Workers Vanguard No. 868

14 April 2006


France: Workers, Students Beat Back Government Attack

No to a New Popular Front!

For a Socialist United States of Europe!

APRIL 10—After more than two months of mass protests, campus occupations and widespread strikes, French president Jacques Chirac announced today that the government will scrap the First Employment Contract (CPE), which he had signed into law on March 31. The CPE stipulated that workers under 26 years of age be subject to a two-year probationary period during which they could be fired without cause, threatening job security and hard-won union gains for all workers, especially minorities.

The scrapping of the CPE is a victory. The government is coming out extremely weakened, and this may open the road to more class struggle against the capitalists’ attacks in France. Many students want to continue the struggle until the whole racist “Equal Opportunities Act,” of which the CPE was a component, is scrapped, as well as a similar law applicable to workers of any age in companies with a workforce of fewer than 20.

But the union bureaucrats are happy to let the struggle stop here and have planned no further strikes to support the students’ demands, which virtually assures that the bulk of the law will be implemented. Even without the CPE, two-thirds of youth have insecure work contracts one year after they leave school, and the present “welfare state” in France means that on average you don’t get into the stable employment market until you reach the age of 28.

The leadership of the opposition Socialist Party (PS) and Communist Party (PCF), which is tailed by Alain Krivine’s Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), is seeking to use the crisis of the rightist government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in order to put together a new popular front—a class-collaborationist alliance with capitalist parties—in view of next year’s presidential and legislative elections. In contrast, our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France, section of the International Communist League, have intervened with a proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist program pointing to the need to fight for socialist revolution.

We reprint below the edited translation of an April 5 presentation given in Paris by Herminio Sanchez, editor of the LTF’s newspaper, Le Bolchévik.

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Yesterday’s mobilization against the CPE was a huge success. The trade unions announced that there were again some three million demonstrators. [Interior Minister Nicolas] Sarkozy and the rest of the government are maneuvering to sidetrack the movement through parliamentary tricks in an attempt to save what can still be saved of the CPE. The union bureaucrats appear ready to play this game. It is nonetheless possible that the anti-CPE mobilization will signal the end of the CPE, as well as of de Villepin and Chirac and maybe even Sarkozy.

During two months of anti-CPE struggles, the campuses have been blockaded and the revolt extended into the banlieues [suburban ghettos], but the government’s reaction has been to send in the CRS riot police. When the working class entered the scene, it changed the entire situation. This showed the power of the working class. It is this class that makes profits flow into the pockets of the capitalists; it is also the one capable of stopping this flow and blocking the whole economy.

There is a constant class struggle, a conflict between the two fundamental social classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. We of course support all of the workers’ economic struggles aimed at improving their conditions. At the same time, the constant struggle of workers under capitalism can at best only marginally improve workers’ conditions. We say that what is needed is a struggle of the working class to overthrow the entire capitalist system. Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists. It is impossible to make it work in the interests of the workers; it can’t be reformed.

We have mobilized all our forces over the last several weeks in order to intervene into this struggle and have received many reinforcements from our international, as you can see in this room today. We intervened to outline a revolutionary perspective. We said in our March 29 leaflet:

“We warn against the betrayal being prepared by the union bureaucrats and reformists. In this struggle, their real aim is to win the 2007 elections by forming a new bourgeois alliance between the reformist workers parties (PS, PCF and maybe LCR) and small bourgeois parties such as the Chevènementistes, the Left Radicals and the Greens—a new popular front like [former PS prime minister Lionel] Jospin’s ‘Plural Left,’ with a new look.”

This is the main danger now looming on the horizon. In France, the classic mechanism by which reformist workers parties subordinate the working class to the bourgeoisie is the popular front. This is how they strangled the possibility of workers revolution in June 1936. They present the popular front as an alliance of progressive forces to defeat the right wing. In reality, it is a parliamentary alliance with bourgeois parties, which is necessarily based on a bourgeois program of managing capitalism. The bourgeoisie and the workers have fundamentally counterposed and antagonistic interests. We struggle for a socialist revolution and fight to build a party of the Bolshevik type capable of leading the workers to victory.

