e ) The Historical Limit of the Ultra-Left
Our examination of the problem of "organisation" and of the content of socialism has led us to affirm the existence of a revolutionary dynamic under capitalism. Produced by capitalism, the revolutionary movement assumes new forms in a new situation. Socialism is not merely the management of society by the workers, but the termination of the historical cycle of capital by the proletariat. The proletariat does not only seize the world; it also concludes the movement of capitalism and exchange. This is what distinguishes Marx from all utopian and reformist thinkers; socialism is produced by the objective dynamics which created capital and spread it all over the planet. Marx insists on the content of the movement. Lenin and the ultra-left insisted on its forms : form of organisation, form of management of society, while they forgot the content of the revolutionary movement. This, too, was a historical product. The situation of the period, and above all the limited development of productive forces, prevented revolutionary struggles from having a communist content ( in the sense we have defined ). It imposed upon the revolutionaries forms which could not be communist, radical. The time for the destruction of capitalism had not yet come.
Leninism expressed the impossibility of revolution in his time. Marx's ideas on the party were abandoned. It was the time of the large reformist organisations, then of the communist parties ( which quickly or immediately sank into another form of reformism ). The revolutionary movement was not strong enough. Everywhere, in Germany, in Italy, in France, in Great Britain, the beginning of the twenties was marked by the control of the masses by "workers'" leaders. Reacting against this situation, ultra-leftists were driven to the point where they feared to become the new bureaucrats. Instead of understanding the Leninist parties as a product of proletarian defeat, they refused any party, and like Lenin let the Marxist conception of the party remain in oblivion. As for the content of socialism, all social movements from the Russian revolution to the Spanish revolution tried to administer capitalism and not to overthrow it. In such conditions the ultra-left could not make a profound critique of Leninism. They could only take the opposite view, and oppose other forms to Leninism, without seeing the content of revolution. This was all the more natural as that content did not clearly appear. ( We must nevertheless remember that the ultra-left provided a remarkable critique of some aspects of capitalism -- unionism and "workers'" parties ).
These are the reasons why the ultra-left movement only replaced the Leninist fetishism of the party and class-consciousness with the fetishism of workers' councils. We daresay that the ultra-left has not gone beyond Leninism. Its conceptions were useful and necessary, but only in a transitory phase. Now Leninism approaches its end because the counter-revolution which produced it also approaches its end ( though no one knows when it will be over, opening the way for a revolutionary period ). Consequently, ultra-left ideas, which are no more than the counterpart of Leninism, must and can be gone beyond. The critique of both Leninism and ultra-leftism is now possible because the development of capitalism gives us an idea of the real content of the revolutionary movement, itself developed by capital.
By holding on to the ultra-left ideas we presented ( fear of creating the party, and workers' management ), we would turn them into mere ideology. When these ideas first appeared around 1920, they expressed a real revolutionary struggle, and even their "mistakes" played a positive and progressive role in the struggles against social democracy and Leninism. Their limits were the expression of the activity of thousands of revolutionary workers. But things have changed a great deal since 1920. A new revolutionary workers' minority is in a slow process of formation, as was revealed by the 1968 events in France, and by other struggles in several countries. The situation today is different. Capitalism has developed on a world-wide scale : 1969 is totally different from 1919. The revolutionary situation which may arise in a few ( how many ? ) years may not be the beginning of the end for the capitalist system, but its content must be quite different from that of 1920. Therefore our first task is to understand the ideas we have inherited from the past and to study the revolutionary movement of our own society.
In a revolutionary period, the revolutionary fights alongside the proletarian without any theoretical or sociological problem. The revolutionary movement gets unified. Theoretical coherence is a permanent objective of the revolutionaries, as it always hastens the practical co-ordination of revolutionary efforts. Revolutionaries never hesitate to act collectively in order to propagate their critique of the existing society.
They do not try to tell the workers what to do; but they do not refrain from intervening under the pretext that "the workers must decide for themselves." For, on the one hand, the workers only decide to do what the general situation compels them to do; and on the other, the revolutionary movement is an organic structure of which theory is an inseparable and indispensable element. Communists represent and defend the general interests of the movement. In all situations, they do not hesitate to express the whole meaning of what is going on, and to make practical proposals. If the expression is right and the proposal appropriate, they are parts of the struggle of the proletariat and contribute to build the "party" of the communist revolution.