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Lists What are lists? Login to add to list. The Marshall Plan marked a turning point which led to a changed international constellation. In Western Europe the Communist ministers were put out of office. In Eastern Europe a political and economic transformation to 'people's democracies' was enforced, which meant that these societies increasingly began to resemble Soviet society. The polarization between the blocks started dominating developments: the Cold War had started.

In France bourgeois circles had happily used the Communists and their influence in the large trade union federation CGT immediately after the end of the German occupation. The New York Herald Tribune wrote on 12 July "The key for the success of the plan to date, which has been considerable, is the enthusiastic cooperation of the French Communist Party. The Communists dominate the most important unions in the CGT, the large French trade union federation. The Communist leadership has been responsible for such surprising steps as the acceptance by the most important French unions of a kind of adjusted piece rate system, which rewards individual workers with a high output.

The policies of the two French workers' parties led to wage decreases in a period of inflation and therefore helped to lower living standards. The Communists' integration policy could not, however, altogether prevent the workers from standing up for their interests. In January typographers, demanding higher wages, went on strike. In July , postmen stopped work. And in April there were strikes at the Renault car works, which had been nationalized a couple of years before.

It was especially this last strike, in which Trotskyists had played a leading role a "Gaullist-Trotskyist-anarchist chaos," according to the secretary of the CGT, Plaisance , that made clear that the Communists were starting to lose their grip on developments. On 30 April Communist leader Maurice Thorez informed the government that the PCF could no longer support the price and wage policy of the government. Ramadier, the social democrat prime minister, who was under pressure from Washington, used the opportunity to throw the Communists out of the government a few days later.

The latter, pro-American and a participant in a number of later governments, was bitterly opposed by the former. In the period there were great strike waves throughout the country, now wholeheartedly supported by the PCF and CGT The Social Democrats, for their part, attempted to undermine the workers' resistance. Financially supported by the CIA. Although this remained a far smaller organization than the CGT, many trade union members became demoralized by the new divisions.

Within a few years more than half the CGT members had departed, leaving about two million halfway through the s. The Cold War, the economic recovery of the s. In there had been more than 22 million strike days; by this had dropped to less than one and a half million. The circumstances for radical socialists were naturally very difficult.

Enormous political pressure was exerted on all kinds of far left groups Council Communists, Trotskyists, Bordigists, etc. Those who refused such a choice were not given a hearing and were deemed suspect.


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The anti-capitalist opposition was completely monopolized by the Communists. There was hardly any room for independent revolutionaries. The isolation had two contradictory consequences. On the one hand the lack of successful practical activities led to a greater emphasis on theoretical-programmatic questions. Naturally this resulted in differences of opinion and quite often ended in large conflicts and even splits. On the other hand the enmity of the world 'outside' brought the small left-radical groups together, resulting in co-operative ties despite the political differences.

There was a kind of 'dialectic' of division and reunion. The changed situation also led to intense debates within the international Trotskyist movement, especially about Eastern Europe. It is unnecessary to enter into the niceties of this discussion; it seems sufficient to note that there were minorities in a number of countries who refused to regard the Soviet Union as a 'transitional society' between capitalism and socialism, as had Trotsky. These minorities considered both East and West to have equally reprehensible systems of exploitation and repression. Johnson was the pseudonym of the black revolutionary C.

James, Forest the cover identity of. Rae Spiegel Raya Dunayevskaya , a former secretary of Trotsky. In France it was Castoriadis and Lefort in their Chaulieu-Montal Tendency who voiced the opposition to the old viewpoints.

In this Issue

All these opponents left the international Trotskyist organization, the Fourth International, between and in order to set up independent groups. They were to maintain regular contacts with each other. Castoriadis and Dunayevskaya were still working together in the Sixties. They especially opposed the idea that Stalinist society - despite the shortcomings also admitted by the Trotskists specifically the lack of any democracy - should have to be defended against capitalism.

