WHAT DISTINGUISHES OUR PARTY: The political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin, to the foundation of the Communist Party of Italy (Livorno, 1921); the struggle of the Communist Left against the degeneration of the Communist International, against the theory of „socialism in one country“, against the Stalinist counter-revolution; the rejection of the Popular Fronts and the Resistance Blocs; the difficult task of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and organization in close interrelationship with the working class, against all personal and electoral politics.


Events around the outbreak of rebellions in the  French banlieues between the end of June and start of July this year, after the cops’ cold-blooded murder of a young proletarian on the streets of Nanterre, are well known enough to warrant returning to the narration:  in fact, it is not sufficient to add up figures, breaking news, names and episodes, to understand what was going on.   For a political evaluation of use for the future, it seems far more useful to us to dwell on a few points we consider to be significant.

First of all, it should be pointed out that the rebellions that have broken out in the past few years have not affected the “suburbs of the empire” alone, where there is less possibility of control, prevention and social repression, but the ancient metropolises right at the centre:  just let’s think of what happened in the USA in 2020.  So we write ‘Nanterre’ but we might read Minneapolis, and vice-versa…

But to remain in France, it must be emphasised that in terms of extension to a national level and the dynamics of the clashes, what happened during those days undoubtedly marks a leap and a bound compared to the rebellions that exploded at the end of 2005 around the outskirts of Paris, then, too, because of the death of two kids being chased by the cops.  On the spur of the moment, we wrote then: “the anger of the young people in the suburbs, exploited, shut in ghettos, strangled by an increasingly suffering economy, pursued by a police force that is well known for its unrelenting harshness and obtuse cynicism, broke out unexpectedly and inarrestably: the umpteenth demonstration of the increasingly profound ill-being that is hatching in the society of capital, the violence that exudes from its every pore, its total and organic incapacity to solve even one of the problems it itself has caused. A whole mode of production that effectively demonstrates how bankrupt it is and which the young proletatians in the squalid and suffocating suburbs have brought to judgement in a direct and instinctive manner - with their anger and rebellion” [1].

Since then, at least two factors must be borne in mind:  the outbreak in 2008 of the great global crisis which the capitalist mode of production has never managed to leave behind it, continues inexorably crushing the lives of proletarians in suburbs throughout the world (and not only); and, in the space of the eighteen years that have since gone by, the significant generational shift.  And so poverty, alienation, exclusion and anger have spread exponentially and have clashed (it can be said on a daily basis) with police repression, armed with cutting-edge weapons of mass destruction, internationally developed. And it is on this scenario that the generation of the petits, as the kids and young people (between 13 and 18) are called, have grown up and become protagonists in the recent clashes.  Under the material pressure of these facts, the banlieues themselves have gradually undergone transformation: a class divide has increasingly been seen within them, between a proletariat destined for a precarious life, unemployment, a meagre day-to-day survival, and a lower middle-class of shopkeepers, religious leaders, store managers etc.

This split, already evident in 2005 [2], widened over the days of the uprising.  As always came the hypocritical yapping of the self-righteous, scandalised by the raiding of supermarkets and other shops in what are really authentic ghettos.  But what do these raids demonstrate if not the class divide in the banlieues all over France? On the one hand young and very young proletarians, filled with anger, rabid, lacking a future and lacking hope, and on the other a world which in miniature cannot help reproducing the dominant structures characterising the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois universe.   

The situation has some interesting reverberations, at least potentially. In one of the rare, reasonably lucid comments we have happened to hear, a famous sociologist like Marc Lazar declared explicitly that the petits do not feel “either French” (because “integration” has failed to work:  how about that!) “nor Algerians, Moroccans or Tunisians”.  Now, we do not have the possibility of verifying how solid this affirmation may be: on the other hand, it is highly probable that it is, since due to their young age, the petits are are as removed from the generations that figured in the “struggles for Algerian independence” in the 1950s and 1960s,  as they are from the religious superstructures that for years have suffocated intolerance and anger or channelled it into dead-end paths (such as Islamic radicalism in all its variations).  If it were so, we would actually find ourselves with young people who survive and move in a social no-mans-land and, by their actions, unconsciously proclaim their condition as pure proletarians[3].

Since its outset, communism has always emphasised that capital is obliged to produce its own gravediggers.  The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) shows that the development of industry in itself produces an increasingly numerous proletariat:  capital has agglomerated population and the proletariat is concentrated in greater masses.  From 1848 let’s move to today:  what actually are the banlieues?  An enormous concentration of proletarian population numbering millions.  Dialectically, the elements on which the widespread accumulation of French capital are based, i.e. extra profits from the exploitation of the ex-colonies and the low-cost proletariat coming from them, turn against the bourgeois State.  The metropolitan area of Paris has an overall population of 12 million:  of these people, 10 million live in the banlieues and half of them are pure proletarians, with a poverty rate that often amounts to over 40%.  Bourgeois sociologists speak of “the lost territories of the Republic” [4]

So it is not, therefore, generically a matter of racism.  Racism (in politics, culture, the media, the “forces of law and order” and so on) is one of the operational modes in which anti-proletarian repression becomes manifest and is applied, as the sole, true State religion [5].  Instead, this is a class war, in which the clashes in the French banlieues constitute the latest chapter, adding to the many episodes of rebellion that have taken place over time: for example in the United States and in very similar circumstances.

