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ETIENNE BALIBAR

ON THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT

    The Historic Significance of the 22nd Congress
    by Louis Althusser 


    I want to thank the UEC Philosophy Branch for having invited me to take part in this debate.[1] I was left free to choose my subject. And I thought: there is no subject in France more important than the 22nd Congress of the French Communist Party, not only for Communists but for everyone who wants to put an end to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, to its exploitation, cynicism and lies. I shall therefore present a series of remarks on this Congress.

        In order to make my political position clear to everyone, let me first say that I consider the 22nd Congress to be a decisive event in the history of the Communist Party and of the French labour movement.

        I should add that, in order to understand an event of such importance, we must not concentrate our attention on this or that detail of French political history, on this or that particular circumstance of the Congress, or even on the letter of the formulations adopted there.

        We must rather try to grasp the general problems to which the 22nd Congress constitutes a response, problems which are posed not only on the national scale but also on the world scale. We must look at matters in the necessary perspective, and place the Congress in the history of imperialism, the 'period of revolutionary movements' (Lenin), which are themselves inseparable from the general forms of crisis of the international revolutionary movement.

        We must place the Congress in this long and dramatic history,


    [1] This paper was first presented as a speech in a debate organized by the Sorbonne Philosophy Branch of the French Union of Communist Students. [This and the following notes are added by the translator.]

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    a history full of problems and contradictions. And we must understand that the initiatives taken by the Congress do, in their own way, tend to break with this history and to open new perspectives.

        As a first approximation let me say that it is impossible to understand the 22nd Congress without taking account of two important facts which dominate the political situation and are of crucial interest to millions of men and women in the world: on the one hand the aggravation of the crisis of imperialism, and on the other hand the aggravation of the crisis of the International Communist Movement.

        For the third time in its history, following the revolutionary crisis opened up by the First World War and the great crisis of 1929, whose revolutionary premises imperialism swept away by fascism and a Second World War -- each time however paying the price of a revolution (USSR) or revolutions (China, Cuba) -- we can say that this same imperialism now finds itself once again in a pre-revolutionary crisis, whose forms are quite new.

        Paradoxically, the revolutionary movement has never been so powerful in the world, now that the Third World movements for liberation and economic independence have been joined to the anti-capitalist struggle in the imperialist centres. But, paradoxically, at the same time the crisis of the International Communist Movement, both open (the Sino-Soviet split) and masked (the conflict between the Western Communist Movement and the USSR) has never been so acute.

        Unless we place the 22nd Congress within the framework of this fundamental contradiction and of its effects, we run the risk of failing to understand its significance, together with the problems which it posed and its own contradictions.

        But I would also say, as a second approximation, that in spite of its own crisis, imperialism -- playing on the crisis of the International Communist Movement -- still has at its disposal considerable resources and forces in order to make the international working class, the countries of the Third World, their emigrant workers and the dependent capitalist States pay the cost of the crisis and of the maintenance, re-establishment or reinforcement of its supremacy. In the present context it would be dangerous to underestimate the power of imperialism, just as it would be dangerous to underestimate the power of the bourgeois State : the fact that it is dominated by its monopolist fraction does not prevent it

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    from defending and strengthening its mass base. When the reputation of a political figure is damaged (Giscard), the bourgeoisie can always find another one to replace him (Chirac): you must not believe that it is always a case of 'Tweedledum and Tweedledee', because it may be that the second man can, by a more dangerous, semi-fascist form of demagogy, win back the mass base of the bourgeoisie which was collapsing as a consequence of the class struggle. We must pay great attention to these differences in the political forms taken by the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie: they can have important consequences. And in the first place they may precisely allow the bourgeoisie to survive and to maintain itself in power.

        In the same way, but on a quite different front, it would be dangerous to underestimate, in spite of the acute crisis which it is going through, the capacities of the International Communist Movement, and its chances of resolving this crisis. And this too is an historical phenomenon of great significance.

        In order to understand the initiatives taken by the 22nd Congress, we must take all these aspects together, in their always complex and sometimes paradoxical dialectic.

        It is in this context that I shall examine, one by one, the initiatives taken by the 22nd Congress.