This is what fundamentally differentiates us from all of our opponents such as the LCR or LO [Lutte Ouvrière], which on occasion claim to be revolutionary or Trotskyist. Their whole strategy is limited to trying to pressure the bourgeoisie into making a few concessions, which can be granted today but taken away tomorrow.

The CPE and the Trade-Union Bureaucracy

Listening carefully to the union bureaucrats’ reaction to Chirac’s recent speech, you may have noticed that their biggest regret regarding what he said about the CPE was that he rejected negotiations with them. They define themselves as “social partners,” i.e., partners of the bourgeoisie. In our last leaflet, we noted that [CGT union federation leader] Bernard Thibault signed a servile declaration of loyalty to Chirac last week, recalling that the CGT had called to vote for him four years ago (as did the SUD union federation, the PS, the PCF and the LCR).

The attitude of these bureaucrats reflects their ambition to manage capitalism, which can only be done on the backs of the workers and the oppressed. In our leaflet against the Bolkestein Directive [an anti-worker measure to “liberalize” internal markets that was adopted by the European Union parliament] reprinted in Le Bolchévik [No. 175, March 2006], we said:

“The trade-union bureaucrats rest on a relatively privileged layer of workers, in large part men of French or European descent. They benefit from a few crumbs thrown at them by the capitalists and, based on these privileges, spread the illusion that workers have common interests with their ‘own’ capitalists, and that they must therefore work in partnership to strengthen ‘their’ capitalism against its foreign competitors. In reality, capitalist society is everywhere based on the same fundamental antagonism between workers and capitalists: the capitalists exploit the workers to extract their profits. When the bureaucrats promote collaboration between the working class and the bourgeoisie, they work to maintain the capitalist system and are an obstacle to the struggle for liberation from wage slavery through workers revolution.”

The Struggle Against Unemployment

In this framework, social democrats such as the PS scarcely even promise reforms anymore, but simply present themselves as a lesser evil than the unbridled attacks of the right. They may promise to get rid of the CPE and other repressive measures, but when they run the capitalist government, they necessarily go after the working class—in collaboration with the union bureaucrats. The maximum program of the “far left” is to maintain the status quo. They propose to maintain the welfare state, in its current sorry state, and that’s about it.

To sound a radical note, the LCR demands “banning layoffs.” With such a demand, which is also one of LO’s favorites, they only spread the illusion that capitalism could function in the workers’ interest. Layoffs are inherent to capitalism. The capitalists maintain a reserve army of unemployed workers to exert a downward pressure on wages and working conditions. The Jospin government talked about an “irreducible unemployment rate” of 8 percent, below which there would be labor shortages and demands for wage increases from the workers. Jospin introduced the five-year CDDs [fixed-length work contracts] as “youth jobs” and the Aubry Law on the 35-hour workweek that served to freeze wages as well as hiring through a massive increase in labor flexibility and thus productivity.

Supposedly, the CPE is aimed at combatting unemployment. In reality, what it means is not that the bosses can more easily hire, but that they can more easily fire. The goal of the CPE is to raise the workers’ rate of exploitation by forcing them to accept worse working conditions for fear of losing their jobs. “Banning layoffs” solves nothing for the 4.5 million people registered today with the ANPE [employment bureau], not to mention those, notably women, who aren’t even registered. In the face of the unemployment that today bedevils this society, affecting in particular women and youth, particularly those of the suburban ghettos, here’s what Trotsky wrote in his 1938 Transitional Program:

“The right to employment is the only serious right left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is being shorn from him at every step. Against unemployment, ‘structural’ as well as ‘conjunctural,’ the time is ripe to advance, along with the slogan of public works, the slogan of a sliding scale of working hours. Trade unions and other mass organizations should bind the workers and the unemployed together in the solidarity of mutual responsibility. On this basis all the work on hand would then be divided among all existing workers in accordance with how the extent of the working week is defined. The average wage of every worker remains the same as it was under the old working week. Wages, with a strictly guaranteed minimum, would follow the movement of prices. It is impossible to accept any other program for the present catastrophic period….

“If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. ‘Realizability’ or ‘unrealizability’ is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what its immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.”

