priority objective of the unions is to prevent the emergence and development of any dynamic of real extension of the struggle to different sectors or corporations, in particular by means of the renewable strike; that is to say, to prevent any dynamic of mass strike. It is therefore in the light of this stake and according to the concrete and successive conditions in which it is posed, that we must understand the action of the unions, the different moments and terrain of the political confrontation and advance orientations and immediate slogans accordingly. In this sense, making self-organization in itself a slogan for action, “let’s take our struggles in hand”, “let’s organize at the base” [5], does not allow us to provide a real alternative, except in exceptional cases and in particular concrete situations, to the political control of the unions over the struggles. Even worse, very often and if there are risks of generalized extension, it is the unions and the left-wing forces of capital that can become the most determined advocates of self-organization [6] in order to better enclose the workers in their workplace or their corporation. Isn’t it a usual trade union practice that the proletariat and the communists are regularly confronted with, especially on the occasion of each workers’ mobilization in France? Isn’t it the object of most of the inter-professional assemblies that the leftists and radical syndicalists have never stopped setting up in a preventive way facing the possibility of the unions being overwhelmed?

In this sense, rather than calling for organizing at the base, a formula that is abstract to say the least, it is appropriate to call for this or that slogan, including a slogan of organization or taking charge of, according to and in view of the immediate, local and current needs of each struggle; needs that we can summarize here as those leading to the extension, the generalization and the unity of the struggle in order to aim at establishing the best possible relation of forces to the bourgeoisie and thus to make the immediate struggle itself as effective as possible, in terms of demands and proletarian experience; needs whose articulation according to the moments and places determines the immediate slogans and actions. It is therefore important to call the proletarians, especially when it arises concretely, to hold a general assembly to, for example, put themselves on strike, or to organize mass delegations (etc) to extend the strike or the struggle, to constitute a strike committee for such or such task, etc. Isn’t this also what the historical experience teaches us, the one of the Bolsheviks between February and October 1917? When the party knew how to advance, then withdraw, adapt – by relying on the factory committees, and not on the councils anymore, from July to September 1917 – and take back with another concrete political content – the insurrection – the slogan of all power to the workers’ councils?

There is, therefore, a link between the understanding today of the trade unions as full political organs of the capitalist state and their full and complete class bias, anti-worker and totally bourgeois – not between the two classes – which allows us to grasp the true meaning of each of their actions and slogans and the needs of each workers’ struggle. Not to grasp the bourgeois political character of the unions limits, when it doesn’t forbid, the recognition of the different confrontations or particular battles that the proletarians have to face. It thus opens the door to abstract slogans, such as self-organization, which risks, in fine, making the intervention of revolutionaries lag behind the events, even being on the ground and timing of the bourgeoisie.

These, dear comrades, are the comments and critical observations that we wanted to bring to you, hoping that they are positive, while knowing that they are undoubtedly very far from closing this debate.

Fraternally, the IGCL, February 16th 2023



[1. That is to say the whole of its state apparatus of which the unions are an essential political and anti-worker component;

[2. ICT 2020 Platform.

[3. We have translated this article of Battaglia Comunista in French and English. Its Italian version is on

[4. To cite only one example, this was the case in January 1987 at the end of the wildcat strike, without union notice and especially against the unions that opposed it, the CGT in the first place, of the railway workers of December 1986-January 1987 in France. There are other examples of sudden and extreme radicalization of the unions and the left forces that the proletariat will inevitably have to confront in the future, in particular in the pre-revolutionary and even revolutionary periods. Germany in November 1918 provides us with its most tragic historical example.

[5. Without returning here to the councilist fetishism of self-organization which the ICC has now championed for two decades and which we cannot address here.

[6. Self-organization can also be used to justify the prohibition made to the political vanguards, to the party, to intervene as the impossibility for Rosa Luxemburg to address the congress of the councils in 1918 showed it to us because she was not a worker and only “those who appear on the lists of the people working in the companies or on the military manpower” could be delegates to the congress. (La Révolution allemande, Pierre Broué, 1971)