    First initiative
    The Congress itself claimed to be of historic importance, a turning point in the history of the Communist Party. Why was it an historic Congress? Because for the first time it dealt with the present stage in the class struggle in terms of the strategy for socialism and of the peaceful and democratic means of transition to socialism.

        The document adopted by the Congress[2] is not a concrete analysis of the state of the relation of class forces in the world in general and France in particular, but a political manifesto picturing to the French people, and not only to the working class, 'the society which the Communists want for France: socialism'.

        You will notice an important difference here: for the 21st Congress did not talk so much about socialism, but above all


    [2] Ce que veulent les communistes pour la France ; published together with other Congress documents in Le Socialisme pour la France, Editions sociales, 1976.

    about the Common Programme.[3] The whole document adopted by the 22nd Congress is however centred around socialism. By this reference to socialism, the Congress intended to move beyond the tactical and electoral point of view centred on the Common Programme alone in order to say something about the 'strategy' which, beyond the Common Programme, must lead to socialism.

        The great innovation of the 22nd Congress is that it argues that this whole strategy will be democratic and peaceful. In every case the Party promises to respect the verdict of universal suffrage, and therefore the possibility of the democratic alternation of governments. The French people will not make the transition to socialism by force, but democratically, by the vote, in full liberty.

        But at the same time the Party does not hide the fact that it will not be a passive witness to the class struggle. It is launching a great recruiting campaign on the basis of lofty objectives, intervening 'on all points of the compass' in the class struggle, and doing everything to unite the masses of the people around their class demands, in order to achieve socialism with liberty.

        But since nothing is without its contradictions and problems, we must point out here that the ambitious character of this initiative, which does not hesitate to sketch out a picture of the socialist society of the future (one leading comrade used the phrase 'a practical utopia'), is accompanied by a very scanty account of the existing class power of the bourgeoisie in France. Here is where the absence of a concrete analysis of the concrete situation makes itself felt. Because you cannot solve politically the problem of the bourgeois class State by just pointing out that the French economy is dominated by 25 giant trusts + 600 great auxiliaries + 500,000 members of the great bourgeoisie, for this State always takes the form of a 'power bloc', associating several class fractions under the domination of the bourgeoisie as a class; so this is no way to solve the fundamental problem of the mass base of the domination of the bourgeoisie as a class, which, as a class, cannot be reduced to its monopolist fraction. If the bourgeoisie, as a class, was reduced politically to its monopolist fraction, it would not last for a quarter of an hour.

        I am not making a simply 'abstract' or 'theoretical' objection


    [3] For Georges Marchais' Report to the 21st French Communist Party Congress, see Marxism Today, January and February 1975; for Althusser's contribution to the pre-Congress discussion, see his Essays in Self-Criticism, NLB, 1976, pp. 208-15.

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    here; I am talking about terribly concrete realities which find their expression in the famous 'electoral barrier' and other similar stumbling-blocks, and which cannot be explained just by blaming the 'television system', etc. -- on the contrary, we have to analyze with great care in each particular case the precise class limits, functions and effects involved.


    Second initiative
    It is to the credit of the 22nd Congress that, in the definition of its political line, it pays attention to the important changes which have taken place in the world. If this political line sketches out a new perspective it is because class relations have changed, and because the masses, in the course of their own struggles, however hard these struggles may be in a period of inflation and unemployment, have become aware of this fact. Georges Marchais expressed this historical experience of the masses by insisting on the fact that if things have changed, the Party must change too.

        And the Cold War has indeed begun to fade away, though very dangerous sparking-points remain, like the Middle East and South Africa, where American imperialism intervenes either directly or through its lackeys. The economic crisis of imperialism is indeed undermining the political power of the bourgeoisie and creating new possibilities for the struggle of the working class and of the people. New social strata are indeed drawn into the ranks of the wage-earners and joining the struggle of the working class. An unprecedented relation of forces is appearing on the horizon of this struggle: for the first time in history the transition to socialism may take a peaceful form. For the first time in history a form of socialism is appearing different from the 'grey' variety built on force or even repression: a mass democratic socialism.