This gives you the basic framework for our approach. The current strikes and demonstrations graphically demonstrated the power of the working class, even though the unions in France are the weakest in Europe, with a rate of union membership of only 5 percent among private-sector workers. Moreover, the unions are divided at each work site among several union organizations, all of which depend more on the good graces of the bosses and of the state for their financing than on their own membership. Subcontracting support services, such as cafeterias, cleaning or maintenance—where there is a higher proportion of women, immigrant workers or youth of North and Sub-Saharan African origin—is also a way for the bosses to weaken the trade unions. We fight for strong, industrial unions that draw all the workers of a given industry into a single union. We fight to organize the unorganized. We fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants.

The goal of the CPE is to create such a climate of fear of layoffs that young workers dare not join the unions, nor even seek out union delegates at work to defend them. Students and unions went into revolt against the CPE, which is indeed targeted at them. But for once, de Villepin told the truth when he said that the CPE is aimed first and foremost at the banlieue youth. There is an unemployment rate of up to 50 percent among youth in those projects. But this also means that more than 50 percent are employed, one-third of whom are in industrial jobs. Far from being just victims of racist oppression, banlieue youth are also workers and future workers. They are at the core of the only class with the power and the historic mission to overthrow capitalism, the working class. Over the last year, there have been a series of strikes, such as at the Citroën auto plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois, where youth of North African and Sub-Saharan African origins played a key role. The implementation of the CPE would particularly weaken this layer of youth. As we wrote in our 15 March supplement against the CPE [see WV No. 867, 31 March]:

“The CPE is all about undermining the integrity of the working class by reinforcing the divisions between young and old and between dark-skinned youth of non-European origin and those of European origin. It’s an attempt to manipulate youth, especially those from the ghettos, against the trade unions themselves. To repel this attack, the workers movement must overcome the narrow limits of trade unionism and confront head-on the special oppression of immigrants and of French-born youth of North African and African origin. The workers movement must fight racist segregation in housing, education and hiring.”

The Anti-“Casseurs” Popular Front

Class collaboration by the union bureaucrats and reformists with the capitalists was reflected last week in their support to the government’s racist campaign against the banlieue youth, who are labeled with the racist code word “casseurs” [hooligans]. These youth are the first targets of the CPE. Instead of mobilizing the unions’ power in defense of these youth against police terror, the union bureaucrats went to the point of handing them over to the cops.

At the time of the November [banlieue] revolt, the left didn’t defend these youth. This betrayal encouraged de Villepin to launch the CPE. At the time, the PS supported the state of emergency, the PCF called for re-establishing order and the LCR tailed the PCF. LO also signed an appeal to re-establish order, which it later called an “idiocy, but a minor one.” It was minor for LO, but not for the hundreds of youth who received hard-time jail sentences.

We were practically the only ones last week to denounce the union bureaucrats’ collaboration with the police. During the May 1968 general strike, demonstrators chanted “CRS—SS.” But on March 28 you could almost hear the union bureaucrats saying “CRS—SOS,” calling on the cops to intervene—against the Arabs and blacks from the banlieues, of course. Sarkozy even proposed in talks with student and union leaders that they jointly organize “security,” pen in the demonstrators, etc. That such talks even took place was especially obscene considering that they were held only a few days after [SUD union member] Cyril Ferez, victim of a CRS assault on the March 18 demonstration, had gone into a coma.

The bureaucrats backed off from Sarkozy’s most extreme measures, but at bottom they nonetheless consider that the cops can be allies of the workers against the “casseurs.” More generally, they see the cops as “workers in uniform”; all unions, including the SUD, agree it’s OK to organize cops. This form of class collaboration is within the unions themselves. We say: Cops, security guards and prison guards out of the unions and the workers movement!

The core of the state consists of detachments of armed men, including the police, prison guards and the military. The state is not above classes. On the contrary, it is an organ of repression at the service of the ruling class to maintain the social order, racist capitalism. This is why the bourgeois state cannot be reformed, but must be destroyed and replaced by a proletarian state power established through a proletarian socialist revolution.

