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ETIENNE BALIBAR

ON THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT

    Postscript to the English Edition
    by Etienne Balibar 

     This English edition of my book differs from the original French edition, published in July 1976, although my essay on The Dictatorship of the Proletariat remains the largest part.[1] We have however decided to add several new elements to the present edition, both in order to make access to the book easier for the English reader, who will probably not have directly followed the debates on the French Left, and also because the book will thus appear more clearly for what it is: a particular moment, necessarily incomplete and provisional, in a wider discussion which is itself only just getting under way.

        I want first to thank Grahame Lock for having agreed to present the text to the English reader in introductory notes, which in themselves constitute a contribution to the discussion. It goes without saying that while writing my own essay I had in mind above all the discussion opened up in France, which is taking place within the Communist Party and around it, in the whole of


    [1] In the French edition my text was followed by two dossiers. The first (extracts from the proceedings of the 22nd Congress of the French Communist Party), is reproduced here. The second is omitted for reasons of space. It contained a number of classic texts of Marx and Lenin, which set out the foundations of their theory of the State and of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as I have tried to reconstitute it and explain it here. I think it would be useful for the reader to refer to them on this occaslon.

        These texts, which can be easily found in English, are the following: Lenin, 'The State' (a lecture delivered at Sverdlov University, Collected Works, XXIX); Marx, 'The Proletariat as a Class' (from The Communist Manifesto, 1848, ch. 1); Marx, 'Bourgeois and Proletarian Socialism' (from The Class Struggles in France, 1850, ch.III); Lenin, 'The Touchstone of Marxism' (from The State and Revolution, 1917, ch. II, Collected Works, XXV), Lenin, 'A Contribution to the History of Dictatorship' (1920; Collected Works, XXXI); Lenin, 'The Economic Basis of the Withering Away of the State' (from The State and Revolution, ch. V); Lenin, 'Communist Labour' (from A Great Beginning ; Collected Works, XXIV).

    the French Left, among workers and progressive intellectuals. However, this discussion, as well as the spectacular 'shift in position' carried out by the 22nd Congress of the French Communist Party, can be seen to be aspects (with their own particular characteristics) of a much wider process, which also concerns other, neighbouring countries, and which does not only concern Communist Parties. And above all, as Grahame Lock explains, and as the reader will I think himself conclude from the texts contained here, the theoretical problems raised in this book bring into question by degrees the whole previous history of the international labour movement, the way in which this history is still a factor contributing to the present orientations and contradictions of this movement, and the way in which it is exercizing its influence on the interpretation and use of Marxist and Leninist principles. That is why, taking account of course of the considerable differences between the political situations of the different countries (France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain . . . but also -- why not? -- the USA, and even the Soviet Union and other socialist countries), and taking account in addition of the different, independent organizational forms which the working class of each country has constructed, I can only agree with Grahame Lock that this discussion does not concern one country and one party alone. Moreover, it cannot be confined to exchanges of views or polemics between the leaderships of Communist and Socialist Parties, in which their official positions of the moment are expressed. It must, if it is to bear fruit, remove all the obstacles to its own development, and lead to that renovation of Marxism of which we are in such dire need; it must involve the 'rank and file' of these parties, their militants, their 'friends' in the masses, whose number will itself be increased by the very openness of the discussion, and finally all socialists.[2]


    [2] Here I should like to introduce a very general hypothesis. This renovation of Marxism will certainly owe a lot to the discussions and theoretical work now taking place among Communists in the countries of 'Latin' Europe, where they have conquered an important political position, and also to the debates inspired in recent years by the anti-imperialist revolutions of the 'Third World'. More than once we have also insisted on the need for a Marxist analysis of the history of the socialist countries, of the nature of the social relations which have developed there following the revolution, and of the tendencies now exhibited there by the class struggle. But it is no less crucial to combine these analyses with the study of the evolution of those capitalist countries -- especially the Anglo-Saxon countries -- where Marxism has not been able historically to become the organic ideology of the labour movement (in [cont. onto p. 214. -- DJR] spite of the age of this movement and of the tradition and force of its struggles). Why this 'failure' of the historical fusion of the labour movement with revolutionary theory? What are its causes in the economic and social structure, in the historical form taken by the State apparatus and in particular by the framework of ideological State apparatuses? If this enormously 'uneven' development of revolutionary practice is an integral part of the vista of Marxism-Leninism of which we are the heirs, and if it has to be admitted that the theoretical solution of this problem is an integral aspect of the enrichments and discoveries which are needed in other countries too, then there is in my opinion no doubt that this solution must come above all from the original analyses of Marxists in England, America, etc., and must include their critical point of view on the forms taken up to now by Marxism and Leninism. I should like in this connexion to mention the very interesting recent work of Michel Aglietta, Régulation et crises du capitalisme: I'expérience des Etats Unis, Paris, Calmann Levy, 1976.

        If the perspectives in which this book is situated, whether by design or by accident, really are so broad, it is easy to understand that we are anxious carefully to underline the circumstances in which it was written and its limits. It only constitutes a part of the dossier of the discussion now under way.