        The 22nd Congress was able to draw the lesson of the objective demands, of the experience and claims of the people of this country. That is why it talked about 'socialism in French colours'. In its own way it echoed the long revolutionary tradition of the French people, which has always linked liberty and revolution. It went much further than the repudiation of the military occupation of Czechoslovakia. It launched a gigantic campaign for the defence of existing liberties and for their future extension. This development is irreversible.

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        But since nothing is without its contradictions and problems, we must point out that this same Party, which talks at such length and with such generosity about liberties for others, nevertheless remains silent on the question of the present forms and practices of democratic centralism, i.e. on the forms of liberty of Communists in their own Party. Yet there is a lot to be said about this question. I shall come back to it in a moment.


    Second initiative
    Third initiative The 22nd Congress adopted a new position in response to the crisis of the International Communist Movement.

        The paradox is that the Congress made allusive references to the problem without providing an analysis of this crucial phenomenon: silence reigns over the history which is now being made. The paradox is that the crisis of the International Communist Movement was dealt with obliquely, indirectly: in the form of the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

        This is one of those cases where you must not take declarations literally. What is at stake here is of much greater importance than would appear from the official explanations.

        The official standpoint was that, following the Hitler, Mussolini and Franco regimes, the word 'dictatorship' has become 'intolerable'. The official standpoint was that the proletariat, the 'hard core' of the working class, is now 'too narrow' to be identified with the broad popular union which we want.

        Now this last argument -- the proletariat as the heart of a broad alliance -- is in the tradition of Marx and Lenin. The 22nd Congress takes it up in the form of the idea of the 'leading role of the working class' at the heart of a broad union of the people. There are no serious problems on this point.

        On the other hand it is difficult to take seriously the argument about 'dictatorship', since it does not say what it means: it says something different, and something very important. Because the official list of examples (Hitler, Mussolini, etc.) simply omits any mention of Stalin: not just of the individual called Stalin, but of the structure of the Soviet State and Party, and of the economic and political line imposed by Stalin over a period of thirty years, not only on the Soviet State and Party but on the Communist Parties of the whole world. Fascism is fascism: the workers

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    quickly learned what they could expect from it. But they expected something quite different from Soviet socialism, in which they had placed all their hopes of liberation, from that regime of terror and mass extermination, which is still awaiting a Marxist analysis.

        The exponents of the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat said : dictatorship = Hitler, Mussolini, etc. In reality they meant : dictatorship = Stalin, Soviet socialism. In reality they meant: we do not want anything to do with that kind of socialism, ever.

        There is no doubt that in the unexpected form of the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat the 22nd Congress killed two birds with one stone: while adopting a new strategy for socialism it also at the same time adopted a new position with regard to the crisis of the International Communist Movement, thus furnishing the proof that, at least to some extent, it is possible to find a way out of this crisis. In spite of its present limits, agreed to at the Berlin Conference, this initiative may prove fruitful.

        It is in this perspective that the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat played its part, by allowing a spectacular presentation (the abandonment of a hallowed formula . . .) of the idea that a different kind of socialism is possible from that now holding sway in the USSR and Eastern Europe.

        As far as the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat is concerned, in particular its irrefutable scientific core, I am not too worried about its future prospects. They will not be settled by its political abandonment. Every materialist knows that a scientific truth which objectively reflects a real relation is hard to kill off, and has time on its side. We shall soon see the proof of it.


    Fourth initiative
    On this matter too the 22nd Congress was not explicit, but it is an important matter, one which has to be deciphered.

        I am talking about the slogan of the Union of the French People, which Georges Marchais proposed to the 21st Congress and which the 22nd Congress readopted in its full force.

        This slogan is not the same as that of the Union of the Left. It is wider, because it designates more than a Union of the political organizations of the Left, parties and trade unions.

        How are we to understand this slogan of the Union of the

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    French People? Interpreted in the most favourable sense it might be taken to be or to be destined to become something quite different from a slogan designed to restore the 'electoral balance', namely to be directed, beyond the organizations of the Left, to the masses of the people themselves. Why address the masses of the people? In order to suggest to them, even if at first only by hints, that it will one day be necessary for them to organize as an autonomous force, in new forms, in factories, in neighbourhoods, around questions of housing, education, health care, transport, etc., in order to define and defend their demands, to support and stimulate the people's government in power or to prepare for its coming. Such mass organizations already exist in Italy and in Spain, where they play an important political role.

