On Établissement (1968)


First Part.1

An impor­tant move­ment has been set in motion in the UJC2: Marx­ist-Lenin­ist mil­i­tants have formed étab­lisse­ment groups and are going among the pop­u­lar masses, to live in their midst and to work in pro­duc­tion.

The prin­ci­pal task we are cur­rently faced with is devel­op­ing and strength­en­ing this move­ment, uni­fy­ing its ori­en­ta­tion, its style of work, its orga­ni­za­tion.

To do this, we need above all to cor­rectly grasp the polit­i­cal tasks of this move­ment, tasks stem­ming from the con­crete real­ity of the class strug­gle in France. Stu­dents and Marx­ist-Lenin­ist mil­i­tants who are not work­ers have entered the fac­to­ries in an orga­nized way.

What are they going to do there?

What is their goal?

What are the lim­its of their work?

In what way does this con­sti­tute a step nec­es­sary for the devel­op­ment of the Marx­ist-Lenin­ist move­ment in France, for the build­ing of the Com­mu­nist Party?

Such are the ques­tions we must answer. The answer to these ques­tions can be sum­ma­rized in a sin­gle sen­tence: the polit­i­cal objec­tive of the étab­lisse­ment groups is to cre­ate among the work­ers them­selves the lead­ing nuclei of rev­o­lu­tion­ary Marx­ist-Lenin­ist strug­gles, the lead­ing nucleus of the Marx­ist-Lenin­ist move­ment.

In other words, the étab­lisse­ment groups move­ment is a con­crete answer we are offer­ing today in France to the uni­ver­sal prob­lem posed, here as else­where, by the birth of a polit­i­cal van­guard of the pro­le­tariat: the prob­lem of the fusion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary Marx­ism and the work­ers’ move­ment.

The most advanced rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas and the­o­ries first take hold, on a large scale, among stu­dents and young intel­lec­tu­als.

This is a law of his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment that is being ver­i­fied in France like every­where else. But the stu­dents and young intel­lec­tu­als can­not be the lead­ing force of the rev­o­lu­tion, even when some of them link up with the masses and trans­form their own point of view.

Only the work­ing class is pow­er­ful and vig­or­ous enough to take the fate of the rev­o­lu­tion into its hands.

It is incum­bent there­fore upon young rev­o­lu­tion­ary intel­lec­tu­als to play the role of inter­me­di­aries, in order to make these van­guard ideas take hold among the work­ing class, espe­cially among the most com­bat­ive ele­ments of the pro­le­tariat, who must con­sti­tute the dri­ving force of the rev­o­lu­tion.

We will see later on why it is cur­rently nec­es­sary, in order to carry out this task, that young intel­lec­tu­als enter into pro­duc­tion.

What are, in France at the present moment, these advanced rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas that first took hold more or less widely among stu­dents and young intel­lec­tu­als?

They are the ideas of the mass line, of the strat­egy and tac­tics of pop­u­lar war, of the devel­op­ment in stages of the unin­ter­rupted rev­o­lu­tion­ary process, of the com­mu­nist ide­ol­ogy of “Serv­ing the Peo­ple” and of going to the school of the masses, the style of work that entails self-crit­i­cism and sub­mit­ting to the crit­i­cism of the masses…

In short, the thought of Mao Zedong, which has been spread once again, and been under­stood in a much more pro­found way, by the Great Pro­le­tar­ian Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion.

If the pro­le­tar­ian van­guard assim­i­lates this ide­ol­ogy and this prac­tice, if it unites itself still more closely than it could spon­ta­neously with the work­ing masses and the peo­ple, if it mas­ters the essence of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary strat­egy and tac­tics of the pro­le­tariat, then the rev­o­lu­tion will wit­ness a new vigor in France.

But what do we under­stand by “pro­le­tar­ian van­guard”?

How is it that there is still what we might call a “divorce” between the van­guard of the work­ers’ move­ment on the one hand, and the van­guard ideas of the pro­le­tariat (the thought of Mao) on the other?

And, above all, how to bring about a fusion of the two?

In the French work­ing class, advanced ele­ments exist.

These are the work­ers who, by their solid class posi­tion, the cor­rect­ness of their tac­tics in the strug­gles against their employ­ers, and by their spon­ta­neous appli­ca­tion of the mass line have gained the con­fi­dence of their com­rades at work and have come for­ward as the lead­ing ele­ments of the mass move­ments in the fac­tory.

These work­ers are the cadre that the masses have given them­selves, and they make up the de facto van­guard of the work­ers’ move­ment; in strikes, demon­stra­tions, in all worker strug­gles, their role is deci­sive.

