We publish here an excerpt from the letters by Marc Chirik, a partisan of the French Communist Left, while living in Venezuela, sent to us from the International Communist Current. The excerpt is meant to help clarify the distinction between the fractions, which were a direct product of previous parties, and the groups which lack such an immediate continuity. It is our pleasure to present this short extract.
Gulf Coast Communist Fraction
Extract of Letters from Afar
The Fraction was an organic, direct continuation for a relatively short time. Often it continued to live in the old organization until the break-up. Its break-up often amounted to its transformation into a new Party (e. g. the Bolsheviks and Spartakists) like almost all left-wing fractions in the old one. This organic continuation is now almost non-existent. Let’s take the example of the GCF (Gauche Communiste de France). The organic continuity with the old movement (the Communist International) is very distant and very indirect. There are several intermediate chains, the main ones being the Gauche Communiste Internationale and the International Opposition (Trotskyist). Physically the continuity is even more distant. It is an exception today in any group to find militants who were members of the old Party, that is, during Ilyich’s time. Because the Fraction did not have to respond to fundamentally new problems as posed by our period of permanent crisis and evolution towards state capitalism and was not dislocated into a dust of small tendencies, it was more rooted in those acquired revolutionary principles, so that when it was called to formulate new principles, it had more to maintain than to build. For this reason and that of its direct organic continuity in a relatively short period of time, it was the new Party in the making. It did not rebuild the Party but transformed itself into a Party in the new rising period. The whole position of Bordigism on the impossibility of forming the new Party by merging various groups and tendencies, at the risk of altering the principles and compromising its subsequent evolution, was valid and understandable from the perspective of the notion of the Fraction as we have just analysed it. But this no longer corresponds to anything today and becomes even more ridiculous than harmful, when today’s Bordigists refuse to discuss and maintain contacts with other groups and tendencies. Because our period of decline is particular, the fraction – the type of normal organism in a period of normal decline – gives way to a new type that is more elementary, more fragmentary, more organically distant from the old movement – more like a group. And this is not a pun, a simple substitution of terminology. Just as the fraction has particular tasks, different from those of the Party, so the group’s own tasks are different from those of fractions. It is not only a type of political organization of the class, more elementary, more primitive, but it is distinguished by its function. Let us define it in broad terms.
1) What it has in common with the other types (party, fraction) is that it is a political organization of the class and not a circle of people intellectually curious about sociology and theory, a Philippine “elite” of men of good morals and good will who do not compete in the market of ideas (oof ! Philippe dixit). It is a militant organization, proclaiming as the purpose of its existence to work with and in their class for the transformation of society. It still has in common with the other types that it is constituted on the basis of a doctrine, an ideology, and as a political current in continuation of the previous revolutionary movement. It does not fall from the sky, is not a new beginning of the world (Chaulieu’s ridiculous claims) but a product of previous experience and achievements. It is a link in a chain where there is a past and a future.
2) What distinguishes it is that if it is a part, a fraction (and not the Fraction) of yesterday’s united movement, it is not however the framework of the new Party but only an element of its future reconstruction.
3) Its organizational structure – is infinitely looser than that of other types.
4) If its tasks are partly those of the Fraction, namely, re-examination of the experience, training of militants, he has in addition that of analysing new developments and the new perspective, and in less that of rebuilding the programme of the future Party. It is only a contribution to this reconstruction as it is only one element of the future Party. Its programmatic contribution is partially in its organizational nature.
In a sense, in its internal activity, it is more called to build than to maintain, and in this it is more than the Fraction. But in the relationship between the part and the whole, in relation to the future programme, it is only participating alongside other groups. And in this sense it is less than the Fraction.
This also results in a difference in the necessary relationships between one group and another. It does not aim at their destruction (post-war Bordigist position) but at establishing as many contacts and as much collaboration as possible for the widest possible discussions aimed at clarification. It is the relationship of one element to other elements that together constitute the revolutionary vanguard.
5) Contacts with isolated militants and solidarity between militants. This task also existed in the Fraction type but was an additional, secondary thing. But in the group (in other words in the present period) this task of physical and political safeguarding of the militants is of prime importance.
Through this brief enumeration we can already see the difference between the Group and the Fraction. What is identical is exactly what makes the distinction of our period. It is an adjustment of the political and ideological life of the class to the period. But however elementary it may be, the group remains a political organization. For a situation to come about, where any organized form is impossible, it is necessary to consider a period in which all possibility of a socialist perspective definitively disappears, since the proletariat has been permanently wiped out as a historical subject? Then, and only then, would the impossibility of the existence of any organized form be theoretically justified. But then too, the militants would disappear individually to make way for mere rebels. Until then, and as long as the proletariat remains, there is objectively the possibility and the need for an organization of political expression. Only repression and external pressure can physically suppress this organism. So it’s about our ability and knowledge to cope with pressure. This is a completely new issue, which can only be resolved within an organization…
Marc Chirik 1952