La Gauche Prolétarienne 1969

The J.C.R. in May-June 1968

Source: Cahiers de la Gauche Prolétarienne, No 1, April 1969;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor.

We must ask: what are the real reasons that, for quite a while, have connected a faction of the Trotskyists and the PSU?

These affinities led directly to Charléty. [1]

And since it doesn’t seem there has been the least autocritique on this point — like on so many others — we have a right to ask questions of ourselves and of others.

Let us recall the essential facts: in the first week of May the ex-JCR sets itself up as the secular arm of the UNEF [2]. In the weeks that follow, it concentrates in the universities and among the burgeoning coordinating groups. During the decisive week of May 24-31 it joins with the PSU for the demonstrations of the 24th, and later at Charléty Stadium.

From this point on, given the “Gaullist counter-offensive,” it decides that the ebb tide having arrived, its task is to organize the vanguard. And, especially since the mass actions are continuing, it’s necessary to protect this burgeoning vanguard from the temptations of adventurism, from pushing things to the limit.

The partisans of “proletarian resistance” thus saw themselves stuck with the label of “extremists.”

It was an era during which the great shades of the past were invoked; it was recalled that after the “massacre of the Commune” the workers’ movement had taken years to recover from its weakness.

Where did these ideas come from? Less from schoolbooks and memories than from the revisionst PCF.

What followed was to fully prove this: the theme of the Commune, “solo funebre,” is the favorite theme of Waldeck Rochet.[3]

As we see, in keeping with these facts a question must be asked: why is there such a close political proximity between the ex-JCR and the PSU.

Vanguard thought

Its most striking expression is that of the “rehearsal”: 1968 as the dress rehearsal of the French socialist revolution.

Fine. But where the effect becomes truly ridiculous is when we analyze the content of this rehearsal.

We can say that if things didn’t work in ’68, it’s because there was no vanguard. If there was no vanguard, it’s because at the decisive moment the vanguard militants didn’t have the means to get the vanguard line through to the masses, which is that of “workers’ control,” the line of the “revolutionary transition.”

This repeats the Transitional Program Trotsky wrote in 1938. But that’s not all. This program is also a repetition of Lenin’s program of 1917.

And as we all know, ’17 was preceded by the rehearsal of 1905. The class struggle is a theatre where the same play is always performed.

What was missing in ’68 was just such a vanguard thought, one that would have maintained and repeated the first avant-garde play performed on the stage: the Bolshevik Revolution.

Let us read the game of the ex-JCR during the revolutionary storm in the light of this thought.

The ex-JCR is the vanguard, because this is their idea; but in ’68 that vanguard wasn’t capable of functioning as a vanguard.

Two consequences: it reacted to the modification of the relationship of forces as if it dominated it politically. It put itself in the place of the vanguard it wasn’t, but which it could have been.

Thus, the week of the May 24-31 was decisive. There was a power vacuum. Why? Quite simply because if in place of the PCF-CGT there had been a vanguard, things would have happened differently; power would have been there for the taking (and we would have taken it)...

In the same way, since the PCF didn’t react to the established power’s counter-offensive on the 31st, since from that moment on power was no longer there for the taking, the objective could only be to protect the vanguard (the one which, in place of the PCF, would have changed history’s course).

We see the practical consequences: this imaginary identification leads to accepting the relationship of forces as defined by the PCF.


We are the revolutionary shadow of the PCF.

In this order of ideas, proletarian resistance is inadmissible.

In effect, its objective is to upset the Gaullist-PCF game.

Its objective is for the working-class force that is ideologically repressed by revisionism to express itself with the aid of revolutionary students.

That expression is the dawn of a proletarian party. A party born of the revolutionary struggle of the masses (workers and revolutionary students) against the enemy: counter-revolution, i.e., established power and their revisionist accomplices.

Two roads: Either we proclaim ourselves (in thought or words) a vanguard, and this leads us to a “paradoxical” political practice, or we build a vanguard, the guiding nucleus of the people’s cause.

Then we start from a base in reality. Which means, among other things, that we start from the fact that the masses don’t yet recognize us as the vanguard.

Transforming this reality means showing how, in actuality, we have made history advance.

Petit-bourgeois revolutionism

We have seen how a vanguardist thought gives itself, in thought, that which had to be created in reality. We have seen that such a thought implies tailism.

In fact, this imaginary vanguard is forced to have as starting point the reality produced by those who are the place they desire to occupy (the leadership of the working class). In other words, it follows (by criticizing).

What remains to be analyzed is the following fact: in this precise case, what is the real position adopted by this vanguard in name only.

If it’s not in the forefront, then where is it?

The facts show that the ex-JCR found itself to the “left’ of the PSU? Why that position?

In order to answer that question, it’s not enough to say that in “leading” the same movement (the student movement) it’s not by chance that they found themselves good friends. Other political groups had a mass influence on the revolutionary student movement that didn’t have this putschist orientation (ex-22 mars, ex-UJCML).[4]

So this rapprochement was not only made easy by a common social reference point (the student movement), but by a convergence in the political field. This is what must now be determined.