        If the masses take up the slogan of the Union of the French People and interpret it in this mass sense, they will be joining up with a living tradition of popular struggles in this country and will be able to contribute to giving a new content to the political forms in which the power of the working people will be exercized in this country, under socialism.

        Something may come to fruition in the Union of the French People, something which was eliminated in the practices of the Stalin type, and yet lies at the heart of the Marxist and Leninist tradition: the practice of letting the masses which make history speak for themselves, of not simply attempting to serve the people but of listening to them, learning from them and understanding their aspirations and their contradictions, and being attentive to the powers of imagination and invention of the masses.

        The present broad recruiting policy of the Party can favour such mass democratic practices, and others of a daring kind (e.g. the opening of the Party press to workers who are not Party members: cf. France Nouvelle ),[4] and in general everything which might serve the common debates and actions of Communists and non-Communists.

        But since nothing is without its contradictions and problems, we must point out the risk involved here: the risk that this slogan will remain a matter of words alone, without giving rise to the corresponding forms of practical activity, the risk that it will serve


    [4] Weekly journal of the French Communist Party; the nearest equivalent in the CPGB would be the fortnightly Comment.

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    to express a kind of political voluntarism designed simply to extend the influence of the Party beyond the Union of the Left. Not that an electoral gain is an insignificant matter, but it is far from exhausting the wealth of ideas contained in the slogan of the Union of the French People. There is thus a political battle to be engaged and won if the slogan of the Union of the French People is to be interpreted in its strongest sense: its mass sense.


    Fifth initiative
    The 22nd Congress has taught us several times over to be very careful with words. And here is the most surprising case.

        My opinion is that we have to give paradoxical credit to the Congress on one point. In deciding to abandon the dictatorship of the proletariat, which had become a ritual formula, empty except for the Stalinian parody with which it was identified, the Congress placed publicly on the agenda, for the first time since the Tours Congress,[5] the theoretical and political ideas linked to the dictatorship of the proletariat. And yet the formula of abandonment did not itself appear in the Congress document.

        The details of the events of the Congress do not in the last instance matter too much. We have other things to do than undertake a legal examination of the procedure followed there. Here again, facts are more important than words. The problem which concerns us is the following: willy-nilly, the 22nd Congress forced us all to think about a question which had remained obscure or been obscured for many comrades. It has already provoked and will continue to provoke thought about the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat on the basis of the concrete questions which it talked about: not only the dictatorship of the proletariat but also for example the nature of socialism and the 'destruction' of the State.

        There can be no telling the workers that the conditions of life described by the document are not in fact imposed on them by the dictatorship (or class rule) of the bourgeoisie, or that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie can be reduced to its merely political forms, called 'democratic', that it does not extend to the worst


    [5] The Congress of the French Socialist Party (1920) at which a majority of the delegates voted for applying to join the Communist International, thus creating the French Communist Party.

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    forms of economic exploitation, to the most vulgar forms of ideological influence and blackmail. The workers have everyday experience of the intervention of the bourgeois State in economic exploitation and in ideological propaganda. There can be no telling the workers that the proletariat does not exist, whether you call it 'the core of the working class' or something else. Georges Marchais, talking recently about the unskilled workers in automated industry, called them 'the proletariat of modern times'.

        It is this experience of the 'dictatorship', or, if you prefer the old phrase of the Communist Manifesto, of the class 'domination' of the bourgeoisie, an experience repeated daily for the working class, which contains the 'secret' of the expression 'dictatorship of the proletariat' or 'class domination' of the proletariat and its allies. The political form of this domination is mass democracy, democracy 'taken to the limit', but as a form of class domination it cannot be reduced to its political forms -- it is also class domination in the economy and in ideology. This quite new kind of class domination runs counter to the bourgeois class dictatorship: it begins little by little to transfigure the bourgeois forms of exploitation and the corresponding political and ideological forms by 'destroying' or revolutionizing the bourgeois State, which is nothing but the State of the dictatorship (or domination) of the bourgeoisie.

