The following is a translation of the conclusion of “No to Class Collaboration—Down with the Attack on Pensions!,” an article originally published in 1917, édition française, No.5, September 2010.
Millions of workers see the obvious necessity of beating back the government’s attack on pensions. Many understand that even this modest task is being actively sabotaged by the trade-union bureaucrats with the more or less open support of their political counterparts in the reformist workers’ parties, including the NPA and other sizable “far left” organizations. The labor bureaucracy is not even pretending to mobilize their ranks for mass struggle to force the withdrawal of the bill. If the workers are to make any effort to offer serious resistance, they must begin by challenging bureaucratic control of the struggle. An important step would be to elect strike committees by workers in workplace general assemblies. Coordinated at the local, regional and national levels, strike committees could provide a vehicle through which class-struggle militants could effectively challenge the sabotage of the bureaucrats.
The attack on pensions is the spearhead of a generalized assault on working-class living standards that deserves a generalized response—a general strike. The immediate objective around which to mobilize mass support is obviously the necessity to hand Sarkozy a stinging defeat over the pension reform. Revolutionaries must seek to intervene in such a struggle with a program addressing other essential issues faced by working people—including the urgent need to fight unemployment through shorter hours at no loss in pay and a massive program of public works.
A revolutionary nucleus within the unions that was prepared to initiate a vigorous response to the bosses’ attacks would inevitably win support from the most militant sectors of the working class and thereby dramatically change the entire political equation. If Thibault and company are able to retain control of the mobilizations, the capitalists will rest easy. The consequences of any further retreats are likely to be particularly serious in this period, as the global capitalist order teeters on the brink of a massive meltdown: more layoffs, soaring unemployment and the disintegration of important sectors of the proletariat.
A fighting leadership for the working class can only be forged through a political struggle to break with the class collaborationism and reformism pushed by the trade-union bureaucracy and the parties of the “left” and “far left.” Just as capitalist attacks on the working class flow from the logic of profit maximization, the objective interests of working people can only be satisfied by uprooting the entire system of wage slavery and collectivizing the means of production. This fundamental truth is denied by various left currents on the grounds that incremental steps and petty reforms are the most “practical” means of developing “anti-capitalist” consciousness. More than a century ago Rosa Luxemburg refuted such notions:
“…people who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modification of the old society. If we follow the political conceptions of revisionism, we arrive at the same conclusion that is reached when we follow the economic theories of revisionism. Our program becomes not the realisation of socialism, but the reform of capitalism: not the suppression of the system of wage labour but the diminution of exploitation, that is, the suppression of the abuses of capitalism instead of the suppression of capitalism itself.”
—Reform or Revolution?
The revival of an authentically revolutionary pole within the working class requires the crystallization of a cadre of militants capable of breaking once and for all with the illusion that the interests of working people can be advanced by an alliance with one or another wing of the bourgeoisie. The International Bolshevik Tendency seeks collaborators in the effort to create the nucleus of an authentically Trotskyist organization committed to fighting inside and outside the unions for a revolutionary, class-struggle program based on a recognition of the necessity to expropriate the bourgeoisie and uproot the entire system of production for profit by shattering the capitalist state apparatus and replacing it with institutions of proletarian power.