We publish below a position paper by one of our sympathisers on the No War But The Class War committee meeting in Paris on 2 December. We welcome this contribution and generally support the political content of this text. In our view, it highlights two essential aspects that we would like to emphasise:
– the first, the totally artificial character of the NWBTCW committee, with no relation to the reality of a supposed reaction to the war within the working class: “Unless you consider that the struggles of last year in England, the one which is currently taking place in France, etc. are struggles which are frontally and above all consciously opposed to the war, the formation of such committees does not emanate from a movement of the class.”
– the second, the fact that such an opportunist initiative only accentuates the confusion with regard to leftism and anarchism: “The ex-nihilo creation of heterogeneous structures called afterwards ‘struggle committees’, by calling on all leftists and anarchists of good will, seems to be an unsuitable framework for proletarian politics”.
As the comrade rightly points out, this NWBTCW committee is ultimately nothing less than a “sham based on tacit compromises”.
I am not going to give a point-by-point summary of the meeting here, but I will only focus on what I thought was the most important.
I am not going to get into the controversy about the historical significance of the war in Ukraine, which was supposed to be the first part of the discussion at the meeting, with the ICT on the one hand seeing this war as a step towards the generalisation of global inter-imperialist war and the ICC saying that this is not yet on the agenda and that the conditions have not yet been met.
I will focus on what the NWBTCW is and the politics of creating such a committee in the face of war.
After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine last year, two organisations of the communist left proposed two different initiatives. On the one hand, the ICC, together with the Istituto Onorato Damen and Internationalist Voice, initiated a joint statement by the groups of the communist left, while on the other hand the Internationalist Communist Tendency called for the creation of NWBTCW committees.
I come back to this divergence because it underlies the second part of the discussion that took place at the committee meeting, namely what is this committee, what is its purpose, etc.
The presidium then drew an opposition between an abstract internationalism (that of the ICC) on the one hand, and a concrete initiative on the other.
So the presidium laid claim to being concrete: “you see comrades, the problem with this joint declaration of the groups of the communist left is that it is valid at all times and in all places”. In contrast to this, the NWBTCW struggle committees are initiatives which will allow the minorities who participate in them to adapt, to bend to the different situations, to the different contexts in order to better respond to the current situation.
To deal with this point, we need to see what a struggle committee is: it emanates either from a massive class struggle or from a struggle in one of its parts, bringing together particularly combative elements who feel the need to unite in order to act and reflect and pursue the struggle. Forming first (most often) on the basis of the enterprise or the sector, they can expand as the struggle goes on. The appearance of struggle committees is never to be neglected and corresponds to a step forward in the maturation of class consciousness. Proletarians meeting together can talk about past failures and the reasons for them, and ask themselves the question of how to organise themselves and in what framework. It is therefore essential for organised revolutionaries to support the creation of such committees and to intervene in them.
By its nature, the conditions of its formation, a committee is politically heterogeneous and sensitive to the manoeuvres and sabotage of leftists or trade unionists. The task of the revolutionaries of the communist left is to give the proletarians in these committees the tools to oppose their political enemies, the leftists.
So what about here? Unless you consider this past year’s struggles in England, the current one in France, etc. to be struggles that oppose the war head-on and above all consciously, the formation of such committees does not emanate from a class movement.
Artificial seems to be the right word to describe this type of initiative
In this artificial committee, the groups will struggle side by side with clearly leftist elements (thus political enemies). Here we see a manoeuvre that wants to make the ICC look sectarian, picking and choosing what is a real struggle and what isn’t. However, if in a struggle it happens that committees are created, in these committees the revolutionaries of the communist left intervene not to march with the leftists but to fight them. How can they fight them when they are going to form a committee along with them which, moreover, is not based on any clear anti-war movement of the class. This is a mistake: here the revolutionaries disarm themselves from the start and will not be able to guide the participants against the various leftists and anarchists.
For example, what came out of this meeting was a clear immediatism and activism, which was to be expected, but it will be impossible for the ICT to oppose it when it is bathed in it, maintaining and sustaining the illusion that there could be anti-war class actions to popularise and generalise in the short term.
There is also the danger of making participants believe in minority initiatives that will not actually advance class consciousness one inch while exposing them to bourgeois state repression.
This activism also block the development of consciousness among young and inexperienced elements who are looking for class positions; it prevents them from being drawn towards the communist left (unless they consider the communist left to be “a handful of nobodies” as a member of the presidium put it). This type of committee is a de facto decoy, since it maintains for obviously opportunistic reasons the vagueness on essential questions and positions and is not without conveying the old trap of substitutionism, privileging spectacular actions right now.
The artificial creation of a “committee” which puts on the same level the left communist organisations and various anarchist, leftist, Trotskyist and trade unionist elements, while laying down conditions of membership that are too broad and too vague, and trying to ensure the survival of the committee to act against the war, means that none of the tricky questions will be clarified for fear of putting this or that participating group in an awkward position. This is what an Italian from the last century called an “alliance without principles”.
I can give some quick examples: at no time did the presidium feel the need to clarify for the good understanding of the inexperienced participants, the political definition of leftism, the class boundary that separates them from the communist left; the presidium did not reply to the illusions of the participants about the situation in Iran that some saw as the beginning of a revolution while it is not even a class movement; when the fact of organising in the trade unions was evoked, the presidium did not recall the position of the communist left on the trade unions and their role, which would have been, in the light of struggles past and in preparation, much more instructive for everyone.
How can we believe afterwards that it will be possible to lead a fight against these same leftists within the committee? You might as well ask a puma to cut its claws and remove its fangs before sinking them into the back of the grizzly’s neck. You don’t have to be a soothsayer, prophet or Levite to say this, but simply be a marxist and avoid giving the critical assessment of two decades of NWBTCW policy as “sometimes it works, sometimes not”.
These two proposals – the joint declaration and the formation of committees – correspond to two ways of doing politics and they are not equal.
Revolutionaries are guided by their duty towards the class, that of giving it the means to go towards political clarity, which translates for example into preventing the most conscious or most combative proletarians (those for example who respond to the calls of the left communist organisations) from wandering into dead-ends, calls for action that have no relation to the slow but real movement of consciousness in the class. The activism, the immediatism and the various errors from which this committee suffers are not due to chance but to the poison of opportunism. The creation ex-nihilo of heterogeneous structures called afterwards “struggle committee”, calling on all leftists and anarchists of good will, seems to be an unsuitable framework for proletarian politics.
The moral here could be summarised as follows: “the class hesitates, let’s push it… nowhere”.
Which is what this committee really is, a sham based on tacit compromises and fuzzy principles, which exists simply to intervene and above all to show that you are intervening.
An active sympathiser of the ICC and the communist left