        As long as we understand this point, we shall also understand that the expression 'dictatorship of the proletariat' contains both relatively contingent elements, and necessary elements. We shall understand for example that the question of the peaceful transition to socialism is a contingent element: if, in the class struggle, the relation of forces is very favourable to the proletariat and to the working people in general and very unfavourable to imperialism and the national bourgeoisie, then a peaceful transition is possible. You must not forget about imperialism in the analysis, because it can intervene without the slightest scruple, though it may on the other hand find itself relatively paralyzed. All this depends on the relation of forces, on the conjuncture: all this is contingent.

        The achievement of the broadest possible class alliance around the 'hard core' of the working class, although it is an ever-present objective of the revolutionary struggle, is also a contingent element of the dictatorship of the proletariat. If the strength of the forces

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    of the people and the relation of forces allows it to be constructed, then this alliance is quite simply indispensable, and it would be criminal not to exploit the possibility.

        To say that these two conditions -- relation of forces permitting the peaceful transition to socialism/broadest possible alliance around the proletariat -- are 'contingent' elements of the dictatorship of the proletariat means that they may or may not be present. We know that they were not present in the 1917 revolution, although the situation did pose the task of a revolutionary break through. The revolution thus took place in non-peaceful forms, on the basis of an alliance of workers and peasants which proved rather fragile.

        As far as these two questions are concerned -- peaceful transition, broadest possible alliance around the proletariat ('leading role of the working class') -- the 22nd Congress did, in the paradoxical form of the abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, correct certain errors to which some comrades might have fallen victim with regard to the seizure of power and to socialism, errors induced by the Stalin deviation. But precisely on these two questions, the 22nd Congress added nothing new: it only repeated arguments about things which Marx and Lenin themselves had claimed to be possible (peaceful transition) or politically desirable (broadest possible alliance around the working class).

        On the other hand there are elements of the dictatorship of the proletariat which are not contingent (dependent on the circumstances) but necessary, if the revolution is not to get bogged down and come to grief.

        The essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat today lies in the question of socialism and in the question of the State.

        Now when the 22nd Congress presents socialism in the way which it does, a society governed by a generalized democracy and by the generalized satisfaction of needs, it imagines that it has resolved what is in fact an imaginary problem. The introduction of the term 'practical utopia' is no accident. The problem is quite imaginary because it does not correspond to the reality of socialism as it can be understood both in theory and in real-life experience.

        Socialism is not presented as what it really is: a contradictory transition period between capitalism and communism, but on the contrary as a goal to be attained, and at the same time as the end term of a process -- that is, to put it bluntly, as a stable mode of

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    production, whose stability, like that of every mode of production, lies in particular relations of production which, according to the classic formula, resolve the contradiction between the developed productive forces (at this point there comes a hymn of praise to the 'scientific and technical revolution') and the old, out-dated relations of production.

        Now this conception is foreign to the ideas of Marx and Lenin, and also, we must add, if we want to try to understand these ideas together with all the difficulties which they raise, foreign to the historical experience of the socialist countries.

        For Marx and Lenin, there is no socialist mode of production, there are no socialist relations of production, no socialist law, etc. Socialism is nothing other than the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., a new class domination, in which the working class fulfils the leading role with regard to its allies in the broadest possible mass democracy. Socialism is the transition period (the only such period which Marx and Lenin talk about) between capitalism and communism, a contradictory period in which capitalist elements (e.g. wages) and communist elements (e.g. new mass organizations) coexist in a relation of conflict, an essentially unstable period in which the class struggle persists in modified forms, unrecognizable from the standpoint of our own class struggle, difficult to decipher, and which may -- depending on the relation of forces and the 'line' which is followed -- either regress towards capitalism or mark time in frozen forms or again progress towards communism.

        Everything which the historical experience of socialism has taught us (and we should be very wrong to condemn it from on high simply on the basis of obviously 'blameworthy' 'short-comings in democracy', as they are called in order to avoid having to look further) also proves that this historical period, far from being a society in which problems resolve themselves (on the basis of the satisfaction of 'needs'), is on the contrary one of the most difficult periods in world history, because of the contradictions which have to be overcome at each step -- as if humanity, in order finally to bring communism to birth, was obliged to pay a heavy price in struggles, intelligence and initiatives for the right to see it come to pass.

