Wednesday, 02 December 2020

“Territorial organisms for the proletarian struggle” what they are and what they must become


We have insisted more than once that, if the evolution of trade unions in the modern, imperialist phase has transformed traditional union structure into an authentic organ for the economic and social control of the proletariat, this certainly does not mean that the need for economic defence has disappeared, or, indeed, the radical, potential antagonism of the proletariat towards capital. The advance of the economic crisis itself, the contradictions it opens up and the consequent social issues inevitably drive workers in all imperialist States onto this battleground and will oblige them to equip themselves once more with new stable defence structures, an authentic class organisation. And it will also be one of the battlegrounds for the clash between communists and the variegated front of the bourgeois reformist enemy (see: our publication For the Uncompromising Defence of the Living and Working Conditions of Proletarians – Forms of organization and methods and objectives of struggles). This, to put it very briefly, is the path that will involve the whole of our class once again taking up the battle on a purely trade-union and social basis: a path that not only is not linear, and never will be, but one which feeds, and will increasingly feed, on transitory organizational experiences – a little like an accumulation of potential energy before an explosion.

One of these organizational experiences (and this is confirmed by the history of the workers’ movement) is the formation of “organisms” or “committees” of workers grouping outside the boundaries of the “company” or “factory” or – as in the case of elements from the highly fragmented area of civil servants – “category”, which also attempt to bring together those proletarians who experience isolation in microscopic companies or find themselves isolated under the “VAT régime”. They are important experiences, which often point the way to possible reorganization: but they are not (and cannot be) the embryo of a class trade union. They often stand alongside other experiences of struggle, important but differently organized, which for us communists are also of a transitory nature.  

What is important for us is that these organisms should be open to all workers, even to those who are subject to and the expression of positions belonging to the variegated world of maximalist reformism. Nonetheless, in order to avoid them turning into barren and useless centres for debate amongst militants, or for groups of well-meaning activists serving the most diverse of causes, it is the duty of us communists to establish contents and precise limits for encouraging the vitality, the duration and the pursuit of objectives leading to a split with the betrayal and inertia of all national union corporations, both large and small.

It is therefore a question of setting out the guidelines according to which the fighting spirit of these organisms can be directed, and establishing the objectives for organizing spontaneous rebellion and rejecting the “corrupt practices of the trade unions”.

The terrain on which these organisms battle is that of the defence of our class’s immediate interests: salary, health and, in general, living and working conditions, starting from the specific situation in companies but capable of being generalized and referring to all salaried workers.

We must be aware that in the present context of current laws and balances of power, these organisms would hardly be able to negotiate contracts and have the authority to “close a labour dispute”. Yet for this very reason they can organize thefighting spirit representing the interests of all workers, beyond the limits of the negotiations themselves: to promote and organize the struggle (and defend it), to coordinate and sustain it by raising resistance funds, always identifying a nucleus of reliable and militant workers to control the professional union leaders, sticking close to them throughout the whole dispute

There is obviously going to be a clash with institutional trade unionism and its representatives and this is why a clear distinction must always be made between the “territorial organisms of proletarian struggle”, the genesis of which we encourage, and the RSU (“Unified Union Representation”) and company trade union sections: this means that, whilst, for practical purposes, trade union cards amongst the workers belonging to the “organism” can be tolerated, it will necessarily have to encourage and practice class-based unionism in every possible way. In what follows we shall see the points around which these experiences of proletarian struggle must be organized.

Four areas of action  

In the present historical situation, the result of a profound transformation in the mechanisms of proletarian defence in the age of imperialism, the organization of workers expresses itself in two ways: in trade union structures that are fully integrated into State political and economic apparatus (“nationalized” so to speak, though formally “free”), animated by a workers’ aristocracy that is still widespread over the whole territory, definitively and rigidly positioned on the enemy front, and in a collection of minute union structures. 

Before sketching out an organizational draft, let us define the areas in which the more general aspect of the struggles for economic defence converge, the battle inside the big corporations, as in the smaller ones, and finally, the context in which, within them, class-oriented and revolutionary political forces must operate.