In the midst of the revolt in the banlieues in early November, we demanded that the imprisoned youths be immediately released and that all charges against them be dropped. We are very well known for our opposition to Vigipirate, a racist scheme that includes the occupation of the transit system by cops and the military.

Since the end of the revolt last fall, certain left groups, like the PCF and LCR, have occasionally called for amnesty for the youth. That’s a good thing and a demand that we share. But it contradicts the fact that these same reformists voted for Chirac in 2002, and that today they are working for a new popular front. On the one hand, the LCR and PCF call for amnesty; on the other, they run from meeting to meeting to forge unity with, among others, the Chevènementistes, even though Jean-Pierre Chevènement himself, as minister of police in the government of Jospin and PCF leader Buffet, reinforced the cop presence in the ghettos and deported thousands of undocumented immigrants. Last November Chevènement, now mayor of Belfort, was among the first to decree a curfew against the youth. The reformists like the LCR or PCF thus contribute to polishing the image of these capitalist politicians and prepare the next popular-front government, which will be just as repressive as the de Villepin/Sarkozy government and that of Jospin/Buffet.

The reformists’ position for amnesty for the arrested banlieue youth is likewise in contradiction to what they do on the ground. They systematically opposed, or prevented from coming to a vote, motions we put forward in student general assemblies at the Paris 8, Jussieu and Rouen campuses in late March that simply demanded freedom for all the youth, including the youth from the November ghetto revolt. In practice, the reformists did not even go as far as the platform adopted at the Student Coordination meeting in Toulouse, which on February 25 (before the anti-“casseurs” campaign) demanded an end to repression and amnesty for convicted youth. This referred to all youth arrested during the movement a year ago against the Fillon Law [instituting cutbacks in high school education], the ghetto revolt last fall, up through the anti-CPE movement.

On the Rouen campus, only a few people voted for our motion on March 24, which called for immediate freedom for all the imprisoned students and ghetto youth. In the aftermath, some anarchists confided to us that they regretted their vote against our motion. But their vote wasn’t solely because they let themselves be manipulated like innocents by the social democrats. These anarchists refused to talk about the ghetto youth for fear of “stigmatizing” them. For anarchists, there are only “human beings,” all part of the same species, so one has the duty to convince everyone to act in “mutual aid,” as the anarchist Kropotkin said in the 19th century. As a result, they disappear all forms of special oppression—sexual, sexual orientation, racial, etc. Anarchism is at bottom an ideology of class collaboration, disappearing the fact that society is divided into irreconcilable social classes and that the working class must take power in its own name and exercise a dictatorship against the capitalist class. The capitalist class will fight relentlessly to save its bloody system of racist exploitation, as occurred during the Civil War that followed the Russian Revolution of October 1917.

A final note on this racist anti-“casseurs” campaign. LO is continuing it. Yesterday in Paris they distributed a special supplement, which is very rare for them, in order to denounce the “hooligans.” But the rest of the left, except to my knowledge the PS, has distanced itself from this campaign, starting with the Student Coordination which last weekend, as I heard, chanted, “We are all casseurs.” If you read the PCF’s l’Humanité today, you would have to be struck by the tone, which was totally anti-repression, denouncing the arbitrariness and the police violence, etc. One could almost ask oneself whether this is the same newspaper that one week ago was denouncing the cops for not being severe enough against the “real casseurs.”

The fact that the anti-“casseurs” campaign has petered out is a good thing. But what this also shows is the complete lack of principles on the part of the reformists. They are ready to act as a cover for a racist campaign by the government and to collaborate with the cops when things are really hot, and the next week they disappear all trace of their crimes. The only constant thing is their opportunism.

Imperialist Provocation Against Iran

For all the strength of the mobilization against de Villepin over the question of the CPE, in the demonstrations we have run into implicit support to the same Chirac/de Villepin government over the question of Iran. We have encountered not a few hostile remarks against our placard stating that Iran needs nuclear weapons if it is to be able to defend itself against the imperialist threat. In reality, the nuclear blackmail comes from the imperialists. It is Chirac, not Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has threatened to use nuclear weapons; it is French imperialism, not the regime of the Iranian mullahs, that has extensively used chemical weapons.