Castoriadis and Lefort proposed that a new elite, a "social layer" of bureaucrats, had achieved power in the USSR and that this elite exclusively defended its own interests rather than those of the Soviet workers. For this reason the Soviet Union was a new kind of society, which scrove for expansion just as much as Western capitalism.

In a later stage Castoriadis and Lefort abandoned the characterization of the Soviet Union as a new type of society and described it as 'bureaucratic capitalism. Numerous articles were written by the opposition to convince their Trotskyist party comrades. At the end of ten or twenty of them left the organization. The reasons for leaving the Fourth International were once again explained in an open letter to the members of the Fourth International who had been left behind. Trotskyism was reproached for being a movement without political-theoretical power because it was incapable of finding an "independent ideological basis for existence.

The central article of the first issue was an extensive text entitled "Socialism or Barbarism," which amounted to a statement of the group's position. This text was mostly written by Castoriadis.

Table of Contents

Just as Marx wanted to give a programmatic foundation to the League of Communists with his Manifesto of the Communist Party, so Castoriadis attempted to formulate a political foundation for the new organization with "Socialism or Barbarism. Two "superstates" had divided the world between them: the United States and the Soviet Union. Both had expansionist tendencies and strove to dominate the other. The result of this would inevitably be a third world war, which would result in barbarism for international society, unless the power elites in East and West were overthrown through a radical-socialist revolution.

Socialism or Barbarism: those were the only remaining roads for humanity. What would such a radical-socialist revolution mean? Its point of departure would lie in the most fundamental contradiction shared by East and West, bureaucracy and competitive capitalism: the contradiction between managing and subordinate labour. While it had seemed in Marx's time that the ending of the private ownership of the means of production would be sufficient to remove injustice and exploitation from the world, it had now become clear - among other things because of the existence of the Soviet Union - that state ownership of the means of production did not necessarily lead to socialism or even improved circumstances.

On the contrary, it might lead to increased exploitation and repression. Developments in competitive capitalism had shown that it was not just a question of the ownership of the means of production: to an increasing extent entrepreneurial leadership and capital ownership were being separated while the importance of the managers versus the owners had increased. All power must reside in the rank and file, among the working population. Right from the start there was a debate on matters of organization in Socialisme ou Barbarie.

What exactly was the group's self-definition? Was it to be a collection of independently acting militants, with no responsibilities whatsoever, or was it necessary to develop a common praxis alongside the journal? If so, should such activity assume the role of a vanguard, or not? How was the organization to be internally structured? Was democratic centralism finished or not? In April the majority of the group voted for a resolution which was to serve as a programmatic basis for future work. In it the Leninist conception of arousing political consciousness in the working class from the outside was rejected, as was the idea that the group was to be merely "a collection of individuals" who would restrict themselves to publishing a "more or less academic journal.

There was opposition to this resolution, but it was weak. It was only in , after a small group of ex-Bordigists had joined, 19 and the membership had shrunk further, that the few opponents decided to voice their own opinion more openly. In the preceding years Lefort had gradually developed his doubts about thinking in terms of a vanguard, not in Socialisme ou Barbarie, but through articles in Les Temps Modernes , the journal founded in by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Lefort's friend and philosophy tutor, among others. He ascribed this to Trotsky's glorification of the party as a "godlike factor in historical development.

Lefort's development caused tensions within Socialisme ou Barbarie. In June he left the organization along with some supporters, but after a short while he returned. Castoriadis still argued for the idea that Socialisme ou Barbarie ought to be the nucleus of a revolutionary vanguard party; Lefort, on the other hand, placed the systematic support for workers' control at the centre of his considerations. The essence of Castoriadis' reasoning was that the group should contribute to the overthrow and destruction of capitalist society and the bourgeois state.

For this a political party was needed to lead and co-ordinate the workers' resistance. The fundamental contradiction between management and subordinate labour, which dominated East and West, could not be overcome with one blow: the party had to be a leadership striving for its own disbandment. This disbandment could, however, only take place after the revolution. The power of the workers would make a revolution possible, but a revolution would not guarantee workers' power.

