"Mai '68"

Maoist Internationalist Movement mim3 at blythe.org
Tue Sep 3 16:26:28 MDT 1996

Date: Sun, 1 Sep 1996 18:17:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: louisgodena at ids.net (Louis R Godena)
Subject: "Mai '68"

MIM replies:
Good, Mr. Godena; this post puts you at odds with
Louis Proyect who says that Paris, '68 disproves
our "Mark Rudd" thesis.

[Louis Godena says:]
Hugh,  predictably,  blames the "Stalinist" PCF and by extension the
Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT) for the disasterous trajectory of
the 1968 May-June events--the student riots,  the general strike of 10
million workers,  and the enormous electoral landslide to the Right which,
eight weeks later,  put paid to the entire business.    As an
unreconstructed "Stalinist" myself,  I escape relatively unscathed,  accused
only of a certain "speciousness" in hinting that perhaps the industrial
proletariat possessed neither the means nor the will to topple Charles De
Gaulle.    Hugh is nothing if not judicious.   And his ire is judciously
directed toward the leadership of the French Communist Party.

This is understandable.   Hugh is an able expositor of the Trotskyist
persuasion.     And the first rule of Trotskyism is to "blame Stalin first."
Everywhere.   Always.

MIM replies: The above is correct. It is a form of the grossest
idealism to blame Stalin for everything, even decades
after his death. "The long arm" of Stalin must be very
long and very strong, even from the grave, but that's the
thing about idealism--potent spiritual forces of the netherworld.

We at MIM call it the Iron Law of Degeneration. Those who do
not take an accurate assessment of the class structure in imperialist
countries will float above the real world into denunciations
of Stalin as the culprit for betrayal and degeneration. There
are three roads: 1) Go with the social-democrats, Trotskyists
and anarchists beckoning that Stalin is at fault for
degeneration and imperialist country failures in the communist
movement. 2) Ignore reality completely and be content
with the achievements of the post-Gorbachev
ex-"communists" and back-to-Marx-and-Lenin crowd. 3) Trace the problem to
the class structure and the representatives of the
labor aristocracy as MIM has.

[Godena continues]
But what of May,  1968?    Were the workers "ready" for revolution,
frustrated only by the perfidy and betrayal on the part of the union
leadership and the top bureaucracy of the Left parties?    What of the
students themselves,  many if not most of them already leaving Paris and the
universities for summer vacations?    Would they have supported the workers?
In what capacity?

MIM replies: The above inaccurately poses the question on students, but
the rest is what we need to address.

[Godena continues]
It seems clear now that the French industrial workers did indeed "turn their
backs on the revolution"  (E.H. Carr,  incidentally,  used this exact phrase
in describing the 1968 events for a Times Literary Supplement article in
1979).    True,  the country was briefly brought to a halt,  but the
strikers were,  in the end,  happy enough to accept the extremely handsome
wage deal ultimately wrung from the *patronat* by the trade unions--they had
no alternative program.

MIM replies: That's exactly what MIM just said a couple
weeks back. What's come over you Godena?

[Godena continues]
Nor did they have weapons.    True,  a small intransigent minority

MIM replies: The inaccuracy regarding who had weapons is
not important if what you say about the workers is true. Obviously
it wouldn't have mattered if the PCF had weapons. However,
for those seeking to know the class intentions of the PCF,
if the PCF did have weapons and didn't use them, that indicates
something to those still exploring the question.
[Godena says]
(including some leaders of the Parti Socialiste Unife (PSU)--they were to
pay dearly at the polls for this indiscretion--demanded a revolutionary coup
in Paris and the creation of a new commune.    But,  as the PCF saw--quite
rightly (they have an incomparable instinct for self-preservation)--this
would have ended in disaster.    With tanks ringing Paris,  the forces of
law and order still entirely intact,  and four divisions actually on the
move,  it was the height of romantic folly to expect a primarily
tribunal/electoral Party to lead itself into the valley of death.    At
worst the 1871 massacre of the Communards would have been reenacted with
modern weaponry.    Budapest 1956 would be a more probable model.    The
PCF's base,  its militants,  its industrial strength--not the students who,
by that time,  were already clearing out-- would be irretrievably smashed.
The Party,  the unity of the Left,  and the labor movement as a whole would
be broken,  perhaps for a generation,  by such an adventure.    Actually,
as it turned out,  the PCF could only feel relief that this was avoided;
huge wage increases and the extension of union rights were achieved,  and
the Left got away with only an electoral thrashing for their efforts.

MIM replies: Oh well Godena, we see you put labor aristocracy
unity above revolution. Who do you suppose it was that trained
those workers to settle for a good wage settlement over decades?
What do you think you are doing now when you oppose MIM?
You are doing the same thing the PCF did and is still doing.
You are wedding the imperialist country workers to their
imperialists. Like a marriage counselor, you check in now
and then to see that the partners are happy.
[Godena says]
Nor,  finally,  did the prospect of Communist revolution have broad popular
support in May of 1968.    As Regis Debray pointed out,  succintly and
without squeamishness,  some years later:

"People did not want a right wing government;  they were ferociously against
it.    They did not want a left-wing government either;  they were not at
all in its favor...Left and Right,  same fight.    Well,  how about no
government at all...Unhappily a society,  any society,  abhors a vacuum,
like nature: it has to have a government,   any government.    Then we'll
have one.   The old one,  that is;  no hassle,  it's there already."

Not precisely the feverishly revolutionary milieu that some would have us
believe existed in 1968.    There was, undeniably,  an unprecedented mood of
revolt against all notions of hierarchy,  authority and *dirigisme*,  one
which shook the parties of the Left almost as much as the establishment.

But there was no popular majority--especially among the workers--to push
this challenge toward a Marxist denouement.

Louis Godena

MIM replies: And therefore, the "exception" proves the rule,
as in the Detroit Mouthpieces' strike, even when the
imperialist country workers get a chance to show their independence,
they simply reaffirm their wedding vows. They had huge
warmed over social-democratic parties a la Proyect (PCF)
and they had small workerist-"Maoist" organizations, but
no firm, undeniable and ineradicable force of Third World masses
at their doorstep to reckon with.

To really bring imperialism to an end, such a middle-class
rebellion as Paris, 1968 will be excellent, but the
real proletariat of the Third World and its oppressed
nation allies will have to be directing the show for us
to have a Marxist conclusion. The oppressor nation
workers just don't have the "ummph" to get it done.
If we lower our standards and take up a labor aristocracy
line instead of a proletarian line with its reference
point in the Third World, we will get another huge
wage concession a.k.a. huge feat/feast of parasitism.

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