a ) May, 1968, in France
The general strike of May, 1968, was one of the biggest strikes in capitalist history. Yet it is probably the first time in contemporary society that such a powerful working class movement did not create for itself organs capable of expressing it. More than four years of workers' struggles prove this fact. Nowhere can we see organisations going beyond a local and temporary contact. Unions and parties have been able to step into this void and negotiate with the bosses and the State. In 1968 a number of short-lived Action Committees were the only form of workers' organisation which acted outside the unions and the parties; the Action Committees opposed what they felt to be treason on the part of the unions.
Either at the beginning of the strike, or in the process of the sit-downs, or later, in the struggle against the resumption of work, many thousands of workers organised themselves in one way or another outside and against the will of the unions. But in every case these workers' organisations fizzled out with the end of the movement and did not turn into a new type of organisation.
The only exception was the "Inter-Enterprise" Committee, which had existed since the beginning of the strike at the Censier building of the "Faculte des Lettres" in Paris. It gathered together workers -- individuals and groups -- from several dozen factories in the Paris area. Its function was to co-ordinate actions against the undermining of the strike by the P.C.F.-controlled union, the C.G.T. It was in fact the only workers' organ which in practice went beyond the narrow limits of the factory by putting into practice the solidarity between workers from different firms. As is the case with all revolutionary activities of the proletariat, this Committee did not publicise its action.
The Committee continued to organise meetings after the strike and disappeared after its members realised its uselessness. Of course the hundreds of workers who had taken part in its activity soon stopped coming to its meetings. Many of them continued seeing each other. But while the purpose of the Committee during the strike had been to strengthen the fight against union and party manoeuvres, it later turned into a discussion group studying the results of the strike and trying to learn its lessons for the future. These discussions often dealt with communism and its importance.
This Committee gathered a minority. Yet its daily "general assemblies" at Censier, as well as its smaller meetings, allowed several thousand workers to meet. It remained limited to the Paris area. We have heard of no such experiment in other regions, organised outside all unions ( including "left wing" unions : the town of Nantes, in the west of France, was more or less taken over by the unions during the strike ).
One must add that a handful of people sharing communist ideas ( a dozen at most ) were deeply involved in its action and functioning. The result of this was to limit the influence of the C.G.T., the Trotskyists, and the Maoists, to a minimum. The fact that the Committee was outside all traditional union and party organisations, including the extremist ones, and that it tried to go beyond the limit of the factory, foreshadowed what has been happening since 1968. Its disappearance after the fulfilment of its tasks also foreshadowed the fading away of organisations that have appeared since then, in the most characteristic struggles of recent years.
This shows the great difference between the present situation and what happened in the 1930's.  In 1936, in France, the working class fought behind the "workers' " organisations and for the reforms they professed. So the 40-hour week and two weeks of paid vacation were regarded as a real victory of the workers, whose essential demand was to get the same conditions and position as salaried groups. These demands were imposed on the ruling class. Today the working class is not asking for the improvement of its conditions of life. The reform programmes presented by unions and parties closely resemble those put forward by the State. It was DeGaulle who proposed "participation" as a remedy for what he called the "mechanical" society.
It seems that only a fraction of the ruling class realised the extent of the crisis, which it called a "crisis of civilisation" ( A. Malraux ). Since then all organisations, all unions and parties, without any exceptions, rallied to the great reform programme in one way or another. The P.C.F. itself includes "real participation" in its governmental programme. The other large union, the C.F.D.T., advocates self-management, which is also supported by ultra-left groups who are in favour of "workers' councils."  The Trotskyists propose "workers' control" as a minimum programme for a "workers' government."