The area of economic battle is where immediate class interests are defended, with the objective of safeguarding salary and health (working hours, pace of work, overtime, productivity, intensity) and in general the living and working conditions of all proletarians. Since it does not act in the context of a contractual relationship, as happens with a trade union (though not because of an ideological refusal), themilitant territorial organism gives practical expression to all class needs and interests in all areas of work, using any means of struggle in relation to the given balances of power and events that capitalism encounters. To do this, the state of organization and activity is that of “near-legality”: it thus promotes and supports activities of defence, coordination and struggle (delegating to the more combative proletarians and the resistance funds).

The area of institutional trade unionism is excluded from this territorial organism for proletarian struggle, since for a long time now it has become impossible to acquire any space for battle or positions that make for class activity within the present trade unions: the current situation would mean being hounded out and reported to the authorities, unless an external balance of power were created that was strong enough to counter this. The agenda must therefore include the work of reporting betrayal and open black-legging, coercion and pacification agreements, fake strikes, cross-class objectives and regulation of strike action, continuously re-introduced in the macabre mantra of the institutional trade unions. In particular, what should be stressed is a condemnation of the “trade union ‘delega’ system”, by means of which our class is delivered into the hands of the bourgeoisie (“delega” or “proxy” is the mechanism whereby legally recognized union organizations, in agreement with the State and the bosses, automatically deduct their union fees from workers’ pay cheques). Instead of the present institutionalized organization, an independent and class-based form of trade unionism should be promoted.

The area of union “grassroots committees” can be used in such a way, and to an extent, where they anticipate the work of class unionism amongst the workers. Considering that in most cases these “committees” differ very little from the institutional trade unions, apart from the fact that they are far smaller and pulverized into individual sectors and categories, their work must be criticized when it proves to be supporting the big corporations. Interests that often escape the big corporations converge in them and thus the level of corporative conservation (the niche that has come into being to protect specific interests) is highly resistant, whilst being accompanied by a certain conflictual vitality. These “committees” must be encouraged to leave the area of individual, professional categories and forge wider relations with other, identical associations, with the objective of creating a unified, cross-category union at the very least.

The more general political area has the task of fuelling the proletarian’s battle of defence with methods and content, objectives and organizational capacity. Always lurking in these “committees” is an economistic trend that is often accompanied by a “politicalist” one (the fanciful ambition to transform them into “cells” of future political parties or a “workers’ parliament”). What must be cultivated, then, is the memory and experience of the international proletarian battles, as a training ground for overcoming the present capitalist mode of production.

Possible organizational draft

  • A militant territorial organism for the defence of the living and working conditions of the proletariat must be open to all workers but closed to the interests of the bourgeoisie and thus also to the agents of institutional union corporations.

  • It must be a place for exchanging views on decisions for all workers (employed in any sector but also unemployed, pensioners, the widest varieties of the precariously employed and, in any case, of any gender, age, background etc.) who, by means of their active participation, found a single possible and necessary proletarian unit, the sort that starts out by identifying the basic interests of our class. 

  • It must be an instrument which, by organizing the forces emerging from the workplaces (and transferring them outside the prison of the workplace), tends to overcome the strictures of trade interests, with the help of the force expressed by all other workers.

  • It must be a means of agitation, i.e. an active tool of support and a link between the various struggles that open up over the territory, particularly when the quality of them expresses a tendency to go beyond the compatibility imposed and expressed by the institutional trade union apparatus.

  • It must act as an expression and reinforcement of the practice of workers’ struggles and thus put forward and bring into use all those methods which, whilst distorted and monopolized by institutional organizations, are an expression of their strength, so that they once again become authentic class guidelines for intervention.

  • It must give proof of functional organization, with a structure that tends to guarantee stability and continuity.

  • The decision-making mechanism cannot be that of some abstract proletarian democracy or, worse still, that of an equally idealistic, unanimous decision-taking by an assembly but must be an expression of the operational quality of a militant majority.

  • An organism like this cannot shut itself away from the experiences of social struggle that spring up over the territory, struggles that other sectors of the population also take part in (housing, services, environment etc.) but must firmly and unyieldingly introduce into them not only the point of view but also, and above all, the interests of the proletariat.

  • Precisely because it is not of a political, but of an economic and social nature, an organism like this is not closed to an exchange between the different political positions of the workers who animate it: indeed, it encourages them to mature towards revolutionary, internationalist and radically anti-capitalist positions; but it refuses to become the terrain for a “debate between political groups”, which is a terrain that is by its very nature barren and harmful.

March 2016

  International Communist Party

Il Programma Comunista

Kommunistisches Programm

The internationalist


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