Twenty Years Later

Democracy, Revolution and Parties


Report Outline

Pierre Rousset, 16 June 2005



*Objectives of this third report:

- Conclusion of yesterday's report: one major responsibility of my generation of activists is to collectively assess a critical evaluation of the past forty years.

- To present elements of such an evaluation around the general issue of democracy and revolutionaries.

- ATTENTION: This is NOT a matter of affirming a new orthodoxy. Just of opening up a field of reflection.

- The red thread: a re-lecture of the 1985 FI resolution on "Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Socialist Democracy => continuity and changes; confrontation with realities.





A. In the 1985 resolution


- A very strong programmatic dimension. Our choice of Marxism.

- One of our main specific qualities (with internationalism).

- A legacy of our history:

            * Roots in the Russian revolution and the Third International.

            * Marxism before Stalinism and revolutionary (against Social Democrats).

            * The experience from within the process of Stalinization.

- Some first attempt to update our tradition (a less "defensive" approach of democracy).

- A very valuable contribution to present reevaluations: the existence of "Marxisms".


B. Its centrality enhanced in times of capitalist globalization


- The end of classical bourgeois democracy and the new dynamics of the democratic issue.

- The "transitory" character of the fight for a deepened and extended democracy.

- See Joao Machado. But two questions. Too kind with Social Democracy (colonial wars and crimes). A black hole: violence of the dominant classes.

- Progress and limits in programmatic and strategic reevaluations (how to disarm them?).




à Re-reading 20 years later.

àBehind the lines: one participant's memory of unaddressed issues (just memory, no historical work).


A. Obvious

- The perspectives: Political revolution in the Soviet bloc?

- The terms "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" (in the title!): conservatism.


B. Abstraction

- A "programmatic" approach ("State and Revolution’s quotes…).

- "This does not mean that these norms can be fully implemented irrespective of concrete circumstances". It would have been good to integrate really existing concrete circumstances.

à One (unique) model of reference (councils, soviets).

à The non-existing Russian revolution model for the capitalist developed countries.

à Why are the peasants' councils not mentioned (the state in a transitional society).

à Here too: the centrality of "concrete analysis of concrete situations" (Lenin, of course) = political traditions + pattern of the revolution + relationships of forces, etc.


C. Hidden

- Political pluralism and democracy: one of the strongest points in the resolution.

- But: several workers' parties or, also, several revolutionary parties? Here: "the" or "a" revolutionary party; never "revolutionary parties".

- A later radical change in our inherited vision: the "three (programmatic) poles" and the "centrists". El Salvador + the complexity of revolutionary experience. Pluralism of the revolutionary Left: a "second best" choice… or a fact of life?




A. Adequacies and inadequacies of the traditional model of workers' democracy

- "Structural unity". Strike committees. Participatory budget.

- Absence of "structural unity". The Social Forum process and the "open assemblies".


B. The growing importance of territorial convergences

- Already in the 1985 resolution!

- Centralization of struggles yesterday (labor movement, protracted warfare) and today (without "the" backbone).

- Welgang Bayan and the Western TU traditions.

- Learning from today's experience: Joao, Social Forums…


C. Party and movements

= Our "Leninism" of the 1970s. The vanguard party: A party intervening in ALL ASPECTS of society. Revolutionary crisis and ability to take action. Activist phalange. Continuity.

- 1985 resolution: a very careful definition of "the" vanguard party.

- The opposite definition: One class, one party, one State. When the party replaces the State, the Church and the Extended Family. The party as ruling faction of society.

- Nowadays: more "horizontal", more "equal" relationships between radical parties and movements. The specific function of political parties. Where is the program coming from? (Gender, ecological , peasant issues, changes in labor structures…).

- Who takes power? (Marcos). The specificity of Marxist revolutionary parties.



à Universal human and class rights.

à Degeneration from within: Social Democracy, Stalinism, "Khmers rouges".

à Revolution as a process of self-emancipation (individual and collective).

à  Back to the centrality of democracy.