L'autodéfense ouvrière

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Every state is the organization of the coercion of the ruling class. The social system remains stable as long as the ruling class is able, through its state, to impose its will on the exploited classes. The police and the army are the most important instruments of the state. The capitalists refrain - not entirely, far from it - from keeping their own private armies, wiping them out for the benefit of the state, so as to prevent the working class from ever creating its own armed force.

During the rise of the capitalist system, the state monopoly of the armed forces is seen as something natural, including by the oppressed classes.

Before the last world war, international social democracy, even in its best periods, never even posed the question of the arming of the workers. More serious still, she rejected this idea as the romantic echo of a distant past.

It was only in Tsarist Russia that the young proletariat, in the first years of the century, began to resort to arming its own combat detachments. This revealed in the most vivid way the instability of the old regime. The tsarist monarchy proved itself less and less capable of regulating social relations through its normal agencies, its army and its police, and had to resort more and more to bands of volunteers, such as the Black Hundred [[1] ], with their pogroms against Jews, Armenians, students, workers and others. It was in response that the workers, as well as the various national groups, began to organize their own self-defense detachments. These facts marked the beginning of the revolution.

In Europe, the question of secondments of armed workers only arose towards the end of the war, and, in the United States, still later. In all cases, without exception, it was and it is the capitalist reaction that first begins to build special combat organizations coexisting with the police and the army of the bourgeois state. This is explained by the fact that the bourgeoisie sees further and that it is more brutal than the proletariat. Under the pressure of class contradictions, it ceases to rely exclusively on its own state, insofar as the latter is still bound by “democratic” standards. The appearance of "voluntary" combat organizations, whose objective is the physical elimination of the proletariat,

The hope of the reformist parties, the 2 nd and 3 rd International and trade unions, that democratic state organs would defend them against fascist gangs has always and everywhere proved to be illusory. During serious crises, the police always maintain an attitude of friendly neutrality, when not in open collaboration, with the counter-revolutionary bands. But and this is the result of the great vigor of democratic illusions among the workers, they are very slow to organize their own combat detachments. The term "self-defense" fully corresponds to their intentions, at least in the initial period, because the attack always comes first from the counter-revolutionary bands. The monopoly capital, which supports them, starts a preventive war against the proletariat for the

The process by which workers' self-defense detachments are formed is inextricably linked to the entire course of a country's class struggle and therefore reflects its inevitable accelerations and slowdowns, its ebbs and flows. Revolution breaks out in a society, not as a result of an unchanging continuous process, but through a series of convulsions, separated by distinct and sometimes wide and prolonged intervals, during which the very idea of ​​revolution seems to lose all connection with it. reality.

Therefore, the slogan of self-defense will meet with echo in a certain period, but, at another time, it will seem like a sermon in the desert, only to find again, after a certain time, a new popularity. .

We can observe this contradictory process in France in recent years. As a result of the chronic economic crisis, the reaction openly took the offensive in February 1934. Fascist organizations grew rapidly. The idea of ​​self-defense has also become popular among the ranks of the working class. The Socialist Party itself was obliged to constitute in Paris something which resembled a self-defense apparatus [[2] ].

The policy of the "Popular Front", that is to say of total prostration of workers' organizations before the bourgeoisie, postponed the danger of revolution to an indefinite future and allowed the bourgeoisie to withdraw the coup from the agenda. fascist. Having furthermore been freed from immediate internal dangers and finding itself in the presence of growing threats from outside, the French bourgeoisie immediately began to exploit for its imperialist ends the fact that democracy had been "preserved".

It was again proclaimed that the coming war was a war in defense of democracy. The policy of the official workers' organizations has taken on an openly imperialist character. The section of the Fourth International, which had made serious progress in 1934, found itself isolated in the following period. The call for workers' self-defense seemed to float in the air. Who was it actually to defend against? After all, "democracy" had won out across the board. The French bourgeoisie entered the war under the flag of "democracy" and with the support of all official workers' organizations, which allowed the "radical-socialist" Daladier to immediately put on a "democratic" appearance for a regime. totalitarian.

