Association for the liberation of the workingmen
The constitution of the Association for the Liberation of the Workingmen is the actual response that we give today to the process that will lead up the workers to their organization into a class and, through this, into a political party. Our analysis of the economic processes and our understanding of the historical movements, affirm the centrality of the industrial proletariat as an ascertained fact. We do not aim at a better, just or more emancipated society. Our immediate aim is the formation of the workingmen into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the workingmen.
This program is summarized in the liberation of the workers from the wage labour.
We do not mean to release the suffering mankind: in communist society accumulated labor is but a means to widen, to enrich and to promote the existence of the laborer.
The logical consequence of such situation is the overcoming of classes in general.
"If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class".
THE STARTING POINT
The conditions of this class, its independent movement at the international level and its actual and positive condition are the starting point of our activity.
This starting point is not an ideology. Ideologies do not have their own history. They are the reflection of the material conditions of production and of the inherent conflicts among classes.
So, Marx and Engels reflected, theoretically and politically, the first universal distinction and breakdown between capital and wage labour. Leninism reflected the successful attempt of Russian workers, who were part of the world industrial proletariat, to raise to the ruling class through a revolution.
The parties as well, as expression of certain classes, are the products of the classes' maturity stage, of their mutual relations and of their composition. The workers party follows the changing fortunes of the constitution of the proletarians into a class. It constitutes into a certain form, but it breaks up as soon as it tries to seize power; then it constutes itself into the new conditions, takes one step forward and try a revolution. But it is defeated again and it seems wiped out from the society, until it rises up again, invincible.
In this century we cannot find any consistent continuity of the so-called socialist and communist tradition, which one can refer to.
Only during particular historical periods, the theoretical and practical point of view of the workers has emerged. That was when they constituted themselves into a class and even into a ruling class, for significative periods and among great difficulties.
Only during some particular historical periods, the breaking off of the capital and wage labour took its form through analyses, opinions and programs of social revolution. We do refer to these particular periods. The prevailing ideas always belong to the ruling class and the subversive ideas assert themselves only in subversion.
Even socialism and communism had been the formal cover for organizations and states which submitted and exploited workers with capitalistic methods. In these terms, we do think that a bourgeois and reactionary communism was formed, a communism belonging to the petty bourgeoisie and to the workers aristocracy, of the real bourgeoisie.
Nowadays, it is necessary to reckon with these historical forms, in order to refound, among factory workers, a theoretical thought and a practical action, which will aim at their emancipation.
At this point, we need to describe the social status of the factory workers and to draw the conclusions from a historical point of view.
The definition of the Communist Manifesto is very precise:
As we could see, by the word proletarian "proletatier", the Communist Manifesto described a particular social type,
without any possible ambiguity or misunderstanding.
PROLETARIANS, MODERN WORKING CLASS
Naturally, owing to the process of impoverishment that drove, cyclically, fractions of the middle class towards the proletarians life conditions, many were joining the ranks of the proletariat, even if they could not claim to be factory workers. And, in fact, they were not factory workers.
The concept of proletariat was widely re-examined, up to the famous "we are all proletarians". In this class the usual generic figures were included: labourers, students, temporary employees and so on.
The proletarian, or modern factory worker is a social type that should not be considered on the basis of his income (or by the level of his poverty). He gets poor because he is a factory worker.
Middle classes, the petty bourgeoisie, can go through hard times. Their life can get similar to the proletariat's. Yet, they will not become proletarians, nor, playing upon words, they will become factory workers, unless they are employed in the mode of production of the capital, in the same position described by Marx in the Manifesto.
The mode of prodution of the capital does not create the petty bourgeois-worker, antithetic to the bourgeois, however much they may collide with each other.
The industrial proletariat is antithetic to the industrial bourgeoisie. Only the emancipation of the proletariat could stop this mode of production based on wage labor.
There are two ways to realize that modern factory workers play a revolutionary role in the society of capital.
The first way results from the practical and historical experience of being a worker and consequently, to have gone through the real signs of the relations of production of the capital within the large industry, together with other workers. In this way the workers realized the first elements of the social relationships as a whole and discovered the eminent role plaid by the proletariat in these relations.
