First Congress of Emancipación: One step forward, two steps back

At the end of June, Emancipación held its first congress. With this, the publisher of Nuevo Curso’, which releases a new article almost every day, has shifted its ambitions from the Spanish-speaking region to a global scale, from an organization around basic positions to one that puts forward slogans and statements to the actual situation. However, this step forward is not without problems related to the historical origins of this organization from what is often called the Spanish Communist Left around Grandizo Munis.

The current milieu of proletarian internationalist groups is largely the product of the Communist Left in several countries, which particularly opposed certain tactics imposed by the Russian Communist Party on the affiliated Communist parties due to its dominant position within the Third or Communist International. The Communist Left is characterized by its adherence to proletarian internationalism, especially at the historic time of the Second World War by its refusal to defend the Soviet Union. This refusal is generally based on theoretical notions of the counter-revolution after the 1917-1923 revolutions, both internationally and within Russia, of state capitalism and of fundamental changes in capitalism since the First World War.

We find all that in Emancipación, especially thanks to its predecessor Munis and … his discussions with the Communist Left. Since its first congress, however, it has become clear that this organization sees its origins in what it calls “International Communist Left, Paris, 1930”, but what in reality is … the ‘Fourth International’:

“1929-1938. The birth of our tendency was driven by the Russian Left Opposition’s struggle against the degeneration of the International. (…)

1938-1948. IV. International, Paris, 1938. It founded the Fourth International in 1938, once the way was open to a new world war through the capitulation without struggle of the International against Nazism in 1933 and especially after the defeat of the Spanish Revolution in 1937, in which Stalinism took for the first time the role of driving force and direction of the counterrevolution.

From 1942 onward it fought against centrism in the Fourth International, denouncing the renunciation of the revolutionary defeatism by the International Secretariat (…). The rupture is made formal in the second congress of the International (1948).” (1)

There are more examples of organizations that in the Second World War have stuck to proletarian internationalism while they did not originate from the Communist Left. A positive example – there are probably more – is the Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg Front (MLL-Front) in the Netherlands around Sneevliet (‘Maring’). In World War Two, the latter organization entered into a process of political clarification and discussion with members of the then dissolved Group of International Communists (GIC) – an expression of the Dutch and German Left. This allowed the MLLFront to emerge after the Second World War as the Communists’ League “Spartacus” (2) which – despite its weaknesses – had prepared itself for a role as a ‘new party’ in the generally expected revival of the workers’ struggle.

Since its first congress and the appeal to a prehistory in the ‘Fourth International’, one can ask how Emancipación stands in relation to the current groups of the Communist Left. The congress report reads we have sought relations with other internationalist minorities in the rest of the world, aspiring to coordinate common actions with a view to a global regrouping of revolutionaries.” This gives the impression that this regrouping is primarily seen as an organizational process. This aspect is certainly not negligible. But is Emancipación open to the essence of the regrouping, a process of clarification and discussion in the light of the class struggle with groups from the Communist Left, as Munis has done? While the report of the congress speaks of “the participation of comrades and nuclei from three countries”, it remains unclear who they were, what they contributed to the congress, not even whether they had the right to speak. The report makes no mention of internal discussions at the congress, nor of discussions within the organization outside the congress – as far as I know, I do not read everything – anything has ever been published in Nuevo Curso. That does not promise much good, yet another monolithic and self-focused organization, which works hard on its own on what it calls “the party in the making”.

Ironically, the ICC, this monomaniacal self-proclaimed pole of international regroupment, has published a text in two parts in which the CDW discusses historical theoretical weaknesses in the Munis tendency.

First of all I would like to mention CDW’s criticism of a “kind of updated version of the 1938 transitional program in Munis For a second communist manifesto (1961). (3) In its report on the first congress, Emancipación appears to hold on to these remnants of Trotskyism:

“The general program that leads from the immediate struggle for the most basic universal needs to the process of abolition of wage labor and the liberation of the productive capacities of Humanity, is still as valid as the revolutionaries had affirmed in the 1940s. For this, we refer to the section “Task of Our Times”, of For a Second Communist Manifesto, a fundamental text of our current.

Refining the slogans and lines of intervention, Emancipation will immediately permeate these slogans in workplaces:

  • Reduction of the immediate working day to 30 hours with the same monthly net salary and progressive reductions until unemployment ends.

  • No pay-as-you-go, nor capitalized pension systems. For a system based on solidarity. For pensions that are sufficient and calculated exclusively according to the individual needs of each person.

  • Against timekeeping, new forms of piecework, temporary work agencies and short time work intermediaries.

In the neighborhoods, we call for:

  • The closure of gambling joints, the “We buy gold” shops, churches and cults, narcopisos (drug-flats) and all agents that promote the decomposition of our neighborhoods. For the opening of community centers for workers that are independent of the state, the trade unions and the mafias.”

