Paris, 30 May 1968
Translated by Ken Knabb
What we have already done in France is haunting Europe and will soon threaten all the ruling classes of the world, from the bureaucrats of Moscow and Peking to the millionaires of Washington and Tokyo. Just as we have made Paris dance, the international proletariat will once again take up its assault on the capitals of all the states and all the citadels of alienation. The occupation of factories and public buildings throughout the country has not only brought a halt to the functioning of the economy, it has brought about a general questioning of the society. A deep-seated movement is leading almost every sector of the population to seek a real transformation of life. This is the beginning of a revolutionary movement, a movement which lacks nothing but the consciousness of what it has already done in order to triumph.
What forces will try to save capitalism? The regime will fall unless it threatens to resort to arms (accompanied by the promise of new elections, which could only take place after the capitulation of the movement) or even resorts to immediate armed repression. If the Left comes to power, it too will try to defend the old world through concessions and through force. The best defender of such a “popular government” would be the so-called “Communist” Party, the party of Stalinist bureaucrats, which has fought the movement from the very beginning and which began to envisage the fall of the de Gaulle regime only when it realized it was no longer capable of being that regime’s main guardian. Such a transitional government would really be “Kerenskyist” only if the Stalinists were beaten. All this will ultimately depend on the workers’ consciousness and capacities for autonomous organization. The workers who have already rejected the ridiculous agreement that the union leaders were so pleased with need only discover that they cannot “win” much more within the framework of the existing economy, but that they can take everything by transforming all the bases of the economy on their own behalf. The bosses can hardly pay more; but they can disappear.
The present movement did not become “politicized” by going beyond the miserable union demands regarding wages and pensions, demands which were falsely presented as “social questions.” It is beyond politics: it is posing the social question in its simple truth. The revolution that has been in the making for over a century is returning. It can express itself only in its own forms. It’s too late for a bureaucratic-revolutionary patching up. When a recently de-Stalinized bureaucrat like André Barjonet calls for the formation of a common organization that would bring together “all the authentic forces of revolution . . . whether they march under the banner of Trotsky or Mao, of anarchy or situationism,” we need only recall that those who today follow Trotsky or Mao, to say nothing of the pitiful “Anarchist Federation,” have nothing to do with the present revolution. The bureaucrats may now change their minds about what they call “authentically revolutionary”; authentic revolution will not change its condemnation of bureaucracy.
At the present moment, with the power they hold and with the parties and unions being what they are, the workers have no other choice but to organize themselves in unitary rank-and-file committees directly taking over the economy and all aspects of the reconstruction of social life, asserting their autonomy vis-à-vis any sort of political or unionist leadership, ensuring their self-defense and federating with each other regionally and nationally. In so doing they will become the sole real power in the country, the power of the workers councils. The only alternative is to return to their passivity and go back to watching television. The proletariat is “either revolutionary or nothing.”
What are the essential features of council power?
- Dissolution of all external power
- Direct and total democracy
- Practical unification of decision and execution
- Delegates who can be revoked at any moment by those who have mandated them
- Abolition of hierarchy and independent specializations
- Conscious management and transformation of all the conditions of liberated life
- Permanent creative mass participation
- Internationalist extension and coordination
The present requirements are nothing less than this. Self-management is nothing less. Beware of all the modernist coopters — including even priests — who are beginning to talk of self-management or even of workers councils without acknowledging this minimum, because they want to save their bureaucratic functions, the privileges of their intellectual specializations or their future careers as petty bosses!
In reality, what is necessary now has been necessary since the beginning of the proletarian revolutionary project. It’s always been a question of working-class autonomy. The struggle has always been for the abolition of wage labor, of commodity production, and of the state. The goal has always been to accede to conscious history, to suppress all separations and “everything that exists independently of individuals.” Proletarian revolution has spontaneously sketched out its appropriate forms in the councils — in St. Petersburg in 1905, in Turin in 1920, in Catalonia in 1936, in Budapest in 1956. The preservation of the old society, or the formation of new exploiting classes, has each time been over the dead body of the councils. The working class now knows its enemies and its own appropriate methods of action. “Revolutionary organization has had to learn that it can no longer fight alienation with alienated forms” (The Society of the Spectacle). Workers councils are clearly the only solution, since all the other forms of revolutionary struggle have led to the opposite of what was aimed at.