International Communist Party The Union Question

To reconstruct the class organization

(Il Partito Comunista, n. 16, 1975)

The policy that workers’ unions have been carrying out for half a century has reached such a point that it arouses disgust and even revulsion among workers toward class organization, so that the revival of proletarian economic organs, capable of defending and organizing the working class against the greed of the landowning classes and their social and economic productive apparatuses, is difficult and vexing.

While from a psychological point of view this is understandable, it is not justifiable from the perspective of the immediate material interests and class-based framework of the proletariat. Hatred against enemies and traitors, a first-rate component for fighting them, cannot lead us to deny the indispensable necessity of the defense of economic functions that organized workers in particular must perform.

We are currently in the midst of economic organizations that control a large part of the working class, dictating their infamous policy of collaboration with the class enemy to the entire working class. This is true. And even more tragic is that such a policy prostrates the working class, and empowers the capitalist class and its political State. The problem, then, is for the class to wrest the management of this vital function out of the hands of the traitors, and it would be deadly and delusional if, in order to be rid of its traitorous leadership, this same function was denied or confused with the functions of the Party.

An economic defense organ of the proletariat, fit for this purpose, exclusively coordinating and rank the forces of the working class in the ceaseless daily struggle for bread and labor, draws its strength, as an organization, from the number of its members. Today’s trade unions influence and direct the activity of the working masses because they organize and discipline millions of workers. If they did not, their influence would be negligible or naught. Parties, on the other hand, can influence the labor movement while not having as large a force numerically. This capacity for mass organization rests on the principle that the union is open to all workers, regardless of political or ideological perspective; a principle that still presides in the regimented unions, however much they wish to expel or exclude those few workers who refuse to submit, but which the unions themselves will repudiate when the struggle between classes assumes a visible and prominent danger. This principle cannot be abandoned by any class organization, whatever the form and name it takes.

Recruitment into proletarian economic defense organs is not done on the basis of party, ideology, gender, age or nationality, but exclusively on the basis of class, that is, one is permitted to join as a wage worker only.

Any other basis for recruitment would be specious or deceptive, coercive in the sense that membership in the organization meant the right to work (like the “bread card” in the fascist unions), and exclusionary due to the limitations and exclusions for those workers who remained outside of the organization. For example, it would be a serious and debilitating mistake to organize only “revolutionary” workers because the organization would be limited to representing a narrow minority, losing its efficiency and leaving the vast majority of the class in the hands of the enemy. These shortcomings can only lead to the fragmentation of proletarian class forces, precluding the primary goal to which class organization must strive: the generalization of proletarian forces in order to make them into a disciplined class army.

These considerations derive from the practical experience of working-class struggles and confirm that the class political party has no intent to exploit class organizations. The Party tends toward class action by winning decisive influence over its economic organs through free adherence of the proletarians organized within it to its revolutionary program, and not by means of coercion or deception (even if only because the Party does not have these means available to it).

The Party’s concept of the “transmission belt” is based precisely in this respect on the voluntary subordination of the class organization to the Communist Party’s political direction and leadership, and not on the coincidence of the economic organization with the Party, let alone the alliance between it and the Party. That is why the Party does not create unions in its own image, organizing only its adherents or only workers who accept its program.

This position is not the result of a tactical attitude, of a political cunning, but of demonstrating the realistic consideration that without a broad and powerful class economic framework, which in principle organizes all proletarians and only proletarians, victorious revolutionary action is not possible. From this it follows that the resurgence of class struggle on a world scale is not the result of agreements, choices or quarrels between “workers” or “revolutionary” groups or parties.

Neither can the entrenchment of class organization result from such an arrangement.

In conclusion, if the goal of the class conflict is political power, the premise for achieving this goal is the struggle to remove proletarian forces from under the sway of the enemy camp and onto revolutionary terrain, leveraging the material conditions common to all proletarians. Any hindrance to the achievement of this aim—to the reorganization of the working class on class ground—prevents or delays the realization of a wide array of forces of proletarian economic defense.

Those groups or parties that call themselves “revolutionary” or “leftist” and that pose political or, even worse, partisan demands, behind which they hide group ambitions, or that claim party affiliations or dubious associations of a populist flavor, have not grasped that the economic condition of the workers is the terrain of class organization, on which all proletarians recognize themselves as equal to each other and different from the rest of the citizenry. By disregarding this elementary observation, they would, if it were in their power, make the process of reforming class organizations more painful or even impossible; and, at the same time, assuming and denying their “revolutionary” character, they would preclude themselves from the possibility to make their supposed revolutionary character triumph. But that is their business.

The fact is that revolutionary communists do not place party prejudices on those bodies that operate in the field of class struggle for the defense of class economic conditions because they see in them the embryo of a proletarian economic network and urge them to unite on an ever larger scale, to gain in organization and efficiency, to transform themselves from am embryo of the class organization into an extensive and powerful one. It’s practical demonstration is affirmed every day.

Whenever a group of workers rebel against the bosses by contravening official union practice, they are forced to give in by not having equal or greater strength than the union bosses’ control. A lack of numbers can’t be replaced by the impetus of heroism. It is necessary to carry our forces, the mass of workers, into the struggle in order to overcome the enemy’s resistance through action. The economic organ can be strengthened and its reach extended, even if a particular economic struggle is unsuccessful, since the power of the union lies within the mass of workers in the organization.

It is in no one’s power alone to create favorable conditions for the return to proletarian class organization, but this return can be accelerated, delayed or even prevented depending on whether or not the movement of struggle extends to the entire working-class, mobilizing and framing it on the basis of the workers’ immediate material interests.

The severe state of the class’ prostration to the domination of the capitalists is not overcome “with the head”, nor even by the Party; just as the dictatorship of opportunism over the labor movement is not overcome “with the head”. The overcoming of these tremendous obstacles is contingent on the resumption of the workers’ struggle and by the experience which, in the course of that struggle, the workers will come to understand the reactionary and treasonous character of the official leadership of their economic bodies and of the workers’ movement itself. Therefore, it is futile to expect that the “consciousness” of a few wage earners, organizing themselves into groups elected by History, will overcome the present power relations between the classes. The tide will change in favor of the working class, under the growing pressure of the struggling proletarian masses, organized for their contingent needs, and under the direction of which the class political party will have been able to conquer power.