    *       *       *

    The draft document presented for discussion at the 22nd Congress of the French Communist Party -- which contains no reference to the dictatorship of the proletariat, one way or the other -- was adopted unanimously by the Congress, without any modifications.[2]

        I am of course not the only one to have intervened in the pre-Congress discussion in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Other contributors, either for similar reasons, or for other, more or less different reasons, also took this line in the discussion published in L'Humanité and France Nouvelle, not to speak of the verbal interventions made by comrades at various stages of the debate 'among the rank and file'. But I have not reproduced these contributions here, simply because I had and I have no right to 'enrol' these comrades in the service of the position which I am defending, and because it is not my task to make an inventory of the discussions around the Congress.

        The reader will probably have got the impression that these discussions concerned only the dictatorship of the proletariat. This however was not the case, for the good reason that this question was not originally a factor in the debate; but it is true, as I have explained briefly in the introductory remarks to my essay, that as soon as it was introduced it became the centre of attention.


    [3] This document was entitled 'Ce que veulent les communistes pour la France' (see above footnote 2 to Althusser's text).

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    It must be said that in the existing conditions, with the Party being theoretically unprepared, this preoccupation at the same time distracted attention from the concrete analysis of the French political situation and of its present difficulties.[4] That is one -- and not the least -- of the paradoxes of the 22nd Congress, because the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, however general and 'abstract' it may at first sight appear, is in fact closely linked to the practical questions of the class struggle and of the movement of the people. However, it must be admitted that this link is not immediately obvious to many comrades, who either view it as a 'question of principle', in the bad sense of the term, or as a simple question of words, of propaganda and tactics. This situation is certainly not restricted to France, and it must be seen as one of the consequences of the Stalin deviation inside the Communist Parties. Not only did it distort the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, not only did it embody this distortion in a practice which is disfiguring and undermining the revolutionary objectives of the proletariat (in the USSR and in other socialist countries), but it also progressively imprisoned this concept in a theoretical ghetto, cutting its links with theory and practice.

        At the 21st Congress of the French Communist Party (October 1974), following the adoption of the Common Programme of government by the Left Parties (Communist Party, Socialist Party, Left Radicals) and following the 49% vote obtained by their joint candidate, Francois Mitterand, in the Presidential Election, a discussion opened up on the question of the best way to develop this movement of the people. In what sense was it provoked by the present economic crisis of capitalism? What obstacles, external and internal, were still hindering the transformation of this massive (yet multiform and even internally contradictory) social discontent into a vigorous, conscious and


    [4] It is only fair to point out that another debate, just as unexpected, enlivened the preparation for the 22nd Congress: a debate on morality. Some comrades attacked what they considered to be the immorality of decadent bourgois society, others made a positive evaluation of the growing revolts against bourgeois moralism. Here too the impression may arise of a departure or even of a diversion with regard to the major political objectives of the Congress. And yet, at root, these problems were essential, for they touch on the family, education, and the role of 'class morality' in the functioning of the Party. . . . This double deflection towards an apparently 'too abstract' question on the one hand and towards a 'too specific' question on the other, very well illustrates the difficulty of grasping the object of concrete analysis and of granting it the proper recognition.

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    unified political movement? At this moment the question at issue was both how to strengthen mass activity in order to improve the recruitment, influence and organizational capacity of the revolutionary party, and how to reinforce its proletarian character. In other words, many Communists saw that a change in the Party's style of work was necessary if the working class itself was to be able to play its full political role. They also realized that this was the key to any sustained attack on bourgeois rule: the economic crisis alone is not enough, nor is the union of the parties of the Left, even if it is obviously indispensable. However, because of the real difficulty of the problem and because of the heritage of the Cold War period and of Stalinism, it proved extremely difficult (as clearly shown by the sudden 'switches' which took place during and immediately after the 21st Congress) for Communists to get a clear understanding of these apparently unavoidable dilemmas: 'Mass party' or 'vanguard party'? 'Union of the Left' at the top, between parties (with all the day-to-day compromises which it involves) or 'Popular Union' at the base, extending beyond the simple parliamentary and electoral framework? And how should this Popular Union be conceived and realized: as the unity of the (varyingly) exploited workers, of the producers, alone? Or as a unity with fractions of the bourgeoisie itself, with an eye to more or less long-term objectives? These are questions which, in the opinion of many comrades, were calling urgently for a new effort of discussion, with all the cards on the table, without dodging any contradictions. For if, from this period onwards, the Party's political work has indeed been 'walking on two legs' -- one being the political alliance constituted by the Common Programme, the other the effort of the Party to develop the movement of the people by taking the lead in all its struggles -- we nevertheless have to recognize that these two legs are having a lot of trouble keeping in pace: one (the movement of the people) is lagging behind the other (the alliance between parties), when it is not simply sacrificed to this alliance. For the Party has not been able to find the way to develop a proletarian practice of politics, it has not been able to detach itself sufficiently clearly from the bourgeois practice of politics, in which, paradoxically but inevitably, the Stalin deviation had helped to tangle it up. And yet -- as Georges Marchais himself indicated when signing the agreement -- without the movement of the people and the Popular Union, without the fusion of the Communist

    Party with this movement of the people, the Common Programme has no chance of success, and certainly no chance of producing the effects which the workers expect of it!