The only way in which the proletariat could develop its power was through autonomous forms of organization. Everything depended on this and not on the party, which was simply a historically determined expression of specific labour experiences and could therefore be superfluous or even undesirable in other circumstances. This is why Socialisme ou Barbarie should not so much concern itself with revolution and the conquest of state power, as with the experiences of the working class in the process of organizing itself. The heated internal debates in the group were soon followed by discussions with outsiders on similar questions.

Members of the group were criticized from the 'left' because of their position on the vanguard, and from the 'right, because they were too hostile towards the Stalinist glorification of the patty. It is noteworthy - but also understandable, in view of the differences of opinion - that almost automatically a division of labour was created between Lefort and Castoriadis.

The latter took up the defence against party opponents, while the former opened the attack on those who favoured a vanguard-party conception. Unlike Socialisme ou Barbarie he did not regard the October revolution as a proletarian revolt, which had later degenerated into a bureaucratic state capitalism. Instead he thought that right from the start this had been a bourgeois event, which could never have resulted in socialism. As for the vanguard organization, that was totally rejected by Pannekoek.

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He believed that revolutionaries should not build up a party but should engage solely in propaganda and theoretical debate. Their task was to call for workers' control and not to 'lead' a liberation struggle. In his answer Castoriadis concentrated on the question of the vanguard organization.

His most important proposition was that it was precisely when revolutionaries did not build a party, that the way was cleared for a bureaucratic dictatorship, as in the Soviet Union. For bureaucracy is not born out of incorrect theoretical opinions, but out of its own necessities in a certain stage. It is necessary to show precisely through acting that the proletariat can do without the bureaucracy. A second letter from Pannekoek in which he elucidated certain elements of his theory was not published by Socialisme ou Barbarie.

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In fact they become leaders; When they come together in permanent groups or parties with fixed programmes these fluent relations become petrified. They then regard themselves as unofficial leaders and want to be followed and obeyed. Jean-Paul Sartre took up a position totally opposed to that of Pannekoek. He turned the Communist Party into a fetish. In a series of articles in Les Temps Modernes Sartre claimed that the working class does not exist as a class as long as it is not organized in a vanguard party: " The worker is a sub-human sous-homme if he simply accepts being what he is"; he only becomes human when he "becomes conscious of his sub-humanity.

However, the proletariat does not by itself come into existence. This binding factor is the Communist Party. In short: "A worker in contemporary France can only express and fulfil himself through acting in the class under the leadership of the Communist Party. Sartre's reasoning - which is Stalinist not in itself but in its conclusions Merleau-Ponty called it "ultra-bolshevist" - created an absolute contradiction between spontaneity and organization. Spontaneity was nothing, was incoherent "loneliness.

If the workers lost their trust in the Communist Party, then they lost not only their trust in the party, but also in politics and in their own class. He opposed his conclusion as well as his arguments. The party or whatever kind of radical organization, was never a 'third. While Sartre approached the subject 'from above,' Lefort again thought 'from below':.

The dynamic of the Russian revolution cannot be seen by itself, but must he looked at in connection with a specific proletariat, situated in historically determined production conditions and maintaining relations with other exploited classes; these circumstances cannot he compared with those of any other proletariat in Europe. The organization of Bolshevism, its rigorous centralism, should not be seen as a necessary characteristic of the labour movement, but a particular solution for the relations between the masses and their vanguard.

The problem is to know how bolshevist politics simultaneously expresses the ripeness and the problems of the Russian proletariat.

Moreover, one tends to ask oneself what the point is of the party in the experience of the workers, especially in these times. But that is precisely the particular question which certain people want to avoid at any cost. Party organization should be a flexible structure, adjusted to the social relations in which the struggle takes place. The Communist parties, on the other hand, were nothing but elements of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.

