Paris May 1968

Address To All Workers

Address To All Workers

Source: May 1968 Archive, Simon Fraser University;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor.


What we have already done in France is haunting Europe and will soon be threatening all the ruling classes of the world, from the bureaucracies of Moscow and Peking to the billionaires of Washington and Tokyo. In the same way that we made Paris dance, the international proletariat will return to the attack on the capitols of all states, on all the citadels of alienation. The occupation of factories and public buildings in all countries has not only blocked the functioning of the economy; even more it has brought in its train a general questioning of society. A profound movement is making almost all sectors of the population to want to change life. What we now have is a revolutionary movement; all that is lacking in order to truly take possession of this revolution is the consciousness of what it has already done.

Which forces are going to try to save capitalism? The regime must fall unless it attempts to maintain itself by the threat of having recourse to arms (together with a hypothetical recourse to elections, which can only take place after the capitulation of the movement) or even by immediate armed repression. As for an eventual power on the part of the left, it too will attempt to defend the old world by concessions or by force. The so-called Communist Party, the party of Stalinist bureaucrats, which only began to envision the fall of Gaullism from the moment it saw itself incapable of any longer being its principal protection, will in this case be the best of this “popular government.” Such a transitional government will only be a form of “Kerenskyism” if the Stalinists are defeated. This will essentially depend on the consciousness and autonomous organizational capacities of the workers. Those who have already rejected the trivial agreements that filled the union leaderships with joy have yet to discover that they can’t “obtain” much more within the framework of the existing economy, but that they can take everything by transforming all its foundations for their own profit. The bosses cannot pay more, but they can disappear.

The current movement has not “politicized” itself by going beyond pitiful union demands on salaries and retirement pensions, abusively represented as “social questions.” It is already beyond politics: it poses the social question in its starkest form. The revolution in preparation for more than a century is returning to us; it can only assert itself in its own forms. It is already too late for a bureaucratic-revolutionary re-plastering. When an Andre Barjonet [Economist for the Communist-led CGT], freshly de-Stalinized, calls for the formation of a common organization that will bring together “all those authentic forces of the revolution who claim to represent Trotsky” we need simply recall that those who claim to represent Trotsky or Mao today, not to mention the pitiful Federation Anarchiste, have nothing to do with the current revolution. The bureaucrats can now change their opinion of what they call “authentically revolutionary,” but the authentic revolution has no need to change the judgment it passed on bureaucracy.

At the current moment, with the power they hold, and with the parties and unions we know, the workers have no other road than that of directly taking in hand both the economy and all aspects of the reconstruction of social life through unitary base committees, affirming their autonomy vis-ŕ-vis any politico-union leadership, ensuring their self-defense, and forming federations at the regional and national levels. In following this road they shall become the sole real power in the country, the power of workers’ councils. Failing in this, because it “is revolutionary or it is nothing,” the proletariat will again become a passive object. It will return to its place in front of the TV.

What defines the power of the councils? The dissolving of any external power, direct and total democracy, the unification in practice of decisions and execution, the abolition of hierarchy and independent specializations, the conscious management and transformation of all conditions of liberated life, the permanent creative participation of the masses, and internationalist extension and coordination. The demands of the current moment are no less than this. Self-management is nothing less. Be on guard against the recuperators of all modernist nuances -even priests- who are starting to talk about self-management, if not of workers’ councils, without admitting this minimum. They do so because, in fact, they want to save their bureaucratic functions, the privileges of their intellectual specializations, and their future as big shots!

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In reality, what is needed now has been needed since the beginning of the proletarian revolutionary project. It is a matter of the autonomy of the working class. We have fought for the abolition of the wage system, of bourgeois production, the state. It is now a matter of acceding to conscious history, of suppressing all separations and “all that exists independently of individuals.” The proletarian revolution has sketched out its proper forms in the councils, in St Petersburg in 1905 as in Turin in 1920, in Catalonia in 1936 as in Budapest in 1956. The maintaining of the old society, or the formation of new exploiting classes, has in every case passed through the suppression of the councils. The working class now knows its enemies and the methods of action that are its own. “The revolutionary organization has had to learn that it can no longer combat alienation through alienated forms” ( La Societé du Spectacle). The workers’ councils are manifestly the only solution, since all the others forms of revolutionary struggle have ended in the opposite of what they wanted.

Paris, May 31,1968