        By suddenly exhuming the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, even if it was for the paradoxical reason of immediately consigning it to the archives of the labour movement, or even to its museum of errors, the 22nd Congress did in a sense give these problems their real name, for they are in fact problems of the class power of the working people, of the means to the establishment of this class power, and of the historical tendency in which it is situated. But this name remains for the moment much too abstract and too full of ambiguities.

        However, this is perhaps not wholly true, and the proof would lie in the fact that the discussion, far from being closed by the Congress, actually really began from that moment -- one of the signs, among others, that something is changing, profoundly, under the surface, in the political conditions reflected by the evolution of the Party. A contradictory evolution, of course, whose dominant aspect is for the moment not one which might tend to liberate the thought and practice of Communists from every form of dogmatism, sectarianism, or their apparent opposites, utopianism and what Althusser has called a certain form of 'democratic adventurism'.[5]

        As I have already pointed out, and as Althusser explains more clearly in the speech reproduced above,[6] it would nevertheless be quite wrong to imagine that this temporarily dominant aspect is the only one, the one playing the motive role in the transformations now under way, when on the contrary it actually constitutes, in various forms, the expression of the obstacles standing in the way of these transformations. Indeed, to imagine such a thing would precisely be to adopt the point of view of the bourgeoisie on the labour movement and on the evolution of its organizations, the


    [5] In the course of a public debate with Lucien Sève (as reported in the Press), organized in April 1976 at the 'Marxist Book Week' by the Communist Party publishing house.
    [6] We should like to thank Althusser for having allowed us to reproduce in this English edition the text of the speech which he gave in December 1976 at the Sorbonne. It will allow the British reader to gain a better idea of the problems raised by the 22nd Congress and of the way in which the discussion is continuing. Each of us of course bears the responsibility for his own contribution, though we should stress the general orientation which is common to all of us.

    point of view of a class which is throwing everything into the struggle to transform its desires into realities (and may even succeed in doing so in certain circumstances, for a certain period).

    *       *       *

    The reader of the above texts may have gained the impression that there exists a certain distance between on the one hand Grahame Lock's introduction and my own essay, and on the other hand Althusser's piece. A difference in 'tone', due to the different circumstances in which these texts were produced; and perhaps a visible contradiction on certain points. This should surprise only those who mistake a discussion which is just beginning for a completed enquiry, who mistake a collective effort of reflection for the manifesto of a 'school of thought', or even of a group pursuing a plan established in advance. Everyone, I think, will realize that this is not how matters stand.

        Althusser's (publicly delivered) speech helps to clarify, even if in very general terms, the tendency underlying the 22nd Congress, a tendency which allows us to explain the surprises which the Congress held in store, the uncertainties which it sometimes hid beneath correspondingly more strongly affirmed 'certainties', and its paradoxical effects. These effects are expressed in the profound doubts troubling the militants of the Party. Sometimes they result in a paralysis of their activity at the very moment when the development of the economic crisis, together with the perspectives of an electoral victory of the Left, are daily bringing it new members, new forces. That is why Althusser's account, taking into consideration the concerns which the Congress itself effectively posed in all their urgency (like 'democratic centralism'), is centred on the contradictions of the 22nd Congress. The position which the Congress adopted on the dictatorship of the proletariat is one of the terms of the contradiction, one of the poles around which this contradiction is developing. The ('overdetermined', therefore complex) contradiction of the 22nd Congress cannot be reduced to this term alone. But it is true, for the reasons which I briefly indicated a moment ago, that you only have to analyze the conditions in which the dictatorship of the proletariat re-entered the French political scene and to relate these reasons to the theoretical implications of the Marxist and Leninist concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in order to see that the contradictions of the 22nd Congress find their reflection there in an especially pronounced form.

        My own contribution to the discussion is directed essentially to the theoretical concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which I tried as far as possible to restore to its true definition in order to provide that indispensable reference point which the discussion was lacking. I did not sever this concept from the historical conditions under which it was constituted (Marx, Lenin) and of its deformation (Stalin), but I was forced to limit this analysis. Others, I hope, will take it further.[7]

        On this point, as the reader will have noticed, there is no contradiction between our analyses. We all agree that the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat really is a fundamental concept of historical materialism and constitutes an essential part of its analysis of capitalist society. It is an essential part of the analysis of the mode of exploitation on which this society is based (exploitation of wage labour), together with the tendential constitution of the two classes and two alone (to the cost of all others), i.e. proletariat and bourgeoisie, resulting from this mode of exploitation.[8]

        It is an essential part of the Marxist analysis of the State as a class State, whose 'general social functions' are precisely nothing other than the whole of the mechanisms of reproduction of capitalist exploitation. That is why the broadening of the analysis of the State (which must not be confused with the so-called 'broadening of the concept of the State'), whose foundations were laid by Gramsci in particular, following Lenin himself, actually only reinforces the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat: for it means that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie cannot be reduced to the repressive 'armour' of the army, police, and law courts, even when supplemented by propaganda, but extends to the whole set of ideological State apparatuses which, at the price of a permanent


    [7] In the same spirit, I take the liberty of referring the reader to some complementary texts:

        -- L. Althusser, Essays in Self-Criticism, with an Introduction by Grahame Lock (NLB, 1976);