The ideological convergence was perceptible well before May. The theses of Mandel, the ex-JCR’s thinker, the man who adapted Trotsky’s transitional program to our era, met and partially fused with the theses of petit-bourgeois socialism, the theses of “revolutionary reformism.”

The line of “workers’ control” line had become the line of the “anti-captitalist reform of structures.”

The line of “counter-power” was amalgamated with that of “dual power.” For reformist revolutionaries, counter power is a line that consists in opposing one policy to another, in opposing one power of decision to another power of decision: for example, opposing to the power of the bosses the power of the unions; to a shot, a reverse shot; to a model of civilization, another model of civilization.

We obviously see that this line has as a starting point the forms of imperialist despotism (extension of despotism; new phenomena of the distribution of power), and opposes to it, in effect, a “reformist” line of action. Instead of determining a policy radically opposed to the current structure of despotism, they propose a policy which — taking up the forms of despotism as they appear — is nothing but a renewal of the classic tactic of reformism: the imaginary “nibbling away” at power, and the real refusal of its destruction due to the refusal to concretely pose the question of the gun, which is the pillar of imperialist despotism.

Apparently, in the Trotskyist case things are radically different, since the theme of armed insurrection is invoked. But it’s only an appearance.

Let us consider Trotsky’s Transitional Program, which is the point of reference.

It seems that it repeats in all points the Bolshevik program of 1917.

But here’s the rub: the theme of worker’s control in ’17 is subordinated to a political context which gives it all of its meaning.

Removed from this context, it loses all its meaning. What is this context? The existence of soviets, of a red power invented by the masses.

What is the essence of this power? It’s a revolutionary power because, thanks to the leading action of the Bolsheviks, it combines the two essential conditions: the support of the masses and the gun.

It’s a power because the basis is the masses; and its pillar, the embryo of the army, has already been constituted.

In other words, in order to find oneself in a situation like that of 1917 we need to have not only a “line of workers’ control.” (that never was a line of Lenin’s; at the very most it was a secondary element of his line), but above all one needs to have already settled the question of the unified arming of the revolutionary classes (and not only the proletariat), of the real majority of the people.

(The real majority, of course, has nothing to do with an electoral majority; the revolutionary Bolsheviks have as a task to consciously mobilize the majority of the active popular masses.)

No small matter, as we see!

In 1917 the soviet was a hitherto unknown form of unified arming of the revolutionary classes.

We know the secret of the affair: the inter-imperialist war had abolished the distance between the city and the country (the fundamental problem of the revolution), and that same war had given the gun to the peasant. It was the soldier.

The principal question of the revolution is that of power, which is to say — before the dictatorship of the proletariat — that of revolutionary war. It is not, and for good reason, the question of workers’ control (or of autogestion).

When we claim to have rehearsed the revolutionary uprising in taking from May 68 the line of workers’ control, what else are we doing but forgetting the gun, even if we still blather on about the armed insurrection and the strikers who will be its first detachments.

Do we really believe that in one month we can invent the solution to this problem?

You might as well say that you don’t consider it a problem.

Within the context of May ’68, where violence was never politico-military, but always politico-ideological (in fact, it aimed less at wiping out the enemy than in awakening the friendly forces), we can understand that this forgetting of the gun had become a matter of burning actuality.

Trotsky’s heirs and the partisans of the peaceful extra-parliamentary road (the PSU) find themselves on the same field. We understand the moving communions of Charléty.

We see how the social base (petit-bourgeois ideological anti-authoritarian revolt) and the ideological base (the amalgamation of the transitional Trotskyist line and the reformist revolutionary transitional line) met to give us Charléty.

All of this is cemented by their position vis-à-vis revisionism, entitled “Stalinist bureaucracy.”

Just as the line of the PSU presupposes the unity of the left and that the tactic of the PSU is to exert pressure on the left to “renew” socialism, the tactic of the Trotskyists is to exert pressure on the Stalinist bureaucracy, a worker’s party afflicted with a blemish (it has rejected the line of workers’ control).

This is how at Charléty the pressure of revolutionary reformism joined up with the line of workers’ control. A double pressure that should have overcome revisionism.

The fact is, that far from being overcome, revisionism left Charléty reinforced. There are thus some strange vanguards.


1. Site of a meeting held on May 27,1968 attended by various Left-wing groups, most notably the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU — a formation to the left of the Socialist Party), and the Trotskyist Jeunesse Communiste Revolutionnnaire (JCR). The JCR was dissolved by the government after May ’68, which is why it is referred to as the ex-JCR.

2. Union nationale d'étudiants francais — national student’s union.

3. — Secretary of the PCF.

4. 22 mars — leftist group formed in the first days of the May uprising; UJCML — Maoist group that condemned the student revolt as “petit- bourgeois adventurism.” The GP grew out of this organization.