In this connection Lefort distinguished between two bureaucratic variants in the labour movement: the social democratic and the Communist. The social democratic bureaucracy identified itself with the interests of the ruling bourgeoisie. The Communist party bureaucracy identified itself with the interests of the Soviet Union and was therefore ultimately a mortal enemy of the native bourgeoisie.

The Communist party used the aggressiveness of the workers to be able to establish a bureaucratic dictatorship based on the East-European model and therefore misused the socialist inclination of the class. In that sense the Communist party no longer was revolutionary, because it was anti-capitalist, but not socialist. The real socialist alternative therefore was to be found outside the established 'workers' parties. Since Stalinist parties were also in a certain way an expression of workers' experiences, it would be necessary from an anti-bureaucratic perspective to discover why the majority of the class follows the politics of the Communists and in what ways it nevertheless distinguished itself from those politics and the organizations related to it.

Whatever the differences of opinion within Socialisme ou Barbarie, the dislike of every kind of bureaucracy and undemocratic structures was common to all members of the group. When the organization started to grow in the s 36 there were more opportunities, not just to think about and write on anti-bureaucracy, but also to act.

This was all the more so because gradually social unrest increased. In the s Castoriadis described the changes which became visible from The Korean War was ending, Stalin died, the workers of East Berlin revolted,the entire public sector in France went on strike. New life was breathed into the group, new people joined, the publications became more regular and their contents improved.

The Mollet government began a gradual mobilization from in order to be able to send troops to Algeria. The soldiers called up demonstrated and stopped the army trains. The economic chaos increased and the movement started stirring. In the autumn of there was considerable unrest in the factories - the situation was unstable and open. It was under these changing circumstances that Socialisme ou Barbarie started its work in the factories.

Right from the start the organization had defended the position that a bureaucratic layer of bosses had developed in the trade unions and especially in the CGT , which had established increasingly close ties with the state apparatus. This trade union bureaucracy had become an independent factor, which functioned as a sort of link between the state apparatus and the working class, and therefore tried to reconcile both sides with each other.

On the one hand the bureaucracy partially accepted the demands of the workers in order to retain its own mass base, but on the other it also tried to meet the demands of the state apparatus in order to remain 'respectable' and to be acceptable as a partner in negotiations. This was not in itself a new analysis; it had long been a part of Trotskyist thought. The essential thing was what kind of political conclusions were drawn from it.

Did revolutionaries have to try to reconquer the trade unions from within and to dethrone the bureaucrats; or was it, on the contrary, more desirable to work outside the unions and build up new organizations? In practice Socialimse ou Barbarie's factory work usually amounted to the latter, but not everybody was happy about this. In the period a debate on this topic took place in the journal.

Other participants in the debate, like the anarchist Fontenis, thought that revolutionaries should be active in the trade unions because this was the only way for them to make contacts with the workers and win their trust:. And let us not forget that in certain sectors, where the workers are distributed amongst an infinite number of workplaces or small firms, the trade union meeting is the only way in which the workers can be brought together and to made to listen.

Socialisme ou Barbarie's most important factory work took place in the Renault factories in Paris-Billancourt, although actions were also organized in other places, including an insurance firm. Like his fellow group members he had received his inspiration and general ideas about what was happening in modern capitalist firms from the American group of sympathizers around C. James and Raya Dunayevskaya.

Inspired by developments in the United States, the American revolutionaries assumed that had been a kind of watershed in the history of capitalist management techniques. After that year Frederick Winslow Taylor's "scientific management" was applied more and more widely.

When the Ford system with its conveyor belts was added to this in the period , labour processes changed fundamentally The educational level demanded for workers decreased, the pace of work and the sequence of work acts were no longer dictated by humans, but by machines.

Influenced by the great economic recession of this change was accelerated even more. The mass of workers became "hunted, working for starvation wages," dominated by "a staff of managers who can only carry out the production through the use of a hired gang [