        -- D. Lecourt, The Case of Lysenko, with an Introduction by Louis Althusser (NLB, 1977)
    [8] Which does not of course mean either that this process of constitution follows a linear course, nor that the classes always have an identical social position, nor again that the complexity of capitalist social formations can be reduced to the juxtaposition of the two classes whose antagonism determines their evolution. Cf. also 'Plus-value et classes sociales', in my Cinq Etudes du matérialisme historique (Maspero, Paris, 1974).

    class struggle, ensures the material domination of the dominant ideology.[9] The concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat is an essential part of the argument that there can be no socialism and no destruction of the very foundations of exploitation in all its forms without the overthrow, in one way or another, of the State power of the bourgeoisie and the installation of the State power of the working people. This is something quite different from 'giving their fair place' to the workers within the existing State. And it is something quite different from 'strengthening the State of the whole people' on the backs of the workers.

        Finally, this concept is an essential part of the argument that there can be no definitive liquidation of capitalism without the effective, constantly fortified and developed combination of (i) the mass democracy of the working people (something incompatible with the whole State apparatus of capitalism) with (ii) revolutionary transformations in the mode of production (therefore in property, but also beyond it, in the antagonistic forms of the social division of labour, in the industrial structure of production, in the forced consumption which it entails, whose recognition is itself forcibly imposed in the form of more or less unsatisfied 'needs', in the manner of the development of the productive forces themselves). In short, there can be no liquidation of capitalism without a progression towards communism, which is the organic unity of these two aspects, whatever the length and difficulty of this process of progression, which no-one today imagines to be the affair of a single day.

        On this basis we are all in agreement that to talk about 'transcending' the dictatorship of the proletariat -- as do certain comrades, pretending to understand by this term 'dictatorship' a simple localized and dated 'tactic' of the revolutionary movement -- is in effect to suggest that this whole body of basic concepts and theoretical arguments, i.e. Marxism itself, must be 'transcended'


    [9] It is often suggested that Gramsci, in talking about hegemony and not simply about dictatorship, thereby attenuates the Leninist conception of the power of the bourgeoisie by adding 'consent' to 'coercion' or violence. But Gramsci on the basis of the dramatic experience of fascism, actually strengthens this conception. He says: class power is much more absolute than you think, because it is not only direct 'coercion', it is not only the surface 'armour', it is also 'consent', i.e. the materially dominant ideology and the organization of the 'general functions' of sociey by the ruling class. The proletariat must therefore substitute its dictatorship and hegemong for those of the bourgeoisie on this terrain too. The whole question is to know how and here the means and forms of bourgeois hegemony will not help . . .

    . . . Of course, Marx's Capital is not Moses' Law, whose rejection would be blasphemy! But before proceeding to such a 'transcendence', i.e. in the event to a replacement of the Marxist theory of the class struggle, the labour movement would do well to make sure that it possesses another theoretical basis compatible with its political autonomy and its revolutionary perspectives . . . Another class basis, of course.

        That is, why, beyond all questions of words (which may have their importance, but which are not decisive in theoretical matters), we have rejected the idea of the 'transcendence' of the dictatorship of the proletariat put forward by certain French and other Communists, considering this idea worse than equivocal. Not only did this formulation in practice appear as a compromise formula designed to 'persuade' comrades who might otherwise have jibbed at this change in the terminology and theory of the revolutionary party by dressing it up in a 'dialectical' justification (and such justifications can unfortunately serve any purpose); even more important, far from setting in motion the indispensable process of developing and rectifying existing theoretical conceptions inside the International Communist Movement, far from setting in motion the indispensable process of the renewal of Marxism demanded by the new conditions of the struggle for socialism today, such a formulation can only hinder it. In particular, instead of contributing to clarifying the contradictions of the 22nd Congress and the practice underlying them, and therefore to resolving them, it can only help to mask and aggravate them.

    *       *       *

    This having been established, it remains true that the question at hand does not concern only the theoretical concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat -- far from it -- but also, as several participants in the discussion underlined, the relation between this concept and what is customarily called the 'strategy' of revolutionary struggles in a given historical period. A problem like that of 'class alliances', for instance, seems to be directly involved by this question. And on this point, the formulations proposed by Althusser's text would appear to contradict what I myself have argued and what Grahame Lock for his part is arguing. I do not want to evade this point.

        Let us be very scrupulous. Which are the formulations of Althusser which might cause difficulty when compared with certain analyses in this book? Essentially two. Althusser writes: '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 the broad union of the people. There are no serious problems on this point.' And further on, distinguishing between the relatively 'contingent' elements and the 'necessary' elements in the dictatorship of the proletariat, he classifies the problems of peaceful transition and of class alliances among the contingent elements, and writes: 'As far as these two questions are concerned [. . .] the 22nd Congress did [. . .] 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).'

        We must try to understand what this distinction implies. Certain communists, arguing for the 'transcendence' of the dictatorship of the proletariat, make use of an analogous distinction in the following way: on the one side they argue for a 'necessary' general definition of 'socialism (socialization of the means of production and political power of the working people), while on the other side they classify the dictatorship of the proletariat itself among the 'contingent' aspects linked to particular historical conditions which have now been superseded.[10] One might say: the way of posing the problem is at root the same in both cases, and the differences are only verbal, concerning the question of what is new and what is not . . . Is this not a little scholastic? I do not think so, and I believe that this becomes clear as soon as you have understood the immediate link between the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Marxist conception of the State and of the struggle for communism.