        This original conception of socialism brings with it an important consequence. Contrary to modes of production, which are defined in terms of their relations of production, socialism cannot be

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    defined in its own right, in terms of its relations of production, since there are strictly speaking no socialist relations of production, but only in terms of the contradiction between capitalism, out of which it emerged, and communism, of which it is the first phase: thus in terms of its relation to communism, which is its future and end point.

        Very concretely, this reminds us of Marx's phrase: communism is not an ideal but a real movement taking place under our own eyes. Very concretely it means that the strategy of the labour movement has to take account of this dialectic; it cannot be a simple strategy for the transition to socialism, it must be a strategy for the transition to communism -- otherwise the whole process may run aground.

        It is only on the basis of a strategy for the transition to communism that socialism can be conceived as a transitory and contradictory phase, and that a strategy of struggle can thus be put into effect right now which will fall into no illusions about socialism (of the kind: 'last stop: everyone get off!') but will treat socialism as what it really is, without getting bogged down in the first 'transition' which it meets up with.

        Now the 22nd Congress replied to this question, it must be said, in the form of a disappointing definition, supported by a kind of super-optimism. Far from putting the emphasis on the decisive contradiction characterizing this transition phase called socialism, the Congress presented socialism, which does indeed bring enormous advantages to the workers, as a general, non-contradictory and quasi-euphoric solution to every problem. It is clear that instead of thinking in terms of a strategy for communism, which alone allows us to grasp the contradiction, to size it up and take bearings, it was concerned with a pseudo-strategy for socialism, thus running the risk of conjuring away the contradiction, not only under socialism but in consequence also in the period of the application of the Common Programme, if the Left wins the next general election.

        The same goes for the question of the State.

        I am not talking about the seizure of State power, which, if the national and international relations of forces permit it, may take a peaceful form. Nor am I talking about the bourgeois State, which will remain in place during the period of application of the Common Programme. I am talking about the State of the socialist

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    revolution, supposing that a peaceful transition to this State is possible.

        Now here is where the dictatorship of the proletariat makes its necessary effects felt, just as it does with respect to the case of socialism.

        For this bourgeois State, the instrument of bourgeois class rule, must -- as Marx and Lenin constantly repeated -- be 'smashed'; moreover, in an even more important argument, they linked this process of 'breaking up' the old State with the later 'withering away' of the new revolutionary State, something which is indispensable if socialism is not to mark time indefinitely but is to arrive at communism. In other words, they understood the 'smashing' of the bourgeois State against the background of the withering away and end of every State.

        The Congress obviously could not avoid confronting the argument concerning the 'smashing' of the bourgeois State. Here again, we must pay careful attention to words, because 'smash' is a strong word which, like 'dictatorship, can frighten people if its sense is not properly understood. Now if you want to get an idea of this sense, here is a concrete example. Lenin says: we must 'break up' the bourgeois parliamentary State apparatus. In order to 'break it up' (or 'smash' it) Lenin proposes: (1) to suppress the separation of powers between legislature and executive; (2) to suppress the division of labour on which it rests (in theory and practice), and above all (3) to suppress the bourgeois separation between the masses of the people and the parliamentary apparatus.

        This is a very special use of the term 'smash', nothing to do with annihilation, but rather with recasting, restructuring and revolutionizing an existing apparatus in order to ensure the triumph of the domination of a new class, firmly linked with the masses of the people.

        In fact -- and I should like particular attention to be paid to these words -- in order to 'smash' the bourgeois State and to replace it with the State of the working class and its allies it is not enough simply to add the adjective 'democratic' to each State apparatus ; it is something completely different from this formal and potentially reformist operation, it is to revolutionize in their structure, their practice and their ideology the existing State apparatuses, suppressing some of them, creating new ones, thus to produce a transformation in the forms of the division of labour

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    between the repressive, political and ideological apparatuses, to revolutionize their methods of work and the bourgeois ideology which governs their practical activity, and to construct new relations between these apparatuses and the masses on the basis of a new, proletarian ideology, in order to prepare the 'withering away of the State', i.e., its replacement by organizations of the masses.

