Audio's Daniel Bensaïd (43)
In this lecture, Bensaïd provides a general survey of the conditions for building a revolutionary proletarian party. He begins with a discussion of Marx's and Engels's points on the party question. He later focuses on Leninist concept of party, and concludes with clarifications of some ambiguities of Leninism valid for today.
Bensaïd focuses on polemical aspects of Leninist theory of organisation, and starts with a discussion of two Leninist positions. Firstly, the Leninist theory of organisation represents a very historic moment in the history of working class, where the political party tends to dissolve itself in the social organisation of the proletariat. The ideas of Lenin entail a distinction between party and class. Dictatorship of the proletariat, trade unions, working class and party do not mean the the same in Lenin's thought. Bensaïd here touches upon the difference between Leninism and Bolshevism, and elaborates on the fight between Leninism and the Second International. The ambiguity in the 1st Congress of the Comintern: On the one hand, the Party as an organisation of all workers organisations including the soviets (subordinated politically and organisationally to the party), at the same time, as the party is a vanguard party, it is just one part of the soviet. Therefore, the party is only part of and subordinate to the soviets. Secondly, the Leninist concept of party as a vanguard party, selected party, doesn't eliminate at all the question of a mass party.
In discussing this position, Bensaïd sets out two levels of action: the problem of political independence of the working class for building workers party remains a task. He gives the example of Guatemala and the militarist organisation versus the Leninist organisation of a party. He sees the solution in auto-organisation in the party at different levels. He concludes by underlining that the degree of centralisation can change, the members can change, the system -as it shows the political conditions- can change; whereas, the difference between party and class should be maintained.
History of the 4th international (1933-1938) - the aimis to understand what battles we come from and what is the programmatic heritage that we have. Bensaïd provides contextual information regarding the foundation of the FI, and introduces the discussion along the axis of five questions/subheadings: 1- Why a new international is necessary? 2- What basis, what is the programme to build this new international? 3-How to establish a new international? 4- What are the problems of its building and how Trotsky himself discussed them along problems of centrism-fusions, and problem of entryism in mass parties. 5- Results and conclusions. In this first part of the recording, Bensaïd focuses on the first question and talks about the degeneration of the Second International and Third International, and the "historic tests" that evidenced the impossibility of their re-generation. He contextualises the foundational years of the FI and continues with a discussion of the programmatic basis. He describes for what the programme stands, and in terms of strategy, he goes thorough the Eleven Points, underlining the necessity to adapt them to present conditions and learn from them to evaluate present conditions.
Bensaïd focuses on the third question in his outline: How to establish a new international? He discusses the first five years of building the FI. For Trotsky, founding of a new international was less a declaration than forming a unity of different forces and trends. Bensaïd depicts the situation of the forces in the 1933 and the situation of the Left Opposition internationally in the 1933. In the second part of the recording, he discusses the fusions. He describes the "modern centrism" concept of Trotsky - between social democracy, Stalinism, and revolutionary Marxism. He then takes up the question of the united front, the inclusion of mass organisations and agreement on a general political line. He discusses examples of 68 France, and Spain in the end of 1970s.
In this final part of his lecture, Bensaïd discusses entryism with concrete examples from the SWP, and CP's in different countries such as America, Brazil and France. He draws conclusions and comments on the results as well as their validity today.
Bensaïd provides a chronological account of the period from WWII to the split in 52-53, the reunification process in 63, the 9th world congress, and considerations on the 11th world congress. FI started as a prognosis on the WWII and its results. Trotsky thought that this war would have the same effects as the WWI and trigger a series of revolutions. A strong internationalist revolutionary vanguard was necessary. After WWII, the perspective of Trotsky was to be maintained closely. Bensaïd gives example from the 46 Document, where a general problem of building sections in Western Europe was raised to prepare for a new wave of revolutionary movements around Europe. Bensaïd outlines general characteristics of the period from 48-49 to the 53 split: Firstly, the international reacted correctly to the one of the major outcomes of the war, which was how to interpret and understand the new revolutions that happen. It was a problem to understand these movements. Secondly, and this lead to the split, the global perspective was not changed because there was no understanding of what were the social and economical conditions after the war. With the colonial revolution and its weakening impact on imperialism, it was believed that the third world war, which would be an international civil war, would break out, and in this situation there was no time to build mass organisations or parties.
In this part of recording, Bensaïd focuses on the reunification process in 63, with concrete points from the reunification congress. He continues to discuss the context of the reunification: In Europe, the strategical framework was linked to what he calls a "strategical hypothesis", with a prospect of revolutionary crisis in the 70s. New conditions of the proletariat in Europe and new organisation building strategies came up. He provides a critical perspective of the FI's lack of analysis and failure of recognition regarding Latin America in the 1970s. He concludes with an account of 10th and 11th World Congresses, the latter being a "balance-sheet" that put forward coherent perspectives and key tasks for transforming the FI's position on Europe and Latin America.
The first part focuses on the founding of the JCR, and the process of fusion from 68 to 69 between the JCR and the PCI. The context of youth organisation and youth radicalisation around Maoist currenst and the Vietnam War are discussed as well as the organisational structures and movements.
The mainly clandestine activities in the early 1970s changed with the 1974 presidential elections. Some democratic demands for the army were raised, including a soldiers union. Collaboration with workers committees, to make room for soldiers committees. In 1975, the Chirac campaign denounces a 'plot' against the army and all soldiers committees were dispersed. In this context, Bensaïd mentions the organisational problems and "two big" mistakes. First one being the election campaign of 1978, where the party prepared a programme with a strategical planning for future in the case of a victory of the left. Bensaïd underlines that the plan did not correspond with what the militants did at the time - "a big difference between what you plan and what people do". Second mistake was, according to him, the position regarding the question of leadership.
Bensaïd discusses "entryism" departing from Trotsky's position in 1934 concerning the CPs until today, posing the question of "what is the place of revolutionaries and what can they do to add revolutionary content in the united front." He concludes the lecture with an overview of the party activities, policies and organisational decisions from 68 to 69-71, which was marked by a hypothesis of acceleration of class struggle, revolutionary perspective on the situation, and rapid breakthrough in the organisation. He underlines that in a new situation, everything needs to be redefined along the axis of tactical choices and strategical decisions.