For the sake of clarity, unlike some other council communists, I am in favor of revolutionary minorities putting forward slogans and demands in the class struggle, in addition to the tasks of propaganda and unmasking bourgeois ideologies. The condition for this is that these slogans and demands can contribute in an effective way to promoting insight in larger or smaller parts of the class, or even in the revolutionary milieu, into what is the next step in the struggle. This means that these slogans or demands can build a bridge between the experiences gained and the insight already present on the one hand, and on the other hand further actions and awareness that are latently present in the situation of the class struggle of that moment. In this sense, we find programmatic slogans and demands in the Communist Manifesto of the Communists’ League, in the Second International and in the declarations of the Left of Zimmerwald and during the first years of the Third International. Such a program and the minority organizations that put it forward in the class are doomed to disappear when capitalism comes to another stage or when the workers’ struggle no longer increases qualitatively and quantitatively but deteriorates. In a situation of decline, the disintegrated and diminished minority organizations draw the lessons of the previous period and thus prepare for the resurgence of the workers’ struggle. “Convenient” slogans that are merely hollow abstractions because they thwart the situation and appeal to outdated tactics were characteristic of the way in which the Comintern tried to secure the support of broad labor masses and even the middle classes for the foreign policy of the Soviet Union during the downturn of the wave of revolution around the end of the First World War. Trotsky was one of the architects of this harmful policy, which he continued within the Left Opposition and the ‘Fourth International’. The latter was not founded during a re-emergence of workers’ struggles, but was at best a voluntarist attempt to reverse the downward tide, in practice, to regain Trotsky’s lost position in Russian state capitalism. In the period of counter-revolution, however, the Dutch-German Communist Left did not generally confine itself to drawing lessons and propaganda. Wherever possible it was also active in class struggle with agitation, and in concrete cases it showed the way forward – for example in the struggle of the unemployed: Paul Mattick in the U.S.A. and the G.I.C.-affiliated group of Proletenstemmen (“Proletarian Voices”) in the Netherlands.

In his text, CDW discusses Munis’ broken participation in the International Conferences of groups of the Communist Left from 1975 onward. According to Munis, a mechanistic relationship between crisis and revolutionary workers’ struggles would be assumed at these conferences. In this context, CDW subtly points out that out of voluntarism, Munis came

“to see the possibility of revolution just under the surface at all times during the decadent period: in the 1930s, when Munis sees the events in Spain not as proof of a triumphant counter-revolution but as the highest point of the revolutionary wave that began in 1917; at the end of the Second World War, when, as we have seen, Munis saw the movements in Spain 1951 as the precursor to a revolutionary onslaught; at the height of the ‘boom’ period of the 60s, since the FSCM already refers to ‘the accumulation of formidable revolutionary energies’ taking place at the time it was written. And (…) he equally rejects our argument that even if decadence means that the proletarian revolution is on the agenda of history, there can be phases of profound defeat and disarray in the class during this period, phases which make revolution almost impossible and which confer different tasks on the revolutionary organization.”

With regard to the issue of the economic crisis as a possible engine for the development of proletarian struggle and awareness, Emancipación now rightly declares:

“The global situation is not even the same as it was ten years ago. Not only are the central bank mechanisms left with no room to maneuver, but the capacity to create social cohesion around the needs of each national capital is significantly diminished by the internal battles of the bourgeoisie itself and the years of desperate – and sterile – movements of the petty bourgeoisie.

The only way in which the world bourgeoisie seems to find its way out is through the direct appropriation of the insurance and meager savings of the workers – pension, health and education systems – and the increase of exploitation in absolute terms: more real hours of work for lower total wages paid. Capital forces the realization of surplus value by using the state, which should cushion its contradictions but instead encourages them.”

Under the heading Situation of the working class, Emancipación rejects an automatic rise of revolutionary struggles and refers to mass and radical workers’ struggles in Mexico and Iran. These examples are hopeful indeed, but they do not, in my opinion, allow to speak of the emergence of a wave of international workers’ struggles that would necessitate the creation of an International (Party) with a program of unifying slogans and demands. What is needed is a new Zimmerwald, first of all discussion, then joint statements by the revolutionary minorities about the current economic crisis and the increasing imperialist wars, and the way in which the proletariat is massively defending itself against its consequences and can further develop the defense struggle towards self-confidence, organization and enlargement.

Perhaps groups that rely on the Communist Left could contribute to this discussion by commenting on the first congress of Emancipación, other than with obligatory congratulations. So far, however, I have only seen a critical reply from the ICGL, in a special issue dedicated to the revolutionary milieu in its publication ‘Revolution or War’. (4)

F.C, August 31, 2019.

Proofreading H.C. Final version September 04, 2019.

P.S. On 2 September 2019 the ICC published the following polemic: Nuevo Curso and the “Spanish Communist Left”: What are the origins of the Communist Left?


1 ‘Our tendency’ at The language of quotations from this text has been improved.

2 Read for instance: Communistenbond “Spartacus”, Spartacus and Trotskyism (1946).

3 C.D. Ward, Communism is on the agenda of history: Castoriadis, Munis and the problem of breaking with Trotskyism. Second part: On the content of the communist revolution. Munis: ‘For a Second Communist Manifesto’. (C.D. Ward, December 2017, Int. Review 161, Autumn 2018)

4 International Group of the Communist Left, ‘‘Revolution or War’ No. 12. Special issue on the proletarian camp and its future – July 2019. Original French language edition: .