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Neither fatherland nor frontiers

vendredi 10 septembre 2004

Bulletin of translations and debates

At at time when Europe starts to realize its political unity, the linguistic, political and cultural divisions are still sufficiently strong to maintain the militants of the different countries isolated. Although capitalism rests today on multinational corporations, although States have numerous structures of dialogue and confrontation, although managers and technocrats use videoconferences, the working class movement has a great delay in comparison to its adversaries. At a time when globalization is strenghtening its grip, national insulation still characterizes the class struggle. Despite Internet, despite the « militant » travels to Seattle, Geneva, Goteborg, Barcelona, Paris, or Porto Alegre, despite the multiplication of TV chanels, the flux of informations which are circulating has in fact very few consequences on the daily life, on the daily practices of the existing militant groups and on the quality and level of workers struggles in each country. This is such a pessimistic analysis which has led us to create this discussion bulletin. But it is also the conviction that an other attitude is possible in front of the rich political and theoretical patrimony which exists on the international scale.

To change this situation a whole range of conditions would be necessary, conditions which are obviously not linked to the only good will of those who reject this society and any attempt to repair it.

But we could at least start to discuss and think together in a different way. In the revolutionary left, militants rarely debate in order to progress theoretically or politically, in order to learn from other "comrades", whether they are active in France or in other counties. Their aim is mainly to win (the word « win » says it sall) over the interlocutor, to corner him, to dominate him. It is not really useful to know his or her positions, because the interlocutor is always considered as an ennemy. A small varnish of political « culture » and some rhetorical skills are plainly sufficient.

Not only the militants are proud of their ignorance but they theorize it : the other groups never said or say anything valuable ; they are supposedly all playing in the hands of reformism or of the bourgeoisie ; they are carrierist intellectuals spreading confused ideas ; the situation in this or that region of the globe is too different from ours ; the other organisations are « activist », « workerist », « trade-unionist », « sectarian », etc. The stock of curses and gossip tales which circulate in the Left is unlimited.

Everybody can see that the political and theoretical reflection does not progress at the same speed and in the same way, according to the States and continents - at least at this level the exchanges between revolutionary groups and individuals could be fruitful.

Unfortunately each group is happy with a small "capital" of references which, with the years passing by, not only does not grow but regularly diminishes. Even worse : the indifference to reflection is not limited to socalled "theoretical" questions. It concerns also the reality of workers struggles, inside or outside the trade-unions, in other countries. When tens of thousands of Portuguese workers tried to occupy their factories in 1974-1975, and to manage their factories by themselves, very few militants went to Portugal to seriously listen to them and support them effectively. Some went to Lisbon or Porto, or read the various militant publications to get a feel of the news. But all their attention was centered on the grouplet or the party which was going to grow the fastest or to take power. So the Portuguese workers had to deal with their problems alone. One can make the same analysis about Iran (the workers movement was never seriously evoked), about Poland and Solidarnosc, about workers strikes in Poutin’s Russia, not to talk about Argentina, Irak or Venezuela today.

In all these situations, one has the impression that what really matters is the speeches of the big political leaders or some mythical stories about minute victories won by this grouplet or that traditional party. The workers stuggles, the original forms of organization that they create are not taken into account - to the exception of some confidential, almost clandestine, journals or booklets read by a few dozen persons. And the misunderstandings are even more important because when foreign militants are interviewed they have often difficulties to synthetize their experience and unconsciously adopt the langage of professional politicians or journalists, an attitude which dilutes the value of their testimony.

Given our size and scale, we are unable to change this situation. But we can take certain concrete steps ; we can translate classical theoretical and political texts which have formed generations of militants in other countries and which were never translated into French, as well as recent texts linked to present struggles or problems.

Which will be our criteria of choice ? First of all the texts have to be readable. This excludes pompous commentaries, eternal and unuseful analyses of sacred texts. We are not against polemics if they are not sectarian, if they open new roads and offer new insights. Our aim is not reassure ourselves, to reinforce revolutionary cocooning, but to learn something. We will dwell into the marxist, libertarian or other traditions, if the authors chosen are motivated by a healthy revolt against all forms of oppression and exploitation.

We want to arise curiosity and critical mind. We want to come out of the mental and ideological walls imposed by long years of insulation. Nothing is more alien to us than patriotism, including its most restricted form : grouplet patriotism. The famous Right-or-Wrong-My-Party ideology has shown its catastrophic consequences. This journal will try to stimulate reflections and exchanges, in a period dominated by intellectual apathy, lack of interest for ideas and fear of discussion. It will publish different and contradictory positions on specific themes, because we think that these texts, old or recent, can help to create a dialogue between the men and women who pretend to change the world. Finally this journal will define some positions about the French situation as it is published in France. We will contribute to the political clarification by recalling some basic political principles and unveil some erroneous conceptions which found the most common schemes of interpretation of the Left and Far Left in France.

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