The second way consists in the fact that middle-class ideologists throw themselves behind the proletariat, when the ruling class breaks up. This is not the ideological choice of a theory, but, rather, of a class. This shift will be possible to those who made an effort to achieve the theoretic understanding of the historical movement as a whole.
The only yardstick of the deep comprehension of the historical course is to side with the workers in the struggle to free oneself, and there are no others.
Both possibilities are the expression of the real conditions of an existing struggle among classes, and of the maturity level of this struggle.
Today, factory workers do not express the awareness of their social status through a political organization. As a result, also the related independent historical activity is missing. That is the consequence of the phase of the evolution of the business cycle.
A crisis, like the present, obviously resulted in the scattering of the workers, in the increase of the competition among them, in the individualization of the relation of sale of the manpower, in the consequent lowering of wages and in the worsening of their conditions of existence.
Besides, the scattering of the workers corresponds also to the scattering of their collective awareness, and their submission to the other classes is complete. We have to consider that, during the crisis at the end of the eighties, we borrowed our awareness of the social conflicts from the petty bourgeoisie and from the workers aristocracy. Such awareness was full of illusions about the welfare society, about reforms, about reconciliation among social classes joined together in order to make the system work. This attitude is disappearing, and we do think, that is good.
The temporary improvement of the worker conditions, achieved through struggles and sacrifices, was the cement that mixed together the real factory workers with the upper classes.
The crisis put an end to this "romance" and now factory workers are alone against a battle-trained capital, which could do anything to preserve a proper capital accumulation.
Nowadays the individual workers, factory by factory, face up to their employers. They withstand a never-ending arm wrestling where sometimes they are even defeated and embittered. But this is the only real basis for the rising of the workers' need to join their own forces. How childish is the opinion on the congenital incapacity of the workers to express their own independent movement.
Compared to this daily struggle of a part of our society in order to preserve its own life, the political and parliamentary clashes are child's play.
The constitution of the factory workers into a class is not an ideological fact or a mental conviction. It is based on the reality of an economic and historical process.
The economic crisis upsets every class and their mutual relations. It refounds the material basis on which they constitute themselves. Middle class is going through a period of worldwide reorganization.
From Russia to Japan, the industrial capital requires the State to adjust to the new accumulation needs. The middle and the lower capital claims its independent and autonomous capacity of political representation. The struggle for the control over the markets is getting more and more fierce.
The formation of industrial and financial giants, caused by a ruthless competition, is the unavoidable step for the redefinition of the power relations in the world market.
The redefinition of the international proletariat is related to this economic process. After all, it is the basis of the capital and of its accumulation processes.
New work forces were created, whereas other forces are on the decline. The big emigrations from the country towards industrial towns only shifted on a world level, the process which caused, in the most industrialized states, the decay of the country and the forming of the modern working class.
Couldnt we think that the same machinery which absorbs manpower in Korea or in Mexico or in Lambrate (Milan) will produce the same social type? Couldnt we think that, the goods, compared in the world market, will also cause a comparison of the labour, levelling it, and, consequently, will make homogeneous the men who did such labour?
In this sense, during the crisis, the capital, going through a cut-throat competition sped up the process of homogenization of the factory workers on a worldwide scale.
Of course, the small manufacturer industries, loose from the world market, as well as all the activities based on local peculiarities will produce a point of view which is totally false. The representatives of such industries assert that the factory workers are disappearing only because the factory in front of their shop or office closes down.
Only because there arent any new factory in their own provincial town, they are of the opinion that factory workers belong to the past, no longer to the future.
The obstinacy of middle classes about the workers' disappearance was but the mental reflection of an economic necessity: middle classes wanted to link their own economic interests to the strongest capital, considering that during the development of the crisis the industrial proletariat was unable to guarantee a solution to the gradual process of impoverishment neither to themselves nor to anyone else.
The proletariat goes through various stages of development -Das Proletariat macht verschiedene Entwicklungsstufen durch-. It changes to the same extent that the capital revolutionizes its instruments of production and trade.
A particular kind of proletariat, shaped by a particular kind of machinery, which, in turn,
corresponds to a certain technological level, is evolving while such material factors of production are changing.