***

But let us go on to another point, very much debated in this regard, in France as elsewhere.  Everyday, in all the world’s suburbs, police violence strikes proletarians, young or not so young:  and merely suggesting, as one often hears,  the need for “police reform” and a “more suitable training”, “defunding” or even “disarming” the “forces of law and order” is an ingenuously criminal way of shutting our own or other peoples’ eyes to reality.  In the statement that we also released online, we clearly spelled this out: “Any organization of gendarmes, whatever picturesque name it is given by any State, is the body formed to defend bourgeois property:  i.e. the ‘privilege’ of appropriating and sharing ‘private appropriation’ of what we proletarians produce socially (this means, all together), whilst we are used by the monopolised forces of production, defended tooth and nail by the impersonal bourgeois class, in its companies, stores, emporiums, schools…. And formed to defend “public order” which is which is not the serenity in which we all desire to live, in a peaceful and well behaved social environment, but the social climate in which the lurid actions of the society of Capital (from the violence of the free competition of all against all to the uncountable manifestations of alienation and reification of men reduced to sellers of labour) may proceed undisturbed, putting up merely with the criticism of murmurings, whinings and at most indignant and even violent claims to a proposal for reform…” [6].

Faced with the unstoppable anger of the youngest proletarians, the French state, “a model of freedom and democracy”, brought 45 thousand cops onto the field including assault troops and failing, despite all this, to stop the hugely dangerous proletarian youngsters, decided to resort to censorship of the social media.  In fact, as we have seen in other similar situations over recent years, in order to coordinate, demonstrators have used the tools that the bourgeoisie would like to use for social control but which have turned against it! Faced with the rebellion of the young people from the banlieues (a rebellion which, we wish to emphasise, was still highly instinctive, individual, marginal:  how could it have been otherwise in present conditions?), the democratic bourgeois dictatorship shows the real stuff it is made of [7].

Yet, in Paris and - it seems - mainly in Marseilles, as well as in various other towns and cities towards the south of France, the petits managed to block one of the notoriously most aggressive, ferocious, well-armed police forces, experts in control and repression (an experience gained by long experience, since their colonial past), showing enviable organizational and tactical capabilities.

But is this enough?  Again in the statement quoted above, we emphasised that we communists “are not content with enthusiastically greeting the burning of the symbols of power,” whilst well remembering what an integral part it is of communists’ revolutionary practice, summed up as follows by Marx, in the 1850 Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League: “Far from opposing the so-called excesses, cases of popular revenge on hated people or public buildings linked to nothing except hateful experiences, not only must these examples be tolerated, but the direction of them must be taken in hand.”  [8].

This direction can be none other than that of the revolutionary Party, which forcefully re-presents the crucial problem of the general re-armament (theoretical, political, organisational, tactical-strategical) of the proletariat, without which no generous rebellion can lead to the overturning of bourgeois power.  In the days of anger and those following them, beyond the foreseeable romantic hymns to rebellion (if not to insurrection, or a “class war” which, unfortunately, still resides in the dreams of supporters of spontaneity of all origins and branches, in view of the fact that for the moment “class war” is led by the ruling class against the proletariat), and apart from the inevitable appeals to the need to “recalibrate communist theory” (yes, because no-one has supposedly noticed the new…”class composition” of a proletariat no longer…shut up in factories - bingo!), a few timid    mentions of the need for a revolutionary political direction have made an appearance here and there, but so feebly that they prove to be an appeal for the sake of making one: the “question of organisation, “the role of political synthesis (the programme), “the real rootedness of a a fraction of communists at the heart of the class”… But why not state openly then, that what is missing and must be worked on (solidly, profoundly and broadly, without any illusions of short-cuts or acceleration by force of will power) is the Party, founded on the chain whose links cannot be detached or isolated: theory-principles-programme-tactics-organization?  Why not state this openly and at the same time roll up our sleeves and start seriously working on it?

