2006-10 Worker-communism in Europe, abstract of a discussion [Dessaux]
For the 1st congress of the Worker-communist party of Iran – Hekmatist, I proposed to the organizers a workshop entitled “Worker-communism in Europe”. They agreed, and many comrades attended this workshop – thanks to all of them.
The proposal was formulated as such: “On many issues, the traditional leftists in Europe showed its failure. On European issues, they have been unable to take over left nationalism and chauvinism, and didn’t work to build a European-wide working-class organisation, when capitalist class took fifty years to build its own Europe. On International issues, they stayed on a so-called “anti-imperialist perspective” which put them in the hand of political Islam. About migrant people in Europe, they keep on “multiculturalism”, which is the nightmare of migrant women. Worker-communism challenges all these questions, but needs to be spread in Europe, and to discuss new issues to fit the situation here. Since a few years, it raise new discussions inside of European left as well, but strongly need the involvement of worker-communists living in Europe to support its development. This workshop purpose is to discuss what should be done with this new challenge”.
This workshop was also a kind of introduction for the seminar which will be held in November in France, and I hope it will decide many comrades to come also to that seminar. First, I’d like to make a brief abstract of this workshop, both my own speech and the discussion we had on its subject.
European Union is a 25 countries-wide space, with 462 000 000 inhabitants – and six more, with no less than 107 000 000 people, will join soon. While being still divided politically, EU has common policies for labor, economy, finances, immigration, agriculture, justice and police. Most laws about jobs, welfare, health, retirement, asylum rights, are decided directly at EU level and then transferred to national policies. From a working-class point of view, it appears already as a united state, even if this process is still running with a lot of contradictions.
Europe is united for capitalists, but borders still exist for working-class struggles. During the last years, the same struggles developed in France, Italy, Austria and other countries about the change of retirement age. In each countries they were defeated. In France, students and workers defeated the “first job contract” this year, and Greek students had the same struggle, but German, Spanish and Dutch governments passed the same laws without any reaction from the youth. So borders acts as a mean to prevent an united struggle of the working-class on policies which are decided at European level.
This European Union has been build by the capitalist class for the capitalist class. Working-class organizations, unions or political parties, always complained about this, but never really take over this movement to unite themselves at the same level. The European Confederation of Trade-Unions gathers many unions in and even outside EU, but is still more a bureaucratic lobby than a real union. In 33 years of its existence, it never organized more than a few symbolical demonstrations in Brussels. It has no real existence in the class struggle. The numerous organizations of the far left share a view on Europe which vary to indifference to chauvinism – all of them are still left nationalists more than communists. So the idea itself of a fusion process at European level for groups of the same obedience was never really discussed.
This attitude was the best ground for the xenophobic ideas of the far right and fascists groups, which from East to West of Europe are growing quickly. All of them make propaganda against Europe, using the fear of capitalist policies that every worker or unemployed people feel, as a tool for the own nationalist views. As many of them suffered from effect of UE policies for labor, they give their support to fascists rather than to a left which never did too much to raise workers demands at European levels.
As communists, we should challenge this question. We should not, obviously, challenge it from a nationalist left point of view, but from a communist point of view, which emphases on the unity of working-class and the need to take over borders. Left nationalists views capitalism as a movement which should be stop, as a wheel that could be turned back, and their “socialism” is before global capitalism: it’s the good old welfare state capitalism. Communists, on the contrary, consider capitalism as a movement which should be go beyond, and our socialism is after capitalism. This was the difference between Marx and socialists from its time. This is our difference with nowadays left nationalists.
So there’s a need for a communist organization in Europe, a worker-communist organization which propose another alternative than state capitalism, chauvinism and xenophobia. Is there any possibility to build this organization? First, there‘s already social movements which are the main ground for a communist organization. During the last ten years, numerous strikes and big social movement spread around Europe, as a new period of struggle. These struggles generally lack of clear goals and most of all, of political alternative, but they are still the necessary basis for any attempts to build this communist organization. But, secondly, I would like to put emphases on what does already exist: a strong network of worker-communists living and struggling in Europe.
Many worker-communists living and working in Europe are members of a union in there job, or active in any other organization which is not directly linked to their party or its campaigns. But the party, would it be the Iraqi or the Iranian one, don’t have, as far as I know, any kind of coordination of this work inside of European enterprises and society. During the congress was discussed the way to unite all energies toward a same goal, but the issue is the same in Europe than in Iran. This is a first ground to build an organization in Europe, with comrades who are already actives in class struggle here and should unite their efforts in a same direction.
How many comrades have colleagues, friends, even partners or children, who share more or less their views on communism, but consider it to be only linked to Middle-East? Sure, they may agree on the worker-communists critics about the classical left, nationalism, political Islam and so on, but they won’t join an organization mainly active in Iraq or in Iran, if they were born or raised in Europe. This social network is a second ground to build an organization in Europe.
In some countries, worker-communist activists are well known for their campaigns about women rights, or about Middle-East issues. Some are invited to express their views in TV’s, in Medias and so on. I won’t give any name, but you surely know them as well. Such people, if the join an organization in Europe, even if they have a very limited activity in it, would give this organization a fame and a credibility which would give more confidence to people thinking about joining. This is a third ground to build this organization.