        What has to be demonstrated is that the problem of the proletarian revolution is not first of all a problem of 'strategy'. The


    [10] Cf. for example Lucien Sève's study 'Le XXIIe Congrès, développement léniniste de la stratégie de révolution pacifique', in Cahiers du communisme, June 1976: an English translation was published by Marxism Today in May 1977.

     

    revolution does indeed need a strategy for the seizure and exercise of power, a strategy adapted to the historical conditions of the moment, therefore founded on a concrete analysis of these conditions and of their transformation. That is undeniable. But such an analysis can precisely only be made if it takes into account the historical tendencies of the development of capitalist relations of production, of the State dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and the specific forms of the historical counter-tendency, the tendency to the dictatorship of the proletariat, in each new period. Every true revolutionary 'strategy' therefore implies a theory of these tendencies, and the development of this theory. This for example is what Lenin provides when he develops the theory of imperialism, thus rectifying certain points in Marx's theory, certain aspects of Marx's own idea of the development of the 'tendencies' of capitalist society. On this basis, the characteristics of imperialism (those which Lenin was able to recognize at the beginning of the imperialist epoch) are incorporated into the analysis of capitalism, becoming the basis of a concrete analysis of the forms of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, therefore of the conditions and of the forms of the proletarian revolution.[11] The construction of a strategy cannot be 'logically deduced' from a general historical tendency, as if this tendency had to follow an immutable and linear course, a predictable line of progression. Nor can it represent an empirical adaptation to (apparent) 'differences' between one country and another, between one epoch and another: on the contrary, all such differences and changes must be analyzed as (new, unforeseen but necessary) forms of the historical tendency if their real importance is to be understood. Worst of all is the temptation which often arises to justify after the event a strategic change by constructing the theory from which it might have been deduced (for example, in many of its aspects the 'theory of State Monopoly Capitalism' is quite simply the transposition into abstract economic terms of the conditions which one would have to imagine fulfilled in order to 'justify' a strategy of peaceful


    [11] We could go even further and suggest that they might become the basis of an analysis of the deviations of the revolution and of the dictatorship of the proletariat. If, as I have suggested, socialism and capitalism do not constitute two closed and isolated 'worlds', but two aspects of a single system of contradictions, then the internal obstacles to socialism, the deviant and regressive tendencies within it, are not to be explained simply by reference to 'capitalist relations' in general but necessarily to their present imperialist form.

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    transition to socialism, in order to 'justify' a strategic alliance between the working class, the petty bourgeoisie, the non-monopoly bourgeoisie, etc . . .).

        It is quite easy to understand that the Stalinian degeneration of Marxism, which reduced the analysis of capitalism to a mechanistic prophecy of its 'final crisis', reducing the political conception of socialism to a form of technocratism armed with instruments of repression and propaganda, provoked revolutionaries and Communists to look for 'strategic alternatives', to try and find in Gramsci or beyond him political alternatives to the Stalinian form of 'Leninism', to replace the ideology of the 'frontal attack' on the bourgeoisie by that of the 'war of positions'. However, as long as you remain content to juxtapose one strategy to another, one 'model of socialism' to another, opposing them term for term, epoch for epoch, without bothering to construct the necessary theory and to make the necessary concrete analysis, every strategy must remain profoundly stamped with utopianism. Paradoxically at first sight, the reference to the concepts of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of communism, therefore to difficult objectives and to a very long-term tendency, has a profoundly anti-utopian significance, provided of course that this reference is made within the framework of an effective concrete analysis and theoretical development. If this reference is lacking, the revolutionary strategy becomes once again a form of the construction of models. Models of the seizure of power : first of all alliances, then victorious elections, then reforms in the economic and social structures, etc. . . . , with in passing the 'neutralization' of the class enemy and of foreign imperialism, etc. . . . Economic models : more or less extensive nationalizations, more or less rigorous planning, more or less autonomous management of enterprises, industrial priorities, improvement of the conditions of life of the working people, etc. Models of the State : the 'formal', purely legal type of democracy, limited by economic pressure groups, is contrasted with the 'real' democracy of the working people, each type of democracy having its own institutions; centralization is replaced with decentralization; the separation between the elites in power and the passive mass of the population is replaced by the active participation of the masses, etc. . . . This is where utopianism and reformism meet : both think in terms of models of the State whose merits and possibilities of implementation have to be weighed up

    . . . Marxism, on the other hand, by placing the dictatorship of the proletariat and communism at the centre of its theoretical apparatus, destroys every idea of a model, therefore every form of strategic empiricism. On the one hand it forbids us to confuse the announcement of a political or economic programme with the prediction of events to come (as if these events had to follow a plan), for every programme is transformed and finally destroyed by the national and international class struggle in which it is situated. On the other hand it shows that the only strategy which can, at least in part, succeed is a strategy which right from the beginning takes account of the final objective: not the construction of a new model of the State, however different from the existing State, but the abolition of classes and of every State. That is also why only such a strategy allows us to understand and genuinely to rectify the previous deviations of revolutionary practice (and let us add: also future deviations) instead of simply holding them 'at a distance' and relativizing them in space and time as 'out-of-date strategies'.

