b ) Strikes and Workers Struggles Since 1968
Whereas in the years after World War ll strikes -- even important ones -- were kept under control and were not followed by constant political and monetary crises, the past few years have seen a renewal of industrial riots and even insurrections in France, Italy, Britain, Belgium, West Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland.  In Poland the workers attacked the headquarters of the C.P. while singing the International. The process was the same in nearly every case. A minority starts a movement with its own objectives; soon the movement spreads to other categories of workers in the same firm; people get organised ( strike pickets, workers' committees in the shops, on the assembly lines ); the unions manage to be the only ones capable of negotiating with the management; they finally get the workers to resume work, after proposing unitary slogans which no one likes but which everyone accepts because of the inability to formulate anything else. The only movement which went beyond the stage of the strike as it now exists was the movement of riots and strikes in Poland in December 1970-January 1971.
What happened in a brutal way in Poland exists only as a tendency in the rest of the industrial world. In Poland there is no mechanism of "countervailing" power capable of keeping social crises in check. The ruling class had to attack the working class directly in order to maintain the process of value formation in normal conditions. The Polish events prove that the crisis of value tends to spread to all industrial areas, and demonstrate the behaviour of the working class as the centre of such a crisis.
The origin of the movement was the need to defend the average selling price of labour power. But the movement found itself immediately on another field : it had to face capitalist society itself. At once the workers were forced to attack the organs of oppression. Party and union officials were assaulted and the party building was stormed. In some towns the railway stations were guarded in case they might be used to bring troops. The movement was strong enough to give itself an organ of negotiation : a workers' committee for the town. The very fact that Gierek had to go to the shipyards in person must be regarded as a victory of the working class as a whole. A year later Fidel Castro had to go to Chile in person to ask the tin miners to co-operate with the ( "socialist" ) government. In Poland the workers did not send delegates to the central power to propose their demands : the government had to come to the workers to negotiate... the inevitable surrender of the workers.
Facing the violence of the State, the working class formed its own organs of violence. No leaders had anticipated the organisation of the revolt : it was the product of the nature of the society the revolt tried to destroy. Yet leaders ( the workers' committee for the town ) only appeared after the movement had reached the highest point which the situation allowed. The negotiation organ is an expression of nothing more than the realisation by both sides that there is only one solution left. The characteristic of such a negotiation organ is that it implies no delegation of power. It rather represents the outer limit of a movement which cannot go beyond negotiation in the present situation. Reforms, once again, are proposed by capital itself, whereas the working class expresses itself in practical refusal; it must accept the proposals of the central power so long as its practical activity is not yet strong enough to destroy the basis of that power itself.
Workers' struggles tend to directly oppose their own dictatorship to that of capital, to organise on a different basis from that of capital, and thus to pose the question of the transformation of society by acts. When the existing conditions are unfavourable to a general attack, or when this attack fails, the forms of dictatorship disintegrate, capital triumphs again, reorganises the working class according to its logic, diverts the violence from its original aims, and separates the formal aspect of the struggle from its real content. We must get rid of the old opposition between "dictatorship" and "democracy." To the proletariat, "democracy" does not mean organising itself as a parliament in the bourgeois way; for it, "democracy" is an act of violence by means of which it destroys all the social forces which prevent it from expressing itself and maintain it as a class within capitalism. "Democracy" cannot be anything but a dictatorship. This is visible in every strike : the form of its destruction is precisely "democracy." As soon as there is a separation between a decision-making organ and an action organ, the movement is no longer in the offensive phase. It is being diverted to the ground of capital. Opposing workers' "democracy" to the union's "bureaucracy" means attacking a superficial aspect and hiding the real content of workers' struggles, which have a totally different basis. Democracy is now the slogan of capital : it proposes the self-management of one's own negation. All those who accept this programme spread the illusion that society can be changed by a general discussion followed by a vote ( formal or informal ) which would decide what is to be done. By maintaining the separation between decision and action, capital tries to maintain the existence of classes. If one criticises such a separation only from a formal point of view, without going to its roots, one merely perpetuates the division. It is hard to imagine a revolution which begins when voters raise their hands. Revolution is an act of violence, a process through which social relations are transformed.
We will not try to give a description of the strikes which have taken place since 1968. We lack too much information, and a large number of books and pamphlets have been written about them. We would only like to see what they have in common, and in what way they are the sign of a period in which communist prospects will appear more and more concretely.
We do not divide industrial society into different sectors -- "developing" and "backward" sectors. It is true that some differences can be observed, but these can no longer hide from us the nature of the strikes, in which one cannot see real differences between "vanguard" and "rearguard" struggles. The process of the strikes is less and less determined by local factors, and more and more by the international conditions of capitalism. Thus the Polish strikes and riots were the product of an international context; the relationship between East and West was at the root of these events where people sang the International and not the national anthem. Western and eastern capital have a common interest in securing the exploitation of their respective workers. And the relatively under-developed "socialist" capitalisms must maintain a strict capitalist efficiency to be able to compete with their more modern western neighbours.
The communist struggle starts in a given place, but its existence does not depend on purely local factors. It does not act according to the limits of its original birthplace. Local factors become secondary to the objectives of the movement. As soon as a struggle limits itself to local conditions, it is immediately swallowed up by capitalism. The level reached by workers' struggles is not determined by local factors, but by the global situation of capitalism. As soon as the class which concentrates in itself the revolutionary interests of society rises, it immediately finds, in its situation, and without any mediation, the content and object of its revolutionary activity : to crush its enemies and take the decisions imposed by the needs of the struggle; the consequences of its own actions force it to move further.
We shall not deal with all strikes here. There is still a capitalist society in which the working class is just a class of capitalism, a part of capital, when it is not revolutionary. Party and union machines still manage to control and lead considerable sections of the working class for the sake of capitalist objectives ( such as the right to retire at 60 in France ). General elections and many strikes are organised by unions for limited demands. However, it is increasingly obvious that in most large strikes the initiative does not come from the unions, and these are the strikes we are talking about here. Industrial society has not been divided into sectors, nor has the working class been divided up into the young, the old, the natives, the immigrants, the foreigners, the skilled and the unskilled. We do not oppose all sociological descriptions; these can be useful, but they are not our aim here.
We shall try to study how the proletariat breaks away from capitalist society. Such a process has a definite centre. We do not accept the sociological view of the working class because we do not analyse the working class from a static point of view, but in terms of its opposition to value. The rupture from capital abolishes exchange value, i.e., the existence of labour as a commodity. The centre of this movement, and therefore its leadership, must be the part of society which produces value. Otherwise it would mean that exchange value no longer exists, and that we are already beyond the capitalist stage. Actually the profound meaning of the essential movement is partially hidden by the struggles on the periphery, on the outskirts of the production of value. This was the case in May 1968, when students masked the real struggle, which took place elsewhere.
In fact the struggles on the outskirts ( the new middle classes ) are only a sign of a much deeper crisis which appearances still hide from us. The renewal of the crisis of value implies, for capital, the need to rationalise, and therefore to attack, the backward sectors which are least capable of protecting themselves; this increases unemployment and the number of those who have no reserves.  But their intervention must not make one forget the essential role played by production workers in destroying exchange value.
 A great deal of information can be found in pamphlets and articles by Solidarity, Root and Branch, Internationalism, Workers' Voice.
 See above, "Capitalism and Communism," footnote 19.