In another article published just after the 2005 riots in the banlieues, we wrote:  “The path leading from rebellion (blind, spontaneous, instinctive, destructive, as all uprisings always have been) to revolution is a long and winding one.  Most of all, it is not linear and not progressive.  It is an illusion to imagine a class recovery advancing perfectly smoothly, thanks to a renewed (it isn’t clear how and why) awareness  by the working class knowing, acknowledging, choosing and finally turning to action again, solving all the knotty problems, overcoming all contradictions, proceeding thanks to a geometrical accumulation of numerical and political strength.  This is not what class war is.  Whoever deludes themselves or others that it is, does the proletariat a great wrong. Class war (and above all the recovery of it after over seventy years of counter-revolution [today those seventy years have become almost ninety - ed] is something quite different:  it is a contradictory path made up of peaks and troughs, advances and retreats, along which the proletarian class (weighed down by all the inertia, all the filfthy deeds, “all the old bourgeois shit”, as Marx called it) will once more start fighting for its own immediate and historical interests - and will do this by clashing with all the forces that are adverse to it, but also with all the contradictions it drags with and within it and which surround it, putting on pressure and threatening it from all sides.   Not an abstract proletarian class, mythical in its purity and homogeneity, uncorrupt and incorruptible, which already knows what it is fighting for, knows its enemies, is clear about its aims, advancing united from the factory to the streets, from the streets to power.  But instead the proletarian class produced by capital, which is indeed the bearer of a new mode of production but only as long as it identifies itself in the revolutionary party: and not thanks to sudden enlightenment but thanks to the difficult and complex work that this party has managed to carry on in contact with it in the long period of counter revolution first before and then right in the midst of the economic crisis. This work cannot be avoided or cut short by acts of willpower, whether generous or futuristic - it has to be done and that’s it.  Only then will the party be able to “reveal the class to itself” and the class recognise its own avantgarde in the party.  Only then will the crisis of direction of the bourgeoisie turn from its sterile (indeed decaying and morbose) position of stalemate to a fertile pre-condition for revolution.  Only then will the objective and subjective conditions increasingly tend to converge and rebellions take on a nature that is not merely that of desperation.  Only then will insurrection and the seizing of power finally be on the agenda.” [9].

Eighteen years on and in the context of a worsening and deepening crisis in the capitalist mode of production (wars, economic and financial destabilisation, environmental destruction, dehumanisation of social life, etc.) this need proves even more urgent today.  Working towards it, we shall be able to lift the petits and all other instinctive rebels out of their desperation, frustration and illusions of all sorts and out of the ferocious repression and militarisation of the proletarian neighbourhoods defined as “problematic”.

 

[1] “Dal disastro di New Orleans alle periferie in fiamme di Parigi, altre verità semplici per il proletariato (From the New Orleans disaster to the Parisian suburbs in flames, more simple truths for the proletariat)”, il programma comunista, n.5/2005.

[2] “Communists must state firmly that the rebels in the banlieues are proletarians, against all the moves going on to present them simply as ‘immigrants’ or as belonging to one ethnic, national or religious group or another” , in idem.

[3] Exclusion is implicit in the composition of the word banlieu, which comes from joining the terms “ban”, or banning, and “lieu”, place. Banlieues, then, are the “banned places”. Indeed, “don’t all rebellions break out, without exception, in the desperate isolation of human beings from the community [Gemeinwesen]?” (Karl Marx, “Critical footnotes to the article The King of Prussia and Social Reform”, 1844).

[4] Again with regard to population: almost 20% of French people live in the region of Paris.

[5] See “Repressione e militarizzazione della società, unica e vera religione di Stato (Repression and militarisation of society, the one and only true State religion)”, il programma comunista, no.3/2023, issued just a few days before the outbreak of the rebellions.

[6] “Francia: Mentre infuriava la rivolta… (France: while the rebellion raged)”, https://www.internationalcommunistparty.org/index.php/it/165-flash/3385-francia-mentre-infuriava-la-rivolta.

[7] Once the storm had passed, on 14 July, the great feast of the French Republic, supreme emblem of the bourgeois revolution against the ancien régime, took place in an armour-clad nation, an authentic state of emergency: 130 thousand police officers ranged in France’s major cities, special forces, helicopters and armoured cars, for fear of the rebellions breaking out once more; in the capital alone, around 45 thousand police officers and gendarmes, élite troops, drones and armed tank were deployed in the security arrangements. This was the fraternité… of the bourgeois republic, itself transformed into an ancien régime.

[8] Reference to another classical text of ours is a must here: ““Evviva i teppisti della guerra di classe! Abbasso gli adoratori dell’ordine costituito! (Long live the hooligans of the class war! Down with the worshippers of established law and order!)”, il programma comunista, n.14/1962, written right after one of the many explosions of proletarian anger (Turin, July that year), immediately stigmatised by the bourgeois and opportunistic press, as the work of “hooligans”.

[9] ““Ancora sui disordini nelle periferie francesi. Di fronte ai contraccolpi sociali della crisi economica, lo Stato borghese e l’opportunismo mostrano in pieno il loro volto (Returning to the disorders in the French suburbs. Faced with the social backlashes of the economic crisis, the bourgeois State and opportunism are clearly revealing their real face)”, il programma comunista, n.1/2006.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST PARTY PRESS
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