The demand of the TPTG for a “proletarian counter-inquiry” into certain accusations that they have made in their “Open Letter” against a militant of Aufheben raise a number of questions that need to be addressed by pro-revolutionaries. The response by a comrade who attended this year’s Summer camp to the effect that revolution is not affected by the tactics of the coercive apparatus of the state (the use of “‘hard’ or ‘soft’ tactics to quell street protests” or by the role of academics in the discussion and implementation of such tactics), however, also needs to be addressed.
The TPTG’s call for a “proletarian counter-inquiry” focuses almost exclusively on the purported actions of a single individual, and the texts that he has written, contributed to, or signed. The deeper issue of whether or not one can separate the life of a pro-revolutionary militant (one’s political life) from one’s professional or academic life is only raised implicitly by way of virtually merging the two, so that the very tension between them, which is a feature of life in a capitalist society, virtually disappears. It is precisely that more basic set of issues, and not the particulars of the charges directed against one person, that we want to address.
As a preliminary point, however, it’s important to call attention to the history of “proletarian inquiries,” “courts” or “tribunals,” the political uses to which they have been put, and their impact on the pro-revolutionary milieu. Internationalists, left communists, oppositionists, have had a long experience with such institutions. In the 1930’s the accusations against Trotsky of being an agent of fascism because of his critique of Stalinism; during the war itself, the repeated accusations (and physical assaults) against Victor Serge and G. Munis in Mexico or Stinas in Greece, as “Gestapo agents” because of their rejection of the defense of the “USSR;” the hunt by the Stalinists and the Resistance in 1944-45 in France for internationalists who did not support the allies or the killing of fleeing German soldiers who had thrown down their weapons, all constitute so many examples of the danger represented by such tribunals and inquiries. We point to that experience simply to recall the lamentable experience of pro-revolutionaries with such tribunals; the way in which they have been used in the past by those claiming to be communist militants
That atmosphere of accusation and investigation directed at militants has not been limited to the world of Stalinism and its Maoist and nationalist offshoots. It has unfortunately continued even within the pro-revolutionary milieu, and many examples can be provided to show the disastrous effects of such practices on it. Such practices, such tribunals, in our view, are to be avoided at all costs, especially in the absence of a thorough discussion of just what acts by an individual contradict one’s commitment to the overthrow of capitalism and its states; are in contradiction with being a militant.
The motivation of the TPTG in this matter arises from a genuine concern regarding the very nature of militant activity and its relation to the “professional” life of those who commit themselves to it. Internationalist Perspective shares the concerns of the TPTG. It is the method that they have proposed to address those valid concerns with which we here take issue. Rather than beginning with an investigation of the actions of a specific individual, and the charges and counter-charges that arise from it, it seems to us that we should begin by discussing the question of the relationship of one’s political life and one’s job or professional work, the tensions that are thereby created by one’s existence in a capitalist society, and the lines that must be drawn so as not to create a schizophrenic existence, whereby either there is no distinction between the two, or the two are held to be completely separate.
A militant may indeed be employed by the state or by a capitalist entity, may do research that is utilized by the state, or a bank or insurance company, for example, and not thereby become a part of the ruling class. In that sense there is a separation between one’s job and one’s politics. And while a clear line of demarcation here is difficult to draw in many cases, the broad outlines of what distinguishes one’s job from one’s membership in the ruling class, from one’s direct implication in the state apparatus, can be made. In our own discussion of this matter, we agreed that the “bar must be set very high.” The teacher, who certainly participates in the socialization of youth into the world of capitalism, the chemical engineer whose research could assist the state in the development of weapons, the sociologist whose studies of unemployment, or the economist whose forecasts about economic growth, can and do make the functioning of a capitalist society possible – just as the worker who produces commodities does. But none of them are ipso-facto an integral part of the state apparatus of capital, an integral part of the ruling class. However, at a certain level, where the decisions about the actual organization of the labor process in a plant, where the specific mode of the extraction of surplus-value is being decided, where the investment of capital is being determined, where the policies, military, political, and economic, of the state are being set, where the strategy and tactics of the coercive apparatus of the state (military and police) are being decided, those who make those decisions are an integral part of the direct political and economic apparatus of capital; of its ruling class. And certainly, it does matter to capital, and its survival, what strategy and tactics can best serve to defend the state and quell protests or crush the resistance of the collective worker. Surely, in Greece today, for example, that is the issue that most concerns the ruling class. Indeed, at the present time, there are few tasks that are more important to the forces of order, to capital, than those. It is certainly true that one can write a paper describing the kinds of tactics that a modern police force uses in crowd control without becoming an arm of the state, just as one can analyze the alternative policies of inflation and deflation in economic policy. But one cannot participate in the setting of those policies, in the decisions about which policies to adopt, and then claim that you are not a part of the state apparatus itself. Wherever, then, one sets the bar in a specific situation, it is inconceivable that those who directly assist the police in their work of protecting the juridical and legal framework of capitalist order, who help determine the strategies and tactics that the state will use, can also claim to be pro-revolutionaries, communist militants. To teach courses to the police, to write papers advising the police on how best to control crowds, seems to us to clearly cross that line. It seems to us that it is this political question, and not the actions of an individual, that the pro-revolutionary milieu needs to first discuss and debate. And to that end, a “proletarian counter-inquiry” or commission the purpose of which is to examine the behavior of a particular person, to investigate a specific “case,” is one that we reject.