Paris May 1968

Towards a Mass Leftism?

Continuer la lutte

Source: The May Events Archive of Simon Fraser University;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor.

France knew a revolutionary period, not the revolution. Due to this fact, insofar as an unlimited general strike cannot be an end in itself there is an ebb. For a few days it posed the question of power. It had to be answered...and it was De Gaulle who did so. Not because he was strong, but because the policy of the working class leadership allowed him the possibility.

Two historic events already put the leadership of the PCF in that necessity that Moscow and its reformist consciousness impose on it. In 1936 and 1945 the PCF, if it didn’t (at all) initiate the mass movement was nevertheless able to control it in peace. It had many young cadres and combative militants at the base having confidence in Maurice [Thorez] and praying for Joseph. They were the party’s guarantors in its work as a brake.

Today it is outside the PCF that the movement was started. Everything happened outside of it. Its integration into capitalist society has fossilized it, aged it, and considerably reinforced its “natural” penchant to brake, break, and betray revolutionary struggles.

If the contradictions implied by such an attitude are only visible in periods of calm to a few tens of “leftists” (God be praised, of bourgeois origin) in a revolutionary period these “leftists” can be counted in several tens of thousands.

The need to preserve a mass audience, while maintaining the same policy, demands a firm counter-attack. So we can understand that l’Humanité is blackened with articles against the leftists while not one article is dedicated to the dangers of the capitulators.

But it’s not enough to insult and slander those that the Party calls leftists in order to explain how it is that the movement was pushed along by them and set off outside the traditional framework of the working class. But it’s not enough to insult and slander those the Party calls leftists in order to justify a policy that systematically tended to make the movement return to its banks, to defuse its combativeness and to see to it that it return to that privileged terrain of social-democracy: the parliamentary struggle and bourgeois legality. But it’s not enough to insult and slander those that the Party calls leftists to deny the influence and the echo that they have acquired among the students as well as among certain fractions of the working class.

What we had the right to expect was an analysis of the real relations existing between the movement and the groupuscules, the whys and hows of their intervention on the basis of a class analysis and the complex relations existing between a mass movement and the organization supposed to lead it. But not the bilious “paving stone” ( to each his paving stone) that appeared on Page 1 of l’Humanite on June 6 entitled – ironically no doubt, at a moment when the CRS are taking the factories back by force – “Vigilance.”

But l’Humanité can’t explain this, and for cause. The role filled by the “leftists” was, within certain limits, that which an authentically revolutionary leadership should have played: foreseeing the movement (and this isn’t a question of dates), organizing it, leading it. But it is obvious that not only did the Party and the CGT not do this, but even more they never stopped – once they had caught up with the train – attempting to put a brake on it and have it return to the station. And so explaining the role of the “leftists” meant confessing their own failure; it meant recognizing that the line elaborated by the PCF had showed itself to be wrong.

In these conditions only one thing is left: attacking them in a newspaper before attacking them on the streets; taking out the old arsenal that under the pressure of the masses and the breadth of the movement we had had to put away. Tomorrow it will be explained to us that if the Left’s victory in the elections doesn’t have the dimensions we could have hoped for after a strike participated in by ten million workers – and we have every reason to think that such will be the case – it’s the fault of the leftists: they divided the working class movement and its class organization, playing into the hands of the power structure. In truth, those who played into their hands were those who didn’t know how to present concrete political objectives (and the means of obtaining them) to a mass movement of an “unequalled breadth.” This is why there is an ebb.

But the current ebb corresponds to the high tide of the past weeks. It doesn’t signify the defeat of the movement and even less the resignation to electoral illusions or in the “satisfaction of economic demands.”

The gaining of revolutionary consciousness, the experience of struggle that took place these last weeks will remain. The role of the union and political leadership, the need to organize everything from the establishment of strike committees up to, in certain cases, the putting of businesses into operation under the control of the workers of the enterprise, are acquisitions of a capital importance.

Ebb? Rather a maturing in the retreat which will be felt in the upcoming struggles. In one month twenty years of stumbling, of blockage, of electoral fiddlings were overcome. Capitalism feels the ground being pulled out from under it, but the workers who were the spearhead of the struggle see their confidence in their own strength grow.

Many are those who will understand this: the world revolution is now knocking on the doors of the developed capitalist countries.

La Jeunesse Communiste Revolutionnaire