Obsolete Communism: The Left Wing Alternative [Review]

France 1968 created a new chapter in the history of revolution. Although the events of May and June 1968 failed to dislodge the French State, they destroyed the credibility of Communism as a revolutionary ideology. The lesson of France 1968 that we need to remember is that radical egalitarian revolution can occur anywhere at any time. Societies that seem impregnable have the seeds of their own destruction growing within them. Radical revolutionary change is not only desirable but possible, whether it occurs or not depends on people themselves breaking the intellectual, physical and cultural chains which bind them with the forces that oppress them.

France 1968 forever changed the idea that revolution in an industrial parliamentary democracy is impossible. Daniel and his brother Gabriel put their thoughts down on paper in a 5 week period just a few months after the tumultuous events of May/June 1968, to leave a permanent record of why they believed revolution was possible in an industrialised parliamentary democracy and more importantly why May/June 1968 failed. They have convincingly shown that at the very moment the State had been stripped of all its credibility, the traditional Left joined with the State to defeat those who challenged it.

The book was written to expose those who preach radical change but want to seize State power and replace one ruler with another. The State, the Trade Unions and the authoritarian left have much more in common than people realise. The 1st section of the book examines 'The Strategy and Nature of the Revolutionary Movement' looking at the role both the students and workers played in the upheaval. The 2nd section deals 'The Strategy of the State' in dealing with this challenge to its authority. The 3rd section examines the counter-revolutionary role of the French Communist Party, a party that was more interested in securing votes at elections than in joining a movement for radical revolutionary change it didn't control. The final section 4th section deals with 'The Strategy and Nature of Bolshevism' as a political ideology.

"Obsolete Communism" is as important a book in 2003 as it was in 1968. Although Communism is no longer a viable political ideology, the traditional and the post 1968 Left still cling to the idea that revolutionary change comes from capturing State power not abolishing it. "Obsolete Communism" continues to be a useful addition to revolutionary literature because it has shown that there is very little difference between the government, opposition political parties and institutions and organisations that attempt to represent workers interests. Australian activists only have to cast their minds back to the Crown Casino blockade in Melbourne on Sept 11th 2000, to understand that governments, oppositions, trade unions, the State and corporate sector have much more in common than people realise.

"Obsolete Communism" should be available from your local library. If you can't find it there, try a second hand bookshop or one of those old Left wing bookshops that still manage to eke out a living in Australia.

* Review lifted from the Anarchist Age Weekly Review, PO Box 20, Parkville, Melbourne, VIC 3052, Australia.

Obsolete Communism: The Left Wing Alternative

Daniel Cohn-Bendit & Gabriel Cohn-Bendit,

1st Published 1968.


AK Press have produced a new edition, so you don't need to scout around 'those old left wing bookshops': ISBN: 1-902593-23-1. The only thing outdated is the title when the Communism as a system is dead, even if faith in the state and leaders is still being touted. Surely, no-one would've minded 'May '68 from the inside' or even 'Following Parties Get You Nowhere'? - ed.

From: Anarchist Age Weekly Review.