Those with doubts on this score should recall that Chirac nominated de Villepin [for prime minister] after the government’s defeat last year in the referendum on the European Constitution because de Villepin had benefited from enthusiastic, widespread support, including from the PCF and the LCR, over his UN speech against the U.S. war on Iraq. It’s there that one sees that the support of the left for the foreign policies of French imperialism allows the latter to attack the workers at home. That said, if the PCF has not appreciated de Villepin’s policies on Iran, this is solely due to bourgeois French chauvinism, because the PCF thinks that French imperialism should have independent policies instead of being waterboys for the Americans on the question of Iran.

Many militants on the left are worried about the reactionary Iranian mullahs getting nuclear weapons, and they place their trust in French imperialism on this question. These militants are often members or supporters of organizations like the LCR, which in 1978-79 supported the “Iranian revolution” of Ayatollah Khomeini. At the time, they claimed this was an “anti-imperialist revolution,” and some leftists even called the veil a symbol of resistance to the pro-American regime of the Shah of Iran. We uniquely said at the time, “Down with the Shah! Don’t bow to Khomeini!” and fought for a workers revolution in Iran.

The principal danger facing humanity is not the theocratic anti-woman regime in Tehran, which we continue to oppose, but imperialists like the U.S. and France—this handful of capitalist powers that established domination over the whole world a century ago and has fought ever since to divide and redivide the rest of the world through neocolonial exploitation and imperialist war. These powers possess hundreds, even thousands, of nuclear weapons, or in the case of Germany and Japan, the technological and industrial capacity to produce them in record time.

Possessing these armaments or having the capacity to produce them is not optional for these powers. They need them, and other types of weapons, to impose their interests on other peoples of the world, to assure the security of their foreign investments. If they disarmed, what country would honor its debts? Wouldn’t their rivals immediately seize the opportunity to appropriate their share of the pillage of the “Third World” and more generally of the profits to be realized on the international market? What are termed “property rights”—whether in the form of loans, direct investments or trade agreements—are only pieces of paper if there is not an armed force to enforce them. Every Mafia loan shark knows that if he does not have at his command someone who can break the neck of his debtors, he will have a much lower rate of return.

The imperialists use their guns not only to keep oppressed peoples enslaved, but also to keep their rivals in check. The U.S./British invasion of Iraq aimed not only to seize Iraqi oil, but also—even especially—to remind Washington’s rivals that there is only one superpower, ready to do anything to defend its interests.

For all these reasons, pacifists are merely petty bourgeois who lull themselves and breed illusions that an end to imperialist war can be achieved without workers revolution to overthrow the capitalist system. Having a maximum program of “peace,” “democracy” and “the Republic” comes down to supporting one’s own “democratic” imperialism. On the left, one often comes across opposition to French troops in the Ivory Coast. Of course we are for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all French troops from the Ivory Coast. But also, and this is a less popular position, we demand their withdrawal from the Balkans, where French soldiers are supposedly “peacekeepers,” and Afghanistan, where they are supposedly fighting the “war on terror.”

One need only recall the bloody history of the French bourgeoisie, which during the Indochina War called on the U.S. to launch atomic bombs against North Vietnam, at a time when France did not yet have these weapons. The existence of Soviet nuclear arms deterred the U.S. from this course at that time.

For a Socialist United States of Europe

To understand the current capitalist offensive and working-class resistance to the CPE and other government attacks, it is necessary to understand the historic conjuncture in which we are situated, fundamentally marked by the destruction of the Soviet Union. The Cold War, which lasted more than 40 years between the Second World War and the counterrevolution in the USSR, created significant economic costs for the bourgeoisie. In the U.S., it led to a disproportionate military budget. In West Europe, the overhead was quite different. It consisted of social welfare programs considered necessary to win support, or at least passive acceptance, by the workers for the political and military mobilization against the USSR.

Immediately after the collapse of the USSR, the U.S. considerably and rather easily reduced its military budget. But for the bourgeoisies of West Europe, the drive to liquidate the welfare state was accompanied by working-class resistance and a series of defensive battles. Wage costs remain relatively high in West Europe; thus profits are relatively low, and the growth rates of the French and German economies for the last 15 years have remained markedly weaker than in the U.S. This has prevented the European imperialist powers from amassing the necessary surplus to close the military gap vis-à-vis U.S. imperialism. You have seen Chirac’s efforts in recent years to rearm: they have been very modest and have run up against a substantial budgetary deficit.