    *       *       *

    Let us now return to the question of class alliances. As a real problem, requiring a concrete analysis, it is entirely open, and there can be no question of solving it in two words. In fact, this problem is posed in specific terms in each epoch and in each social formation in the history of capitalism. That is why there can also be no question of identifying the dictatorship of the proletariat in general with such-and-such a form of class alliance, for example with that form of alliance which made possible the Revolution of October 1917 and the installation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, and whose progressive break-up explains, at least in part, the subsequent aggravation of the class struggle and its Stalinian deviation. What we must say is, on the contrary, that in the writings of Marx and Lenin themselves the problem of the dictatorship of the proletariat is never separated from the problem of class alliances, for the concrete conditions of the realization of the one are also the conditions of the realization of the other. Thus, to borrow Althusser's provisional terminology, what seems at first to be linked in a purely 'contingent' manner to the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat is shown in practice to be indissociably linked to it, in constantly new forms, which are but the 'realization' of this concept itself. Now this realization of the concept itself is in no way 'contingent': it is on the contrary just as necessary as the historical tendency of the class struggle.

        Let us make this point in another way. It is perfectly absurd to oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat to the idea of class alliances, to reject the dictatorship of the proletariat on the grounds of the limits and failures of the class alliance of the Russian revolution. But it is indispensable to work out the new forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat which go together with the new forms of class alliance that have become possible and necessary in a capitalist country like France today (and in Britain too, I suppose). In this respect, Leninist practice can do no more than indicate the existence of an open problem. For not only is the concrete configuration of classes no longer the same, but you could even ask whether the term 'class alliance' has exactly the same sense now.

        From a Marxist point of view, as we have already pointed out, the capitalist mode of production reproduces tendentially only two classes, bourgeoisie and proletariat. In the Russian social formation of the beginning of the century, the capitalist mode of production was already absolutely dominant, which means that the question of revolution was already posed as bourgeois dictatorship or proletarian dictatorship, bourgeois democracy or proletarian democracy. However, capitalist development was very far from having suppressed every trace of other modes of production, even though it was transforming them profoundly from the inside. This is what made the 'alliance of the working class and peasantry' the fundamental problem. The peasantry, internally affected by capitalist antagonisms, tendentially divided between distinct fractions, some of which were in course of proletarianization, the others developing into an agrarian capitalist class, nevertheless formed a class with its own specific historical interests, its own ideology and its own political forces, whose autonomous position became the principal stake of the class struggle at certain moments. The same is not true of a social formation like France today, in which the capitalist mode of production is not only dominant, but the only true mode of production. It would be absolutely wrong, however, to represent the social structure of such a country as a simpler, more 'homogeneous' structure. In spite of Marx's formula, which refers in the Communist Manifesto to the 'simplification of class antagonisms' resulting from capitalism, we have to

    admit that the history of social formations like capitalist France today is not producing a less complex class structure; it is simply a question of another type of complexity. The question of 'class alliances', as it is now once again posed, is precisely the political index of this new type of complexity.

        I will give just two proofs ofthis argument, which would have to be backed up by a lengthy analysis.

        In present-day capitalist France, agricultural production is now entirely under the domination of the capitalist mode of proauction, even with respect to what are called 'family farms', being entirely integrated into the whole process of capitalist production and circulation of commodities, 'squeezed' between the market in industrial products which the trusts are now imposing at monopoly prices, and the market in agricultural products controlled by the State within the framework of international competition. Even leaving aside the absolute drop in the active population in the countryside, this form of capitalist agricultural production cannot any more provide the basis of an independent social class. However, contrary to the imagination of the 'Marxist' evolutionism of the Second International (Kautsky), which has remained profoundly influential for a very long time, such a development in no way leads to the absorption of the peasantry within a single proletarian class, to its pure and simple fusion with the working class. What hinders this process is first of all the functional, decisive role which, in the case of France, the peasantry has played[12] in the reproduction of the State dictatorship of the French bourgeoisie. The existence and the policies of the bourgeois State, in France, are perpetuating the division between the working class and peasantry, in opposition to all tendencies to the proletarianization of agricultural labour. But that is not all: even if one could forget about this factor, it would nevertheless not be possible to place the process of proletarianization of agricultural labour on the same basis as that of the working class. This is because of the material (even 'natural') constraints of the agricultural labour process, which affect both the process of its operations (the cultivation of crops, the breeding of animals) and the reproduction of labour power (its 'qualification', its maintenance). The


    [12] And is still playing -- witness the way in which, in May 1968, the Pompidou government made use of it in order to split the front of its enemies.

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    complete 'industrialization' of agriculture, in this respect, is a myth. And the merging of agricultural and industrial labour power on a single labour market, in present conditions, is an impossibility. Thus, from the point of view of the socialist revolution, even if the problem of the 'alliance of the working class and peasantry' does not have the same importance nor the same content as in Lenin's time, it nevertheless remains a decisive problem whose exploration is vital.