What lies at the heart of all this concern is an attempt to end the separation between the worker and the product of his work. This is an expression of a "utopian" view of capital, and has nothing to do with communism. The capitalist "utopia" tries to do away with the bad side of exploitation. The communist movement cannot express itself in a formal criticism of capital. It does not aim to change the conditions of work, but the function of work : it wants to replace the production of exchange values with the production of use values.  Whereas unions and parties carry on their debates within the context of one and the same programme, the programme of capital, the proletariat has a non-constructive attitude. Apart from its practical political activities, it does not "participate" in the debate organised about its case. It does not try to do theoretical research about its own tasks. This is the time of the great silence of the proletariat. The paradox is that the ruling class tries to express the aspirations of the workers, in its own way. A fraction of the ruling class understands that the present conditions of appropriation of surplus-value are a hindrance to the total functioning of the economy. Its perspective is to share the cake, hoping that a working class "profiting" from capital and "participating" in it will produce more surplus-value. We are reaching the stage when capital dreams of its own survival.  To achieve this survival, it would have to get rid of its own parasitical sectors, i.e., the fractions of capital which no longer produce enough surplus-value.
Whereas in 1936 the workers tried to reach the same level as other sectors of society, nowadays capital itself imposes on the privileged salaried sectors the same general conditions of life as those of the workers. The concept of participation implies equality in the face of exploitation imposed by the needs of value formation. Thus participation is a "socialism" of misery. Capitalism must reduce the enormous cost of the sectors which are necessary to its survival but which do not directly produce value.
In the course of their struggles workers realise that the possibility of improving their material conditions is limited and on the whole already planned by capital. The working class can no longer intervene on the basis of a programme which would really alter its living conditions within capitalism. The great workers' struggles of the first half of the century, struggles for the eight-hour day, the forty-hour week, paid holidays, industrial unionism, job security, showed that the relationship between the working class and capital allowed the workers a certain range of "capitalist" action. Nowadays capital itself imposes the reforms and generalises the equality of all in the face of wage-labour. Therefore no important section of the working class is willing to fight for intermediate objectives as was the case at the beginning of the century or in the 1930's. But it should also be obvious that as long as the communist perspective is not clear there can be no formation of workers' organisations on a communist basis. This is not to say that the communist objectives will suddenly become clear to everybody. The fact that the working class is the only class which produces surplus-value is what places it at the centre of the crisis of value, i.e., at the very heart of the crisis of capitalism, and forces it to destroy all other classes as such, and to form the organs of its self-destruction as a part of capital, as a class within capitalism. The communist organisation will only appear in the practical process of destruction of the bourgeois economy, and in the creation of a human community without exchange, without value.
The communist movement has asserted itself continually since the very beginning of capitalism. This is why capital is forced to maintain constant surveillance and continual violence over everything dangerous to its normal functioning. Ever since the secret conspiracy of Babeuf in 1795, the workers' movement has experienced increasingly violent and longer struggles, which have shown capitalism to be, not the culmination of humanity, but its negation.
Although the May '68 strike had hardly any immediate positive results, its real strength was that it did not give birth to durable illusions. The May "failure" is the failure of reformism, and the end of reformism breeds a struggle on a totally different level, a struggle against capital itself, not against its effects. In 1968 everyone was thinking of some "other" society. What people said rarely went beyond the notion of general self-management. Apart from the communist struggle which can develop only if the centre, the class which produces surplus-value, leads it, other classes can only act and think within the capitalist sphere, and their expression can only be that of capital -- even of capital reforming itself. Yet behind these partial criticisms and alienated expressions we can see the beginning of the crisis of value which is characteristic of the historical period we are now entering.
These ideas do not come from nowhere; they always appear because the symptoms of a real human community exist emotionally in every one of us. Whenever the false community of wage-labour is questioned, there appears a tendency towards a form of social life in which relationships are no longer mediated by the needs of capital.
Since May '68, the activity of the communist movement has tended to be increasingly concrete.
 See the Root and Branch pamphlet, Lessons of the Sit-Down Strikes of the 1930s.
 See Solidarity in Britain and Root and Branch in the U.S.
 See above, "Capitalism and Communism."
 Hence the M.l.T. report and the debate on zero growth.