The economic recession speeds up the transformation of the modes of production and also the social forms that classes take on.
The transformation is more evident for the proletariat who is a mere appendage of a machinery where this machinery works only to produce profit to its owner.
Generations of workers decay and leave their own scopes to other generations and, in this way, also the past ideological and political convictions go through a crisis. The proletariat is a struggling class. It can trust no current traditional opinion. It can borrow no pre-established judgement, because the ruling ideas belong to the ruling class.
The constitution of factory workers into a class goes through various stages, as well. Such event is always evolving.
COMPETITION AGAINST ORGANIZATION
The organization of the factory workers into a class is continually being upset by the competition between the workers themselves, which is the result of their difficult relations due to the capital, as well as by the influence exerted on them by other classes.
But, it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier - Aber sie ersteht immer wieder, starker, fester, machtiger-.
The workers can not be satisfied to be absorbed in general alliances of the leftist bourgeoisie. They can not delegate their representation to their understanding enemies.
In the new social status the factory workers start again, once more, going through the various stages of their organization.
New union opportunities are examined in the new prisons of the industrial labour, showing interest in the world market, subsumed by the modern technology of espropriation.
Only in this condition workers understand again their history and, as a consequence, they can reappropriate the theoretic tools, which really belong to them, which really let them get aware of the economic movement and of the task given to their class by this movement.
Those who understood the historical course on its whole can't but organizing themselves into a class, therefore into a political party, even less having the aim of their own liberation.
Now we know that also persons with such a point of view are the result of their social setting. Let's consider the fact that the subject is real: a class. It is evident that the organization of the industrial workers party is not based on ideologies, but rather on their aim to organize themselves into a class and, consequently, into a party -und damit zur politischen Partei.
The first requirement for the above purpose is the recognition of the proletariat's own, independent historical activity, of its own and peculiar political movement.
We could identify the dissolving elements in the bosom of the capital society itself, such as the antagonism among classes. Yet we could still deny to the factory workers the possibility to form an independent movement. Marx criticized to the representatives of Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism that lack. Today the same criticism can be applied to those who declare to be on the "workers" side.
The mere, formal acknowledgement of the workers' "historical function" is not enough.
It was evident that, at that time nobody could admit this industrial workers' historical self-activity - geschichtliche Selbsttärigkeit-, just when they dispersed and disappeared from the politics due to the crisis. Even the less, nobody could admit their own peculiar political movement - Keine ihm eigentümliche politische Bewegung-.
Furthermore, in the previous postwar period the formal acknoledgement of an "historical role" of the industrial workers served as a pretext to have the workers to play a leading role for the national reconstruction, at the service of the capital.
The only movement, which is recognized as the industrial workers own movement, is the trade-union contractual one.
The real political activity was almost always monopoly of the upper strata of proletariat, of the industrial workers' aristocracy, of the impoverished lower middle-class. Besides introducing their education, they became the political representatives of the industrial worker party. Yet, they were absolutely unable to create a really opposing movement to the system. So, this movement became an essential support of this system.
Why did factory workers need the above-mentioned persons ? why did they let this mediation as long as their own movement was created, as long as they organized themselves into class ? How was possible that a part of them was employed directly by the capital, in order to prevent the huge crowd from emancipating itself ?
The capital overprofit of the nations that ruled the world market let the economic corruption of the workers strata that could be corrupted, whereas the great part of them was spoilt.
The small antagonism between workers and capital made matters worse: the mediation role of the intermediate workers was supported. These workers represented "production" without the social mark that should distinguish it.
Once the bad employer, who was also a rich speculator, was isolated, all the remaining workers, "to the brains and the brawn", were to be united into a single social coalition.
Just nowadays, during the economic crisis we can hardly identify the real machinery of the capital and its clever managers. Industrial directors, managers with a regular pay are the new workers-capitalists. They control the factory workers' exploitation, and as a consequence, they pocket the profit through the seeming cover of a "month wage".
At this point we can really understand the fact that the persons of the lower strata among technicians and office-workers might have the same point of view as the factory workers's one. Yet, they will do that as soon as the capital itself will have them fall into life condition of the proletariat.
