Back Forward Table of Contents This Author Return to Homepage

Eclipse & Re-Emergence
Of The Communist Movement (1)


These texts were written between 1969 and 1973; most of them were published in France in 1972-73. They express the positions of a group of people determined to try to organise some sort of systematic action.

In spite of its shortcomings, the Situationist International has shown -- among other things -- what Marx had explained more than 100 years ago : It is not only important to understand the historical movement and act accordingly, but also to be something different from the attitudes and values of the society the revolutionary wants to destroy. The militant attitude is indeed counter-revolutionary, in so far as it splits the individual into two, separating his needs, his real individual and social needs, the reasons why he cannot stand the present world, from his action, his attempt to change this world. The militant refuses to admit that he is in fact revolutionary because he needs to change his own life as well as society in general. He represses the impulse which made him turn against society. He submits to revolutionary action as if it were external to him : it is fairly easy to see the moral character of this attitude. This was already wrong and conservative in the past; today it becomes increasingly reactionary.

Whatever the situation may have been 50 or 100 years ago, the present revolutionary movement does not aim to bring about the conditions of communism; these have been fully created by capital. Our objective is the immediate communisation of society. Capital has managed to invade and dominate our lives to such an extent that -- at least in the developed countries -- we are now revolutionary because we can no longer stand our relationship to our work, our friend, our environment, namely to everything from our next door neighbour to our favourite cat or radio programme. We want to change the world because it becomes increasingly difficult to realise and assert oneself in it. Man's most important need : the others, seems so close and so far at the same time. Communism, i.e., the human community, is at hand : only the inertia of society prevents it from emerging. But its basis is there. Capitalist social relations are strong, but fragile. Capital must completely divert social impulses from revolution to politics, from revolutionary activity which strives to realise people's needs to political activity which rejects needs. For instance people want to control their own lives, which are now regulated by the logic of commodity production and value. Political groups come and explain that the alternative is real democracy, or workers' government, or even anarchy : in other words, they wish to alter the decision-making apparatus, not the social relations which determine it. They always reduce social aspirations to the problem of power : everything will change once this is solved. Power must be given to a proletarian party, or to the masses, or it must be shared by everyone. The militant as an individual, and political groups as organisations, suffer from a sort of displacement of personality. They express every real problem in terms of power. But today revolutionaries reject the militant style and attitude. [1]

Yet this is only part of the question. Revolution is the communising of society, but this process is more than just the sum of direct actions. Our task is no longer political, because it is no longer necessary to organise the development of productive forces or to maintain and support this development with coercive action by the proletariat over the petite bourgeoisie ( as expressed by Marx in 1875 in his critique of the Gotha programme ). But our action is still political in a negative way. True, capital will be destroyed by general subversion through which people appropriate their relationship to the world. But nothing decisive will be achieved so long as the State ( i.e., all states ) keeps some of its power. Our society does not only consist of a network of social relations : this network is centralised in a force which concentrates the power to preserve this society. As a central force, the State has to be destroyed by central action in addition to the action which destroys its power everywhere. Both are necessary. Of course it would be utterly absurd to begin to organise a central organisation now. But coordination and systematic preparation for the tasks of revolution are already needed. Any other position would be superficial and naive. The military question is relevant and must be dealt with.

Capital would be only too happy to see us change our lives locally while it continues to carry on its activity on a general scale. This is not pure theory. Capital has made our lives so miserable that many people will try to modify their personal lives in a future revolution. It is foolish to assume that capitalism is weak. On the contrary, it can tolerate anything ( destruction of the family, of hierarchy, even of mercantile relations on a limited scale ) as long as these changes do not prevent it from realising its cycle, from accumulating value. The coming revolution will paralyse it by developing direct communist relations and by systematic action against the army.

Subversion now implies permanent struggle against all forms of militantism and politics, and against all forms of non-politics. The communist movement is not a-political, but anti-political. It fights against the State and against all groups standing as mediations between the proletariat and communism, and which believe and make people believe in political solutions.

Such groups are of course different from one country to another. In France and Italy, the traditional Communist Parties are very powerful, and the unions they control are not similar to American, British or northern European unions. Therefore the text on "The Class Struggle and Its Most Characteristic Aspects" may seem irrelevant to the American, German or English contexts. But the essential process is the same. When we speak of the end of reformism we refer to a general trend, and do not mean that reformist struggles are becoming rare. On the contrary, many people, inside and outside the working class, are fighting for reforms. But these struggles are manifestations of a profound movement toward communism. It is true that, statistically speaking, a minority is involved. It can easily be shown that the Lordstown strike in the U.S. ( 1972 ) was exceptional; but it was symptomatic of a social tendency.

The relative backwardness of France and Italy in relation to the U.S. or Britain has created a number of mediations which do not play the same role in other countries. Politics is still very traditional and formal in France and Italy : the left and the extreme-left are hardened bodies which still pretend to oppose the State. They still have some ability to organise people. In other countries, many extremist groups have disappeared ( the American and German SDS, for example ). But these are only minor differences.

The difficulty lies in the need to go beyond traditional "Marxism" while not rejecting relevant concepts. It is not enough to understand that Marcuse, Mandel, Sweezy and Magdoff have hardly anything in common with communism, and to "go back to Marx." One must also see what has actually changed, and which parts of genuine communist theory need to be adapted in the light of the present situation.

One of our main tasks is to be able to envisage communism. For example, underdeveloped countries -- to use a capitalist vocabulary -- will not have to organise a stage of industrialisation similar to the stage which advanced countries experienced in the past. In many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, capital has not yet completely subjugated labor to its domination. Old forms of social life still exist ( for how long ? ). Communism will give them a new birth -- with the help of "western" technology, but applied in a totally different way from the way it was used in the West. The fact that underdeveloped countries cannot create communism out of their own rebellion should not lead us to dismiss their importance. We must show the capitalist nature of China and North Vietnam, which develop wage-labour; but we must also and just as clearly assess the role Asia could play in a future revolution. The Ceylon uprising of 1971 was indeed a modern movement. [2] Utopia is back. We can already hear news from everywhere.


[1] Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Black & Red, 1970.

[2] Ceylon : The JVP Uprising of April, 1971, Solidarity, London, 1972.

Back Forward Table of Contents This Author Return to Homepage