Despite the resentment of the French and German bourgeoisies toward Bush’s adventurist policy in Iraq, they are now collaborating more closely than they did three years ago with the U.S. and the British on the question of Iran. This has nothing to do with any supposed anti-nuclear-proliferation pacifism on the part of the French imperialist bourgeoisie that carried out over a hundred nuclear tests in [the South Pacific island] Mururoa.

The dismantling of the welfare state is an iron necessity for French imperialism, which is much weaker than the U.S. and even Germany. In the closing years of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democratic-led government, Germany succeeded in significantly reducing wages while lengthening the workday. Then Schröder campaigned against the economic “ultra-liberalism” of Christian Democrat Angela Merkel—to end up forming a coalition government with her. This government is based on a program that includes a German version of the CPE—except that the Social Democrats agreed that their CPE should target not only those under 26 but everyone.

The social crisis in France is deepgoing. But throughout Europe there are very important class struggles going on. In Germany there have been public sector strikes for two months now, opposing among other things the return of the 40-hour week; a metal workers strike looms. In Britain on March 28, the day of the strike here, there were 1.5 million municipal public service workers on strike against the dismantling of their pensions.

Today in France the social democrats of the PS and the PCF are in the opposition, so they make fine speeches. But at bottom they collaborate with the European bourgeoisies, which are driving to destroy working-class gains. They recently opposed the Bolkestein Directive, but in fact the French social democrat Pascal Lamy, who had been previously named by Jospin as a European commissioner, had signed a version of the directive much worse than the one that was adopted. The aim of the Bolkestein Directive is to pit French workers against East European workers. Following the destruction of the Polish and East European deformed workers states, these workers have been thrown on the unemployment heap. Now, they are being used by the bourgeoisie to do away with social gains in the West. Our slogan, full citizenship rights for all immigrants, is particularly important to undercut the chauvinist poison that serves to divide the working class.

The reformists call for a capitalist “social Europe.” We, on the other hand, oppose the European Union from a proletarian, internationalist and revolutionary perspective. Only the taking of state power by the working class and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in at least several advanced capitalist countries will allow the setting up of a rationally planned economy placing the productive capacity of Europe at the service of the peoples of the whole world. Only on this basis can one speak of the socialist united states of Europe.

Our Struggle to Defend the Workers States

There is a link between the CPE and the destruction of the USSR, which has encouraged the capitalists’ attempts to destroy the gains of the working class in West Europe. Likewise, the position of the left groups on the question of the CPE is not unrelated to the position that they had with respect to the Soviet Union. For example, the LCR backed President François Mitterrand (for whom they had voted) in order to support Solidarność’s capitalist-restorationist bid for power in Poland in December 1981. Just like Mitterrand, Lutte Ouvrière in 1989 supported the drive for the capitalist reunification of Germany.

The Soviet Union issued out of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, when the Russian workers took power in their own hands, destroying the bourgeois state and establishing a workers state. Capitalism is a system based on the nation-state because the bourgeoisie is a nationally based class. We fight for international socialist revolution—for the collectivization of the means of production and international planning of this collectivized economy.

The failure of the German Revolution in 1923 delayed the perspective of the extension of Soviet proletarian power to industrialized West Europe. The Soviet Union was then largely a backward agricultural country, with an industrial base that was highly concentrated in particular cities but also very limited. The failed German revolution left the USSR isolated, which was a crucial factor for the usurpation of political power by a parasitic bureaucracy. The Stalinist bureaucracy claimed that it was possible to build socialism in a single country. In practice, that meant strangling revolution elsewhere in the name of peaceful coexistence with imperialism.