The question of self-defense organizations will reappear in the ranks of the French proletariat with the development of revolutionary resistance to war and imperialism. The subsequent political development of France and other countries is inextricably linked to the war. The growing discontent of the masses will first provoke the most savage of reactions from above. Militarist fascism will come to the aid of the bourgeoisie and its state power. The problem of organizing its self-defense will be posed to the working class as a question of life and death. This time it can be assumed that there will be enough rifles, machine guns, cannons in the hands of the working class.

Similar phenomena, although in a less vivid form, have appeared in political life in the United States. After the successes of the Roosevelt era, contrary to all expectations, gave way from the fall of 1937 to a slow decline, the reaction began to manifest itself in an open and aggressive manner. This provincial mayor, Hague [[3] ], immediately became a national figure. The sermons, animated by the spirit of pogrom, of Father Coughlin [[4]] have met with great resonance. The administration and the democratic police shrank from the bands of monopoly capital. During this period, the idea of ​​military detachments in defense of workers' organizations and press began to find an audience among the most conscious workers and in the most threatened layer of the petty bourgeoisie, particularly the Jews [[5] ].

The economic revival which manifested itself from July 1939, evidently in connection with the development of arms production and the imperialist war, revived the faith of the “sixty families” in their “democracy”. To this must be added the danger that the United States itself will be drawn into a new war. Now was not the time to rock the boat! All the fractions of the bourgeoisie have closed ranks behind a prudent policy of defense of "democracy". Roosevelt's position is strengthened in Congress. Hague and Father Coughlin took a back seat. At the same time, the Dies committee, which no one took seriously in 1937, neither on the right nor on the left, has acquired considerable authority in recent months. The bourgeoisie is "against fascism as well as against communism". And she seeks to demonstrate that she can deal with all kinds of extremism through parliamentary means.

Under these conditions, the slogan of workers' self-defense could only lose its power of attraction. After an encouraging start, it was as if the workers' self-defense organization had been struck to death.

In some places it is difficult to attract the attention of the workers. In others, where workers have joined the vigilante groups in large numbers, officials do not know how to use this workers' energy. Interest disappears. Nothing surprising or disturbing: the whole history of workers' self-defense is one of an alternation between periods of rise and decline, both reflecting the spasms of the social crisis.

The tasks of the proletarian party in the field of workers' self-defense derive from the general conditions of our time as well as from its fluctuations. It is much easier to attract relatively large fractions of the working class into combat detachments at a time when reactionary gangs are directly attacking picket lines, unions, the working class, etc. However, when the bourgeoisie considers it more prudent to abandon the irregular troops of the bands and to put forward its "democratic" methods of domination over the masses, the workers' interest in self-defense can only diminish. And that's what's happening right now. Does this mean that we must give up, under these conditions, arming the vanguard? Absolutely not.

Today, at a time when the world war has just started, we start more than ever from the inevitability and imminence of the international proletarian revolution. This fundamental idea that distinguishes the 4 th International of all other workers' organizations, is the one that determines all our activities, including those relating to the organization of self-defense detachments. This does not mean, however, that we should not take into account cyclical fluctuations in the economy as well as in politics, with their temporary ebbs and flows. If we start only with the global characterization of our time and nothing else, ignoring its concrete stages, we can easily fall into sectarianism, schematism, even quixotic fantasy. At every serious turn in the situation, we adjust our fundamental tasks to the concrete conditions thus modified of each given stage. This is where all the art of tactics lies.

We will need party cadres specializing in military matters. This is why we must continue to train them theoretically and practically, even at this moment, at the bottom of the wave. Theoretical work should consist of studying the experience of military organizations and combat organizations of the Bolsheviks, Irish and Polish revolutionary nationalists, fascists, Spanish militias and others. We need to develop a standard curriculum and build a library on these issues, schedule presentations, and so on. Staff work must be continued at the same time, without interruption. We need to collect and study press clippings and all kinds of information on all kinds of counterrevolutionary organizations and those of national groups (Jews,

This work is actually very important and touches an area of ​​particular importance to us, that of our defense against the GPU. It is precisely in light of the exceptionally difficult situation in which the IC finds itself today - and to a large extent the foreign GPU secret service it supports - that we can expect the GPU to wear out. 4 th International heavy blows. We must be able to spot them and avoid them in time!

At the same time as this specialized work reserved for party members, we must create larger, open organizations, for different particular types of objectives, linked, in one way or another, to the future military tasks of the proletariat. . This would fall under various types of workers' sports organizations (athletics, boxing, shooting, etc.) and ultimately choirs and orchestras. When the political situation has turned, all these annexed organizations can immediately serve as a base for larger detachments for workers' self-defense.