That way they will defend their own future interests and not the actual ones. The actual interests are complementary to the employer's ones.
The question is: will industrial workers take on the middles classes ' point of view or will the middle class take on the industrial workers' one?
The proletariat or (which is the same) the factory workers' point of view is not philosophical. It is not a matter of ideas to accept, but rather a precise position in the struggle among classes, more precisely in the two big enemy fields: the middle class persons' and the proletarians' ones.
THE ENEMY CAMPS
The constitution of factory workers into a class, as well as the forming of two enemy camps, change continously.
The workers camp may be dispersed, its representatives may pass on the enemy side with a part of the army itself. We can even declare that the two enemy camps do not exist, at all. We can state, they are a recollection of the past. Yet, if we have a careful look at the modern factory, we will discover daily conflicts.
The workers fight a daily struggle against their employers, in order to survive. Different sides of the world market echo the noise of the workers' revolts. They may not use the historical awareness of their actions, yet, undoubtedly, they use their own numerical power. So this time, slowly and inevitably, workers are re-forming their enemy field at a new level of the world market.
The re-establishment of this field requires and produces a theoretic and political corresponding activity. So, there is nothing to be surprised at the fact that the nowadays theoretic and political workers' undertaking is very modest.
At the beginning of the formation of the modern society, the bourgeoisie itself (who was fighting against the feudalism) drag the workers to the political movement. The sectors of the ruling class, who had been ruined by the progress of the modern industry, gave the theoretic and political instruments to the workers for their own struggles. Furthermore, from the dissolution of the ruling bourgeoisie, some ideologists came out. They labouriously succeeded in understanding the movement from the historical point of view, and consequently passed on the workers' side - und namentlich ein Teil der Bourgeosideologen, welche zum theorethischen Verständnis der ganzen geschichtlichen Bewegung sich hinaufgearbeitet haben -.
Today the bourgeoisie learned from history, that they can not risk leading the factory workers to organize themselves into a political movement: it is dangerous. Even the less we are living in a phase where elements of the ruling class will pass on the workers' side. The struggle among classes is far from having a decisive feature.
The bourgeoisie learned how to deal with workers, so as not to give them too many weapons against itself. However, factory workers learned that, when whole sectors of the ruling classes fall into the proletariat, they introduce not only their education, but also their bourgeois point of view and their intention to be the leaders of the movement.
In this situation, we can easily understand why it is up to the factory workers to create the first forms of class organizations, so that they can re-appropriate their theoretical understanding of the historical movement. In this way they will be able to withstand the influence of other classes as well as to understand their real condition and the way to withdraw such influence.
Competition, which is wider and greater during a crisis, destroys the links among workers, and breaks the simplest solidarity, as well. The pressure of the upper classes generalizes and everything seems to destroy the workers' movement, and to avoid its re-organization on a new basis.
THE SECRET/UNDERGROUND WAR
Once more, in the above-mentioned situation, employers and workers clash. They are at a civil, primitive and more or less latent war. The formers are obliged (by their system itself) to overwhelm excessively their slaves. They throw workers out of their factories, when they are of use nolonger.
They make workers work in the night, during the feast days. The employers have the workers live at the existence limit. The latter ones, the workers, are obliged to defend themselves with any means, in order to survive. Actually , they know from experience that the trade-unions signed ill binding agreements, these years.
In the nowadays trade-union negotiation, workers and employers do not oppose anylonger, but they rather delegate their deceptive substitutes: the company needs to be on the market and the "workers" must conform consentingly.
In the political struggle, this problem seems still more unrelated to the conflict between factory workers and employers. It is a fight for the supremacy of a part of the middle class over the other, aimed at operating the capitalism and its State, and, ultimately, at a more efficient exploitation of the factory workers, rebuilding on it new privileges for whole sectors of the upper classes.
During its violent world-wide reorganization, industry had to get rid of firm political and trade-union relations which were full of reformistic utopias. Industry had also to show to its workers the roughness of the profit, of the dismissals and of the company discipline - penalties and brutal blackmail.
Why, then, shouldnt the workers reply with the same brutality when they realize they are slaves and why shouldnt they associate themselves for their own liberation?