At the present moment, for us, to rec­og­nize the lead­ing role of the pro­le­tariat in the rev­o­lu­tion means work­ing effec­tively in order to give rise to advanced worker nuclei armed with the thought of Mao Zedong who will lead the move­ment…

Con­duct­ing work at the heart of the masses in a given place with­out con­cen­trat­ing one’s efforts on the cre­ation of a lead­ing Marx­ist-Lenin­ist worker nucleus is in real­ity to deny the lead­ing role of the pro­le­tariat in the rev­o­lu­tion.

Inso­far as such a nucleus does not exist, no pro­gress is pos­si­ble in mass work.

What are tasks for the étab­lisse­ment groups that stem from this gen­eral ori­en­ta­tion?

First, it is nec­es­sary that each étab­lisse­ment group rapidly put on its work agenda the train­ing of a small nucleus of advanced work­ers won over to Marx­ism-Lenin­ism, the spread­ing of the thought of Mao, the expla­na­tion of our polit­i­cal line, the study of our pub­li­ca­tions, the elab­o­ra­tion of Marx­ist-Lenin­ist tac­tics in the work­ers’ move­ment.

The goal of the étab­lisse­ment groups should be to quickly trans­form them­selves into com­mu­nist work groups in which work­ers play a lead­ing role.

As for the worker nuclei, it is best that they form small, clan­des­tine union fac­tions that will be able to apply a mass line in var­i­ous firms and show work­ers through prac­tice the cor­rect path of the class strug­gle, all while pro­gres­sively unmask­ing the revi­sion­ists.

Our tac­tic is to form clan­des­tine Marx­ist-Lenin­ist nuclei among the advanced work­ers, those most active in the orga­ni­za­tion of strug­gles and union work.

This means that we reject as erro­neous a cer­tain num­ber of lines that devi­ate from this tac­tic:

1. The left oppor­tunist line, which would con­sist in our rush­ing (our­selves, once we have entered pro­duc­tion, or with a hand­ful of Marx­ist-Lenin­ist work­ers) into open Marx­ist-Lenin­ist pro­pa­ganda within the work­ing class; to engage in such an action before hav­ing accu­mu­lated suf­fi­cient forces, before hav­ing con­cretely demon­strated to the masses the cor­rect line of work by sys­tem­atiz­ing its own ideas and its own aspi­ra­tions, before hav­ing con­cretely unmasked the hand­ful of lead­ing revi­sion­ists, would doubtless be to cut our­selves off from the masses, to divide the union and to for­bid our­selves all means of action in the strug­gle against man­age­ment.

2. The “right” oppor­tunist line, which would amount to car­ry­ing out by our­selves, with­out com­pletely asso­ci­at­ing our work and tac­tics with a worker nucleus, even a very small one, a “snail’s pace mass line,” that is, in mak­ing lim­ited ele­ments of polit­i­cal con­scious­ness slowly take hold, bit by bit, among the worker mass.

How does what we have dis­cussed affect orga­ni­za­tional forms?

It would mean that the “étab­lisse­ment groups” form (stu­dents and M-L mil­i­tants going to estab­lish them­selves and enter­ing pro­duc­tion) is a pro­vi­sional one: the étab­lisse­ment groups should trans­form them­selves as quickly as pos­si­ble (some months) into Com­mu­nist Work Groups at the site of pro­duc­tion, in which the work­ers won over to M-L, the union lead­ers and mil­i­tants, the older expe­ri­enced mil­i­tants or the young work­ers active in strug­gles, the cre­ation of a Union, etc, play a lead­ing role.

We should then have as our short-term goal the unit­ing of these worker nuclei into a sin­gle orga­ni­za­tion, the orga­ni­za­tion of Com­mu­nist Work Groups, devel­op­ing uni­fied tac­tics in the work­ers’ move­ment and uni­fied pro­pa­ganda among the masses, effec­tively con­trol­ling the con­tent of our pub­li­ca­tions, etc.

In order to pro­mote the trans­for­ma­tion of the point of view of our estab­lished com­rades and the birth of gen­uine orga­ni­za­tions implanted among the masses, we must under­take pre­cise mea­sures:

1. We must free com­rades up from the ide­o­log­i­cal and orga­ni­za­tional prob­lems posed within the UJCml.

It is not good for these com­rades to divert impor­tant forces towards car­ry­ing out a direct ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle (meet­ings, debates, etc.) within the orga­ni­za­tion.

