Martin Glaberman 1968

On Balance: The French Events

Source: Speak Out, (June-July 1968).
Transcribed: by Christian Hogsbjerg, with thanks to Ian Birchall.

This stage of the revolution in France has come to an end. The reporting and study of the events themselves must continue. But certain things must be made clear:

1. The betrayal of the Communist Party (and all the other parties and unions), a betrayal that is most amply documented, must be understood for what it is: a critique of the CP, not of the working class. From the start, when they occupied the factories in opposition to their leaders, to the finish, when they refused in the millions to vote for the Communists or their allies, the workers made it clear that they were not controlled by the CGT or any other organization. The Communists did not have the power to prevent the workers from taking the revolution to the end.

2. The workers were not defeated. The CP was. The CP suffered a major defeat in the electoral arena. It is obvious that the workers did not consider that a serious place for struggle and left the CP to the fate which it deserved. The fundamental confrontation of power between the working class and the nation as a whole and the government, its military forces and its fascist paramilitary bands did not take place. There is no way, at this distance, of knowing exactly why. It is possible that the absence of a serious split

in the armed forces may have indicated to the workers that caution was necessary. Conversely, the presence of such a split could have provided the impulse to continue the struggle. In any case, all that has happened is that the ultimate reckoning has been postponed.

3. Those who criticized the Hungarian workers for adventurism for not realizing that they could not beat Russian tanks will undoubtedly criticize the French workers for “lack of consciousness.” It is their business to counsel defeat and pessimism and we leave them undisputed possession of their vanguard role in that field.

4. Bourgeois society has suffered, not a mortal, but a critical blow. De Gaulle’s electoral victory should not blind anyone to the fact that the battle was not an electoral battle and that de Gaulle, his heirs and successors have lost control of their economy and their society.

5. What is crucial in the revolutionary situations that will continue to break out, in France and elsewhere, is that the people should be aware that a totally new society is emerging, not simply an attack on the old. The Marxist organization must put forward this idea, not only as theoretically valid, but as an immediate practical necessity, as the instrument for breaking up the unity of the armed forces.