Last point, Mansoor Hekmat himself put emphases on the necessity to translate major publications into European languages, and material already exists in Catalan, English, French, German, Italian, Swedish and Turkish. He wrote several articles in which he discusses questions which are mainly of European interest, like parlementiarism or trade-unionism. Even if most questions are still to be discussed, there is already an available material to start.
This may seems a very scheme to build an organization, but it’s an efficient way to start. If the matter was about how to create a worker-communist organization in a country where no worker-communist never had been, the only way would be to gather activists one by one. But why would we need this when there is already the basic network necessary to do start directly a more strongly build ground?
Before to discuss how this organization could be launched, I would like to answer to some objections or remarks which have been raised. First, some comrades wonder how Middle-East immigrants could create an organization for European-born people. During the discussion, a lot of example has been proposed that shows this is not a real problem. Among leftist groups in UK, one of them was created by Tariq Ali, from Pakistan, and the other by Tony Cliff, from Palestine. In France, the three main leftist’s organizations were created by a Romanian, a Ukrainian and a Greek. And even the leader of the main French union was for a long time a polish Jew. In Europe, most workers are from immigrant background – one, second, third, fourth generation – so why would they have any problem with a group launched by immigrants? I would rather add this is an advantage, were most leftists are searching immigrant people to join them! After, the question is more: how to spread outside of Iraqi and Iranian workers to all others, should they be immigrant from other parts of the world or Europe-born people.
A second point was about why to launch an organization for Europe and not for France, or UK, or any other country. There are two reasons for this. First, the main issue for working-class is Europe, not national countries, as most labor laws which affect daily life of workers are decided at UE level and not country level. So this is not just an idealist way to look internationalist, but a very concrete issue to be able to say: now, we answer to capitalist class at the same European scale than their attacks against us. Second, the existence of an already build network of people, which share common political culture, methods and bases, in at least countries in twelve Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Swiss, Turkey, United kingdom), both in EU members and candidates, is in itself a solid ground to start it at this level. Why should we organize only at national level when we have the opportunity to do it at a larger level, and a more significant one for the current era? Sure, we lack of contacts in East of Europe, but this would be far much easier to attract people if the organization already considers itself as European-wide. And as surely, there are many issues on which the struggle will stay at national level. Who said that a European communist organization couldn’t have national committees for such issues, as both WCPI and WPI-H have national committees for the various branch abroad? The main idea is to keep the goal: a European-wide organization to defeat capitalist Europe, for a socialist Europe.
A third question is about the links with already existing left organizations in Europe. Worker-communist parties have a long history of discussion with European organizations. There was even a paper dedicated to that kind of discussions. Sure, it was the most obvious way to start, discussing with people who consider themselves as communists. Obviously as well, it ended into a failure, as none of these groups, would they be Trotskyites, Bordiguists or anything else, never became worker-communist neither pursue long-lasting relationship common activities with worker-communists. And, most of all, these groups were generally smaller, in term of number of activists, than branches of the worker-communists parties in the same country. If the goal was to find an intermediary between the worker-communist party and the society in these countries, there were rather bad intermediaries. Let me say that no intermediaries would be more efficient.
A fourth point is about union and party. Why a European organization of workers shouldn’t be first a union? This could be useful to mind about it, if our goal was unionism in itself. The fact is that unions are deeply involved into the even social structures of their countries, and this was a major problem for the very reformist European Confederation of Trade-Unions itself. So while we have to support efforts from any working-class organization going beyond national level, we shouldn’t waste too much time struggling union bureaucracies on that ground. Our main point, now, is how to start – not what we’ll be able to do when the party will be established, rooted and powerful. We shouldn’t start form the end. Even if create a small organization and pompously calling it a party would be the best way to create a sect rather than to build a party, we have to start this organization and think about the way to transform it into a real party, rooted in the working-class, as soon as possible.
A five and last point, which is very relevant, is about party and political power. A class party has for goal political power, or it’s just a pressure group. Is it possible at European level, which is still politically divided why economically and socially united? This is not an easy question, but I would definitely answer yes: this should be our goal. If, at any moment, worker’s power is possible in only one part of Europe, there would be no reason to not challenge for it because of the European goal, but the reverse is also true. This difficult question should talk more time to answer clearly, so I will delay it to another discussion.
It must be clear that the idea is not to ask comrades living in Europe to stop any activity toward Middle-East and use all their time and energy for Europe. This would be non-sense. What I suggest is that some of them who pay attention to this issue take a little time to help this organization to start, share their experience, and make it know to their social network and so on. And first, we need an organization that people could join. As I already said, nobody who never lived in Middle-East will join an Iraqi or an Iranian party, but s/he could consider join the same party in Europe. This organization have already three first goals: identify the main issues relevant for European society and criticize them from a communist point of view, write the main bases for a program adapted to western societies – no use to say that A better world couldn’t be just used like this – and attract a first group of activists in several countries to be able to launch concrete activities and campaigns from this program. This is the way for worker-communism in Europe.