        The problem is posed in an even more decisive manner with regard to what is normally called the 'petty bourgeoisie', as when an 'old' petty bourgeoisie (artisans, small shopkeepers, small business men, liberal professions) is sometimes distinguished from a 'new' petty bourgeoisie (managers, technicians of the State apparatus and of private enterprise). Without attempting to justify my argument in detail, I will point out here what seems to me to be the more correct starting point: that the 'petty bourgeoisie' does not exist as a class. What is normally referred to under this umbrella term is precisely the complexity of social stratifications created by the development of capitalism. The fact is that the tendency to proletarianization develops in an uneven manner: with historical 'delays' which, sometimes for very long periods, prevent entire masses of wage-earners from being subjected to the same conditions of life, of work and of 'negotiation' of their labour power which the most exploited workers and employees experience. Delays which are followed by brutal leaps forward in the process of proletarianization, when for example entire sectors of office or laboratory workers, etc., are hit by mechanization and the extension of the division of labour. What is therefore being referred to by this inadequate concept is the internal contradictions of the process of proletarianization, which is not a process of the slow growth of a uniform mass of interchangeable workers, but a process which ceaselessly recreates groups which are unequal, and whose immediate interests are more or less deeply divided. I will go even further: what is normally called by the name 'petty bourgeoisie' is in fact the internal division of the proletariat and the internal division of the bourgeoisie, whose effects extend to the whole of these two classes, leading to the fact that they never constitute two absolutely distinct sociological groups, without any overlap or interactions, and that they seem to give birth to an intermediate 'third class'. I say 'seem', not in order to deny that different social groups occupy, from the economic and political points of view, an unstable position in the no man's land of class antagonism, more or less comfortably suspended 'between' proletarianization and capitalist bourgeoisification. I say it in order to deny that here we are talking about an independent class: in fact, its exact limits are indeterminate, and its specific interests non-existent for they only represent a combination, changing with the conjuncture, of the contradictory interests already present in each class.

        But the object of revolutionary politics is precisely the present moment of a given historical conjuncture. Thus, the denial of the existence of an independent petty-bourgeois class in no way implies the denial of the existence of a specific problem of 'class alliances', on the grounds that, in the very end, all these secondary stratifications and contradictions must disappear. For this very end will never arrive, and has no historical reality. What is however true is that to pose the problem in these theoretical terms necessarily has political consequences.

        Schematically, to admit the existence of an intermediate class (of a more or less extensive kind: sometimes the whole of the 'non-monopolist bourgeoisie' is included here) is to open the way to a conception of class alliances in terms of compromises, or even in terms of an 'historic' contract, i.e. finally, in legal terms. The problem, in this perspective, becomes a problem of knowing what concessions the proletariat and the 'petty bourgeoisie' will each have to make to the other, what particular interests they will have to sacrifice in order to reach an agreement, and how this agreement will be 'guaranteed'. Thus the problem would be to determine whether this agreement is to be made between 'equal' partners (equal in rights and duties) or between 'unequal' partners (and therefore whether such an agreement is viable).[13]


    [13] In the version which is dominant in France, that of the theory of State Monopoly Capitalism, the problem is resolved in the following way: tendentially, the partners are already allied on the economic level, and on an equal basis, for all are equally exploited by big monopoly capital. Their interests, in the face of the monopolists, are spontaneously converging. It remains therefore to 'translate' this convergence onto the political level: it becomes precisely a question of a contract between political parties, democratically sealed and guaranteed by its democratic character. But something thereby becomes quite unintelligible, something which Communists, in the light of their experience, ought not to be prepared to ignore: 'the leading role of the working class', which, as they very well know, is the decisive force in revolutionary struggles. We might even say that it is this contradiction [cont. onto p. 230. -- DJR] which opens the way to the accusation of duplicity, to the accusation constantly made against the Communists that they want to maintain an underhand domination of the working class over its allies, or even the domination of their own party, behind the mask of a freely agreed compromise.

        To reject the myth of the petty bourgeoisie as a third, independent class is therefore to reject the legal form which this argument about class alliances implicitly or explicitly takes. It is to propose another formulation, which may appear surprising if you extract it from its concrete historical context: that the class alliances which the proletariat needs are class alliances with fractions of the bourgeoisie itself, fractions which would turn against their class. It is therefore to imply that these alliances are in no way spontaneous, that they in no way result from a simple 'convergence' of interests, for they can only arise from the destruction of the system of class alliances of the bourgeoisie, which extends to within the proletariat itself, providing the bourgeoisie with its mass base through economic and political constraint, through the exploitation of divergent corporate interests, and through ideological domination. It is therefore to imply that the fundamental condition of this process, and in part also its result, is the class unity of the proletariat itself, which can never be spontaneously created.