        This necessity is related to the Marxist theory of the State. For Marx, the State apparatuses are not neutral instruments but, in a strong sense, the organic repressive and ideological apparatuses of a class: the ruling class. In order to guarantee the domination of the working class and its allies, and to prepare for the long-term 'withering away' of the State, you cannot avoid attacking the class character of the existing State apparatuses. That means 'smashing' the State. Otherwise the new ruling class will be defeated by its own victory, or be forced to mark time and get bogged down in its own conquests, thus abandoning any serious idea of completing the transition to communism.

        If you want examples of States which were not 'smashed', which are not in the process of 'withering away', then you only have to look among the socialist countries, and you will see the consequences. The Soviet leaders declare: here the withering away of the State takes place through its reinforcement!

        It is true that this is a difficult, even a very difficult problem, that it merits concrete historical investigation and profound theoretical analysis. But it is a real and unavoidable problem whose existence is indicated by a necessary element of the dictatorship of the proletariat. And it is undeniably one of the positive sides of the 22nd Congress that it forced us to think about this problem.

        But it is also a fact that, in abandoning the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat in a headlong and indiscriminate manner - i.e. in abandoning the simple and clear idea that the proletariat and its allies must smash, i.e. revolutionize the bourgeois State machine in order to 'make itself the ruling class' (The Communist Manifesto ), that they must attack the very substance of the bourgeois State which they have inherited -- the 22nd Congress unfortunately deprived itself of the possibility of understanding the 'breaking up' and 'withering away' of the State except in the sugar-coated terms of the 'democratization of the State' , as if the simple legal form of democracy in general could suffice not only to deal with and solve but even simply to pose correctly

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    the enormous problems of the State and its apparatuses, which are class problems and not problems of law.


    Sixth initiative
    Can we say that this initiative really is to be found in potential form in the proceedings of the 22nd Congress, or in the foreseeable consequences of the logic of the Congress? In any case, here we are concerned with an historical necessity of importance to every Communist.

        I am talking about the need for the Communists to take contradiction seriously: not only outside the Party but also inside the Party. I must therefore say a few words about democratic centralism.

        Georges Marchais has insisted on the will to change in the Party. It is obvious that the new line of the 22nd Congress will necessarily have repercussions on the internal life of the Party, on the forms of expression of militants and their freedom of action, thus on the present conception of democratic centralism.

        It is not my job to predict future developments or to anticipate decisions of the Party, its leadership and its militants. I should just like to try to set out a few principles of a question which is not at all simple.

        What is the purpose of democratic centralism? It is a response to the vital political necessity of creating unity of thought and action in the Party, in order victoriously to counter the bourgeois class struggle. The working class has at its disposal only its revolutionary will and organization, sealed in the unity of thought and action. The purpose of democratic centralism is to create this theoretical and practical unity. Its mechanism is simple: decisions are freely discussed and democratically adopted at each level of the Party (branch, section, district, National Congress). Once adopted by the Party Congress they become binding on every militant as far as his political activity is concerned. But as long as he accepts this discipline, he can keep his own opinion.

        In principle, the matter is therefore quite clear, even obvious. But in practice it is more complicated.

        You only have to remember for example that delegates to a National Congress, the highest organ of the Party, are elected by a 3-stage majority vote (branches -> sections, sections -> districts, districts -> National Congress), which does not even represent the

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    most progressive kind of 'formal' democracy, and which automatically eliminates any difference of opinion in the plenary sessions of the Congress, regularly leading to unanimous decisions without any 'real discussion'

        In the television interview in which he brought up the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat,[6] Georges Marchais insisted that the 22nd Congress would be 'lively', that a 'tremendous discussion' would take place there. He was of course talking about the National Congress itself, because everyone knows that the discussions which take place in the branches, sections and districts are always lively. Now given the structure of the Party (its 'apparatus', which in fact controls the internal life of the organization), the habits acquired by this apparatus, and also by the militants, together with this system of election by elimination, Georges Marchais' wish was destined to remain a forlorn hope. There was no 'free discussion' at the 22nd Congress, where the speakers did no more than 'comment on' the draft document, and the final vote was unanimous.