As for the direc­tion of the whole of the move­ment, this ques­tion can be resolved in a defin­i­tive way only when the orga­ni­za­tion of Marx­ist-Lenin­ist work­ers’ groups is set up. In the period of tran­si­tion we are cur­rently in, the lead­ing role of the étab­lisse­ment groups’ line should con­cretize itself essen­tially through direct par­tic­i­pa­tion and con­trol over the press, the inter­nal bul­letin and all pro­pa­ganda instru­ments, the active elab­o­ra­tion of the gen­eral line of the move­ments and its polit­i­cal texts;

2. Orga­nize the meet­ings of the étab­lisse­ment groups in a pro­le­tar­ian style: brief and con­crete dis­cus­sions, care­fully planned and lead­ing to prac­ti­cal mea­sures and texts.

Second Part: The movement in favor of établissement within the UJCml

The pro­pa­ganda within the UJCml in favor of étab­lisse­ment should be pur­sued.

But it is indis­pens­able to put an end to the petit-bour­geois excess that marked the first period.

We must res­olutely liq­ui­date ide­o­log­i­cal ter­ror­ism and sec­tar­i­an­ism.

1. Étab­lisse­ment among the masses and the entry into pro­duc­tion are polit­i­cal tasks that some of our com­rades should take up in the cur­rent stage of the Marx­ist-Lenin­ist movement’s devel­op­ment. Com­rades who “set­tle down” have pre­cise polit­i­cal objec­tives:

a. to spread the thought of Mao among the work­ing class;

b. to cre­ate Marx­ist-Lenin­ist worker nuclei, effec­tively lead­ing the class strug­gles in the units of pro­duc­tion;

c. to place them­selves in the ser­vice of these nuclei in order to define, in com­mon with them, the tac­tics of  Marx­ist-Lenin­ists in the work­ers’ move­ment, bas­ing them­selves on the prin­ci­ples of the mass line;

d. to build, under the lead­er­ship of these advanced worker nuclei, a com­mu­nist thought, which is the deci­sive instru­ment for gen­eral pro­pa­ganda among the work­ing class.

The move­ment in favor of étab­lisse­ment should be founded on these polit­i­cal bases. It is indis­pens­able that com­rades who are going to “set­tle down” have assim­i­lated these polit­i­cal bases and are equipped to make them actual.

Study­ing our inter­nal press and pub­li­ca­tions, dis­cus­sion with work­ers, reflec­tion on union ques­tions, mil­i­tancy and the work of pro­pa­ganda in the youth move­ment and in neigh­bor­hoods can con­sti­tute, for these com­rades, instru­ments of this prepa­ra­tion.

2. The petit-bour­geois line of ide­o­log­i­cal ter­ror­ism on the themes of self-rev­o­lu­tion­iza­tion should be crit­i­cized, com­bated and defeated.

We should explain that it is not up to some mil­i­tants in our midst to “trans­form” and “rev­o­lu­tion­ize” their com­rades through closed-door dis­cus­sions, bap­tized “ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle.” It is through polit­i­cal work, polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion, and pro­longed strug­gle at the heart of the masses that our com­rades will be able to trans­form their point of view pro­foundly, learn to cor­rectly serve the peo­ple, and to make rev­o­lu­tion.

With regard to the crit­i­cism of our class posi­tion, of our con­cep­tion of the world, noth­ing can replace the over­sight exer­cised by the masses them­selves.

For the time being, the weapon of mil­i­tants in the ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle within the orga­ni­za­tion is polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion, backed up by facts, in the light of Marx­ism-Lenin­ism and the thought of Mao.

With regard to meth­ods within the étab­lisse­ment move­ment, we should PUT POLITICS IN COMMAND, avoid squan­dered energy and hap­haz­ard efforts, and arrive at the great­est effec­tive­ness pos­si­ble in car­ry­ing out our tasks.

—Trans­lated by Jason E. Smith

  1. The orig­i­nal title for this text appears to have been “On the Étab­lisse­ment Groups.” In his Le Mou­ve­ment “Maoïste” en France: Tex­tes et Doc­u­ments, Patrick Kessel offers this expla­na­tion for the origin of the fol­low­ing text: “On the étab­lisse­ment groups [Octo­ber 1967], extract from a dossier put together by the Cen­tral Com­mis­sion of the Étab­lisse­ment Groups and meant for these groups, dis­trib­uted in June 1968, mimeo­graph.” Image thanks to chineseposters.net

  2. Union des Jeunesses Com­mu­nis­tes: “Union of Young Com­mu­nists.”  On the for­ma­tion and his­tory of the UJCml, see my “From Étab­lisse­ment to Lip: On the Turns Taken by French Mao­ism” in this issue of View­point

Author of the article

was a French Maoist organization founded in 1966.