        As soon as you raise the problem of class alliances in the conditions of an imperialist social formation like France, then the internal divisions of the two antagonistic classes, together with the role played by the State in the reproduction of these divisions, become the main aspect of the problem. Lenin and other theoreticians of imperialism already showed something important: that imperialism reproduces the divisions within the proletariat and aggravates them. The proof today would be the existence of enormousry important phenomena like the 'national' division between 'French' and 'immigrant' workers (there were nearly four million of these latter, counting their families, in 1974), which in large part redraws the division between skilled and unskilled workers, which becomes tendentially the main basis of the 'industrial reserve army' of capital, and which, without a dogged struggle, may succeed in implanting racism within the working class itself. Another example would be the way in which the 'family' division between men and women operates, a division which is not simply a form of inequality in employment and wages, but an internal division running through the whole working class, rooted in the bourgeois form of the family, in the role of the domestic labour of women, a form of super-exploited labour which the 'mass consumption' introduced by imperialism has not suppressed but perpetuated. For this mass consumption is a forced consumption of commodities of which the woman is the slave in the home, and the man the slave at work, because of the 'needs' which it creates. Another proof would be the division in the trade unions, which is an enormously important phenomenon of French social history, never really overcome, any more than its political divisions have been overcome (Gaullism constantly exploited these divisions). None of these phenomena, which demand a concrete analysis, can be reduced to simple ideological effects. To the extent that they concern the conditions of the reproduction of labour power and the forms of organization (whether trade-union or political) of the proletariat, they bring directly into question the function of the State in an imperialist social formation.[14]

        Too many Marxists, it seems to me, remain imprisoned in a bourgeois sociological framework with regard to the question of the imperialist State. What holds their attention is exclusively, or almost exclusively, the relation between the ruling class and 'its' State. They ask: what are the internal divisions (national, international) within the bourgeoisie? Which fractions of the bourgeoisie 'dominate' or 'control' the State? How does the State guarantee the relative unity of the ruling class or, inversely, how does it run into a 'crisis' when these internal divisions grow deeper? In posing the problem in these terms, they think that they are being faithful to the Marxist argument according to which every State is a class State. In fact, they are distorting and misunderstanding this argument. If the terms of the problem are limited to the State on the one side and the ruling class and its different fractions on the other, the essential term disappears: the internal relation of the State to the proletariat (therefore to exploitation, and to the reproduction of the conditions of exploitation) no longer plays any role. But this is precisely the fundamental aspect, the aspect from which one must begin if one is to understand the role of the State and the particular forms of its historical trans-


    [14] On this point some very useful indications can be found in Suzanne de Brunhoff's book Etat et Capital, Paris, Maspero, 1976.

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    formation. The function which the State fulfils in ensuring (or failing to ensure) the unity of the ruling class cannot be understood unless you analyze it on the basis of the relation of this State to the exploited class. In other words, the State of the ruling class cannot be understood from the point of view of the ruling class, it can only be understood from the point of view of the exploited class. From this point of view, the basic function of the State is to hinder the class unity of the proletariat, a function which is also the basis of its contradictions, both within its purely repressive apparatuses and in its ideological apparatuses. That is why you cannot seize on the contradictions of the ruling class and break up its historical system of class alliances, undermining its mass base, without attacking the existing State, in whatever form the existing relation of forces makes possible. You cannot create the class unity of the proletariat or the unity of all working people around it within the existing bourgeois State; you can only create this unity in a battle against the existing State, against its historical forms, in a protracted trade-union, political and ideological class struggle.

        As soon as you stop thinking about the class unity of the proletariat as an already existing or given fact, and class alliances as contracts or compromises, the true, materialist relation between the two problems comes to light. You no longer risk substituting one problem (alliances) for the other (class unity), as every reformist type of politics tends to do. History shows that, under these conditions, neither the one problem nor the other can be resolved, not to speak of those circumstances in which the illusion of an alliance around a divided working class quite simply takes its revenge on this working class by leading to the restoration of an open and even more powerful bourgeois dictatorship.[15] It is only


    [15] It is of course not enough to will the class unity of the proletariat in order to bring it about. That is why the historical analysis of the internal obstacles which this class unity runs up against (an analysis which must include the critical examination by the revolutionary party of the errors which it was not able to overcome in the past) is indispensable. It was not possible to bring about the class unity of the French proletariat either after the Popular Front (1936), or after the Resistance and Liberation (1945-47), or in 1958, or after May-June 1968 (the greatest workers' general strike in French and even European history!). Thus the masses of the people, instead of continuously playing the decisive role on the political scene and overturning the political landscape in a revolutionary manner, have remained an intermittent supporting force, in spite of their revolutionary power. Thus the class alliances around the proletariat have not been forged, in spite of the 'convergence of struggles' (as in 1968), or have finally broken (as in 1938 and in the 1950s, after the [cont. onto p. 233. -- DJR] anti-fascist unity). Thus the alliances between the political parties of the Left have repeatedly shattered. Thus the French bourgeoisie, though shaken by internal crises which have sometimes appeared to be mortal (from Vichy to the colonial wars, and to the 'construction of Europe'), has always succeeded in reconstituting its unity and once again broadening its mass base. This whole history is still, it seems to me, awaiting a satisfactory explanation.

    on the basis outlined above that you can really pose the question of the concrete unity of these two problems, which is at the same time the main theoretical question and the main political question.

        These few remarks will, I hope, suffice to show that this question is wide open, and that it cannot be solved simply by being formulated. In any case we have never claimed to be able to offer solutions, even less ready-made recipes; we have only tried to clarify the terms of the discussion.