The capital reorganize itself on the basis of a mere economic calculation, and on the basis of the machine time, and of the line rhythm.
For what reason, then, shouldnt the workers reply with their immediate aim, their liberation from this submission?
Why should they bypass the problem, sinking this aim into that stuff about a well-regulated capitalism, perhaps controlled by the left parties in power?
Workers should reply, clearly and with determination, to the impudent clearness of the industrial managers when they talk about their middle class interests: our only and immediate aim is the emancipation of our class from the slavery of the wage labour, is the organization into a class, is the constitution into an indipendent political party, that belongs to us.
Large industry is forced, against its will, to replace "the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association" - setz an die Stelle der Isolierung der Arbeiter durch die Konkurrenz ihre revolutionare Vereinigung durch die Assoziation.
When large industry arrived at Melfi, it imposed on the workers a lower wage and a higher productivity; it worsened the competition between these workers and the others already employed in the car industry. But, on the other hand, it put them in touch, nailing them to the same torments of an estranging, fragmented work. A youth of workers who would have never joined through the normal contacts of the city life.
This process is taking place all over the world market. The crisis is replacing, by means of the machinery, the old workers with the new ones. It is well understood, then, that the workers will show themselves again on the world political scene with a new international association which will embody their revolutionary union. This is only a question of time.
This process is only at its beginning. To be discovered, it needs a careful observation of the times of the crisis. It is necessary to be in the factories and to pick up the general meaning of the transformations of the production cycle as well as of the determination of part of the workers, scattered and isolated, to resist and to fight an uneven struggle against their masters, putting their job on the line.
The "friends" of the workers disappeared. The so-called leftist representatives, at the top of their initiative, ask for wages adjustments at the inflation level, or for reductions of the working hours balanced by the increased productivity.
Others, who cannot see in the workers any presentable political activity, took shelter under the works of Marx. They shut their eyes and ears, not to see nor to hear the deafening noise of the factories and of the workers which is described in Marx pages: They were nothing but the reflection of the forming of a mode of production which assigned to the workers, and only to the workers, the task of overthrowing it thoroughly.
In this way they had been able to transform their knowledge of Marx works into a good business, writing and selling booklets for the "subversive" salons.
In this situation, it is so much important that the factory workers, and the intellectual activists who have the honour to be on the workers side, work for the organization of the factory workers into a class. It is important that they associate themselves in the simple program of the liberation of the factory workers and that they pursue this aim with the few means they find within the society.
The pressure of the upper classes on this attempt is heavy, and the leftist groups make short work of it. It is not really rewarding in public, and it cannot be supported by the factory workers all together because they are only at the beginning of a new cycle of emancipation.
But, the attempt of some elements of a subject class to free themselves is indestructible and cannot be wiped out. A slave cannot be forced to give up his liberation even if his means are primitive, imperfect and not sufficiently refined.
It is difficult nowadays to find, among workers themselves, persons who join the association. You can image that to find a contribution among the ideologists who come from the upper class, is almost impossible. Even those workers who know where they come from and know where history forces them to go, are to be searched high and low. But they exist. They join together and resist. They take up a position, on the workers side, about the general relations among the classes. They work to set up a political movement which belongs to the workers.
They lead the present fight for wages, against the dismissals, with an eye on their future interests. They openly support the need of a real, indipendent party.
And not only this: they face the theoretical fight with exponents of the upper classes, even with unsufficient means. Thats why their experience largely showed that, without a revolutionary theory, no revolutionary movement can exist. So, these small minorities play an indispensable, hystorical role. They pave the way for the new generations. They are the effective precursors of a renewal of the workers movement which will astonish the bourgeoisie in the entire world.
The Association for the liberation of the factory workers is what, as workers, we have been able to propose and support, theoretically and politically. Like it or not, it belongs to this phase of the evolution of the workers movement towards their organisation into a class. For this reason we will work to make it stronger and tougher and more international.
(German quotations come from "Das Kommunistische Manifest", Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels - Leipzig 1872. Our translation.)
Report of the meeting of the groups of workers members of the Association for the liberation of the factory workers, Modena, 29/10/1995.
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