        It is easy to criticize the present forms of democratic centralism from a legal point of view. You might of course improve them, from this point of view, which could be an elementary democratic measure.

        But personally I should go further. For the question of democratic centralism cannot be reduced to a legal question: it is above all a theoretical and political question.

        We know that in the history of the labour movement the question of the forms of organization and internal representation has been the subject of many initiatives and controversies. It was Lenin who introduced the concept of democratic centralism as the form of organization par excellence of the revolutionary (Bolshevik) party. But already under Lenin the question was posed in terms of three possibilities: factions, tendencies, and democratic centralism, without factions or tendencies.

        Lenin always opposed factions, which he claimed would split the party up into autonomous organizations and finally destroy it. But he did for a time support the idea of tendencies, even though these could degenerate into factions: thus he was against factions but for tendencies, which might provide a better picture of the diversity of the working class, of its origins, and of the strata


    [6] See the Dossier: Georges Marchais, 'Liberty and Socialism'.

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    making it up -- a picture which might moreover help to reinforce the unity between the working class and allied social classes.

        Should we accept this formula to be found in Lenin: factions no, tendencies yes? Should we adopt it today? I should personally incline to answer this delicate question in the negative. I think that, theoretically and practically, the establishment of stable tendencies, even in a party which is not bourgeois, but a proletarian, workers' party, tends to reproduce a typically bourgeois form of representation of opinions, and thus a bourgeois conception of political practice.

        The political practice of a Communist Party is quite different.

        In order to provide some idea of what is involved in this difficult question, I should say that such a party does not limit itself to registering and representing opinions, that its relations with the masses are much more profound, that it possesses a scientific theory which guides its conception of any matter and its practical activity. Opinions in the Party are thus subjected to the demands of a scientific theory, which cannot be reduced to a pure democracy of tendencies.

        I would say, finally, that what defines the Party is not so much simply the class character of its membership or its scientific theory alone, but the fusion of these two things in the class struggle against the bourgeoisie in which it is engaged. Opinions in the Party are thus subjected to the conflicts of the class struggle, which impose demands that cannot be reduced to a pure democracy of tendencies.

        Of course, in a living party there are always contradictions and thus, if you like, different points of view and tendencies expressing them. There can be no question of denying this reality, this aspect of the real life of the Party. But the legal recognition and institutionalization of tendencies does not seem to me to be the best way of resolving these contradictions or of making the best of this situation in a revolutionary workers' party.

        That is why the slogan of the recognition of tendencies does not seem to me to be correct in principle, and in any case it would certainly be wrong in the present conditions, because it does not correspond to the new political practice of the vanguard party of the working class. This slogan actually only reproduces in the Party one of the forms of bourgeois political practice. It is no accident if the right to tendencies is so profoundly linked to the history of Social-Democracy.

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        But we must be careful! If we reject the recognition of tendencies in the Party, it is not so as to fall back into a more primitive form of political practice, to restrict liberty, or totally to destroy it, as Stalin did: it is in order to move forward, towards more liberty, in order to respond to the demands of the political practice of the vanguard of the working class and to the appeal of the 22nd Congress.

        To turn to the question of present developments in the Party, it is clear that, following the Congress, new tasks are emerging: the task for example of creating new forms of unity, of communication, of the exchange of experiences, of discussion and debate. As soon as the Party opens itself up more widely to the outside world and introduces new forms of discussion, communication and unity with non-Communists, this same task will be posed more forcefully inside the Party. More information, a better press, greater freedom of expression, more discussions, more debates -- in short, a more lively, freer and more daring party, released from the clumsy controls which have served their time.

        In this framework, it is a political necessity to open a discussion on the present forms of democratic centralism in the Party, whose object would be to study and define the new practical forms which, while avoiding any risk of the development of factions and organized tendencies, would make possible a genuine discussion in the Party, wider and freer than has hitherto been the case, safe from arbitrary censorship, within the framework of the class struggle and Marxist theory.

        If the Party poses and confronts this problem in Marxist terms, in the spirit of the 22nd Congress, it will make its contribution to the necessary changes, imposed by the present state of the class struggle, which must take place within the Party itself.

        And it will become the Party of the 22nd Congress.