In spite of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union, it remained a workers state. We Trotskyists fought to defend and extend the gains of the Russian Revolution. We were for the unconditional military defense of the USSR against imperialism and counterrevolution. We fought for workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy that undermined the workers state from within. We waged this fight to the end. In particular, when the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, we threw all our forces into the fight for proletarian political revolution in East Germany against the collapsing Stalinist bureaucracy. We fought for a Red Germany of workers councils, that is, the revolutionary reunification of Germany on a socialist basis. We lost. Gorbachev gave up East Germany to German imperialism, and less than two years later Yeltsin took power in Moscow and led the counterrevolution that destroyed the workers state and re-established a capitalist state. Once more we sought to mobilize the working class in defense of the workers state, to sweep away Yelstin’s and Bush Sr.’s barricades in August 1991.

The counterrevolution in the USSR marked a turning point in history. Our banner remains unstained. In contrast, in the name of the struggle for “democracy,” the LCR openly took the side of Yeltsin. At the time, they produced a national leaflet declaring “full solidarity with all those men and women who stood on the barricades, facing the threat of tanks.”

This is not merely a historical question. Today, in contrast to our pseudo-Trotskyist opponents, we stand for the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states—China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea—while fighting for workers political revolution to establish regimes based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism. A victory for capitalist counterrevolution in China would be a terrible defeat not only for the workers in China, but indeed in the entire world.

The Need for a Bolshevik Party

Today, parties and groups on the left claim to seek to lead struggles against attacks like the CPE, which are in fact indirect results of the counterrevolution. They have learned nothing from their betrayal regarding the USSR. In April 1940, Trotsky wrote in “Balance Sheet of the Finnish Events” (In Defense of Marxism): “It is the duty of revolutionists to defend every conquest of the working class even though it may be distorted by the pressure of hostile forces. Those who cannot defend old positions will never conquer new ones.”

Today we continue to be reproached for our defense of the USSR. In the protests against the CPE, many people tell us that they really like the headlines of our paper, but they dislike its name. They dislike it because they understand that the name “Le Bolchévik” lays claim to the Russian Revolution, and they have partly or wholly absorbed the lying campaign of the social democrats, the anarchists and the bourgeoisie about the “80 million dead” allegedly as a result of Bolshevism.

We said in our first leaflet on the CPE that this isn’t 1968. In saying that, we don’t mean that a social explosion is impossible. On the contrary, the situation is favorable to class struggle because the government has been substantially weakened since the defeat of the referendum on the European Constitution. The bourgeoisie is divided and the working class has suffered so many attacks over the last three years that all the ingredients have come together for a deepgoing struggle.

The most important difference with respect to May ’68 concerns the political outlook of the working class. Forty years ago the great mass of workers supported the Stalinist PCF, and many advanced workers thought that socialism was something achievable. Even if there were problems in the USSR, its very existence proved that a system where the capitalists were expropriated could function, and moreover in the interests of the workers. Even a liberal at that time might have called himself a “Marxist-Leninist,” Bolshevik, etc.

In May ’68 the French bourgeoisie feared revolution. So it offered a compromise that the PCF seized upon, thus snuffing out the possibility of revolution. Today, apart from ourselves, hardly anyone thinks it is reasonable to want to overthrow the capitalist system. The bourgeoisie understands this well, and that is why it has so brutally (and stupidly) launched the current attacks. The stock exchange has even risen by 10 percent since the beginning of the year. Among workers there is political demoralization, which must be overcome to break the vicious circle of “left-” and right-wing capitalist governments and fight for socialist revolution to destroy the capitalist system.

We saw the power of the working class in the strikes yesterday, last week, and in October in Marseille, in the strikes by dockers, the seamen of the SNCM ferry line and the transit workers. The workers still have the social power to overturn the capitalist system. What they lack to take the struggle to the end is consciousness of their own strength and historic responsibility to be the gravediggers of the capitalist order. They also lack the revolutionary leadership to lead them to the victory that the Russian workers had in October 1917. Our task is to build a party to win the majority of the working class to our revolutionary perspective. Our political opponents are an obstacle to this because, continually telling workers that all they can hope for is slowing down the pace of the attacks, they set up the proletariat for big defeats. The building of revolutionary parties—national sections of a reforged Fourth International—is the central task confronting us, a task we will accomplish. We call on you to make our battle yours and to join us!