In sketching out this program of action, we start from the idea that the political conditions of the given moment, and first of all the weakening of the pressure of internal fascism, leave us only narrow limits for the work in this sphere of self-defense. And this is the case when it comes to creating military detachments on a strict class basis. A decisive turn in favor of workers' self-defense will come only with a new collapse of democratic illusions, which, under the conditions of world war, will occur very quickly and take on catastrophic proportions. But, by way of compensation, the war is, at this very moment, offering us, for training workers in military questions, inconceivable possibilities in peacetime.

It is impossible to foresee in advance all the practical possibilities, but they will undoubtedly not cease to grow day by day with the development of the armed forces of the country. We must focus our attention on this issue, creating a special commission for this purpose or handing this problem over to a self-defense staff or expanding it as necessary.

Above all, we need to use the interest in military issues that the war gives rise to, and organize a series of lectures on issues such as modern weapons or tactics. Workers' organizations can do this by engaging military specialists unrelated to the party or its goals. But this is only the first step.

We must use the government's preparations for war to provide training on military issues to as many party members and trade unionists as possible under their influence. While fully maintaining our fundamental objective - the creation of military detachments on a class basis - we must firmly link its achievement to the conditions created by the imperialist preparations for war.

Without deviating from our agenda in any way, we must speak to the masses in a language they understand:

“We Bolsheviks want to defend democracy, but not the type of democracy governed by sixty kings without a crown. Let's start by cleaning our democracy of all the capitalist tycoons and then we will defend it to the last drop of our blood. You who are not Bolsheviks, are you ready to defend this democracy? But you must at least be able to defend it as best you can so as not to be a blind instrument in the hands of the sixty families and the bourgeois officers who are devoted to them. The working class must learn about military problems so that as many officers as possible emerge from its ranks. "

We must demand that the State, which will claim the blood of the workers tomorrow, gives them today the possibility of mastering military technique as best as possible in order to achieve military objectives with the least possible loss of human life. To achieve this, neither a regular army nor barracks are sufficient. The workers must have the possibility of receiving military training in their factories, their mines, at specific times, paid by the capitalists. If the workers are called to give their lives, the bourgeois patriots can at least make a small material sacrifice.

“The state must give a rifle to any worker capable of carrying arms and set up rifle ranges and artillery fields in locations accessible to workers. "

Our agitation over war and our entire policy on war must be uncompromising towards pacifists and imperialists.

“This war is not our war. The responsibility for this war rests entirely with the capitalists. But until we are strong enough to overthrow them and have to fight in the ranks of their army, we are bound to learn how to use weapons to the best of our ability. "

Women workers must also have the right to bear arms. The greatest possible number of female workers must also have the possibility of receiving training as nurses at the expense of the capitalists.

Just as every worker, exploited by the capitalists, seeks to learn the techniques of production as well as possible, so every soldier in the imperialist army must learn the art of war to the best of his ability, in order to be able to use it. in the interests of the working class when conditions change.

We are not pacifists. No. We are revolutionaries. And we know what lies ahead.

  1. Leurs adversaires appelaient « Cent-Noirs » des groupes armés d'extrême droite qui opéraient ouvertement, avec la protection de la police, se livrant à des pogroms anti-Juifs, mais aussi persécutant d'autres nationalités minoritaires, voire les étudiants. Ils étaient antisémites, chauvins et partisans du pouvoir absolu.
  2. En 1934-1935, la SFIO française avait sa propre milice, les TPPS.
  3. Frank P. Hague (1876-1956) était maire démocrate de New Jersey depuis 1917. Il décida en 1937 d'interdire « sa » ville au CIO et y organisa une véritable terreur légale.
  4. Charles E. Coughlin (1891-1979), prêtre catholique, s'était fait connaître à travers ses chroniques radiophoniques et essayait de construire un mouvement fasciste de masse à la sauce américaine.
  5. Le syndicat local 544 des chauffeurs routiers de Minneapolis, dirigé par le SWP (4e Internationale), mobilisa contre les fascistes Silver Shirts en août 1938, voir Farell Dobbs, Teamsters Politics, Pathfinder, 1975, ch. 11 (note GMI).