«Secularism» against the proletariat

(«Proletarian»; Nr. 10; Winter-Spring 2014)

Back Sumary



«Roll up your sleeves and rub your forearms with 90% alcohol, as we plunge our hands into the most serious process of infection of the socialist movement: anti-clericalism.» This is how, in 1949 Amadeo Bordiga began the article «Anticlericalism and socialism» in his Filo del Tempo series.

Some might believe that the era of anti-clericalism – under the guise of an uncompromising secularism – was completed after the «guerre scolaire» (scholar war)of 1984. Unfortunately, a large part of the reformist left and «far» left is still championing the fight against private education – especially Catholic.

In recent months, a diverse coalition uniting the worst reformists with the false «revolutionary left» was relaunched in a secular campaign for the repeal of the Debré Law (voted in 1959, this law allows the financing of private schools by the State, in particular payment of teachers’ salaries, if they conform to the same official curriculums as the public schools; there was heated opposition against this law from the reformist parties which said that it was a violation of the separation of Church and State, until the Socialist President Mitterrand put an end to this «scholar’s war» of the mid-‘80s).

On December 7, Libre Pensée (Free Thought, an atheist association) – presided over by by former Force Ouvrière (Worker’s Power) union honcho, Marc Blondel – organized a rally for the repeal of the Debré Law.

 Taking the podium after him were representatives of FO, the SNES-FSU Teachers union, the ultra-reformist Left Party and Left Radical Party, the POI (LambertistTrotskyist) and the «revolutionary syndicalists» of the Intersyndicalist tendency Emancipation.

They communed around the cult of Holy Public Education and Our Saviour the National-Republican state.

The host power, LP, concluded the ceremony by denouncing the Debré law as «contrary to the historical development of the nation» and celebrated the «School of the Nation, future hope of our youth.» This same LP exalts in a recent press the «Republic, One, Indivisible, Secular, Democratic and Social» – and above all bourgeois – against fantasized threats posed not only by decentralization but also by the existence of «different languages» in France!

Two hundred years ago this genre of orientations had an undeniably revolutionary value, even if these orientations and demands were of a bourgeois nature: against feudal fragmentation and divisions that hampered the economic and social development, they represented an historic, fundamental breakthrough, the victory of the capitalist mode of production, a victory dialectically necessary so that the struggle between modern classes could unfold and create the material conditions of the subsequent revolutionary transition to the classless society of communism. But since the final victory of the anti-feudal revolution, they can only serve to consolidate the bourgeois regime against its only enemy: the proletariat. The «future hope of the youth,» if we talk about the proletarian youth, not the bourgeois youth, in no case resides in the bourgeois institution of the school, public or private, but only in the proletarian struggle against capitalism and the Republic!

If the other Trotskyist currents, Worker’s Struggle (LO) and the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) do not currently participate in this «secular union» between reformist forces, they adhere to the same ideology and defend the same motto: «Public funds to the Public school».

The «anti-capitalists» of the NPA ask that «The public authorities and local communities [the bourgeois state!] should be aimed at the development of secular public schools, from kindergarten to university. Public funds must be reserved for them» ( «Philippe Poutou: Yes to a public school at Beaupréau» December 16, npa49.free.fr)

LO is not far behind. In Argenteuil, for example, its municipal councilors say «For a long time, the socialist movement has fought for the defense of public school [...]. For us, it’s still a current struggle. The school funded with public money, it is the public school, obligatory and open to all. If the Catholic Church wants to open a school, it has the means, it should address itself to its followers to carry this out and finance it from beginning to end» (lo-argenteuil. blogspot. com).

This fight against the Debré law, and more generally against the private school is not only carried out under the entirely bourgeois flag of Defense of the Republic, but in addition this defense is a fable: for a long time now the Church is no longer, as in the nineteenth century, opposed to the Republic! Just like our secularist politicians and unionists, it is a factor of bourgeois order and its schools are as much an instrument of social conservatism as the public schools! Secular campaigns have resulted in diverting the proletariat from the class struggle into enlisting in an artificial «scholar’s war» between two bourgeois camps, but basically they are used to conceal the nature of the bourgeois class state which tries to convince the workers that they must defend it against threats of an alleged clerical, reactionary or obscurantist character. And, inevitably, they lead to the division of the proletariat.




Another example is given us by Workers Struggle about a case that made the headlines: the Baby Wolf nursery – touted by LO, this crèche is sponsored by Elisabeth Badinter, both fierce secularist and member of the French big bourgeoisie.

Here are the facts: an employee of the nursery who had been fired because she wore an «Islamic veil», has appealed and her dismissal was annulled because according to the Labour Code religious beliefs cannot be grounds for dismissal.

Instead of being pleased that for once a proletarian has obtained a judgment in her favor, LO is outraged: «This judgment has rightly raised a wave of protests as it gives weapons to obscurantists of all kinds, and many are those calling for a revision of existing laws, requiring the extension of the ban on conspicuous religious signs in the name of secularism» (« The Court of Cassation and the Baby-Loup nursery: an attack against the right of women» www.lutte-ouvriere-journal.org). In effect then, the veil would be the «symbol of the subjugation of women to an occult law (?) imposed by ultra-reactionary men who (...) deny all rights and all equality for women.»

LO doesn’t have the courage to tell its readers that of «those» who are outraged and are calling for a revision of the laws, first is interior minister Valls, immediately approved by the most reactionary politicians ...

In common with the first cop of France who’s also one of the biggest capitalists in the country, LO calls for the strengthening of the already completely public laws of the bourgeois state to force the proletarians to learn the benefits of secularism, and it justifies the firings in name of women’s rights and the fight against enslavement!!! It is difficult to find words to describe such an ignominy from an organization calling itself «workers’ «...

Anyways, once again, the pseudo-revolutionary Trotskyists or the «revolutionary syndicalists» show that they are only left-wing defenders of the capitalist state and of bourgeois ideology. They are not only purveyors of reformist illusions but – on the «secular issue» – they fully adhere to the National-republican bourgeois ideology.

But the unity of the proletariat necessary for its emancipation, and its break from bourgeois and reactionary ideologies, whether religious or democratic, can only be achieved in the fight against bourgeois exploitation and oppression, in the struggle against the capitalists and the bourgeois state, and therefore also against all these false friends.

In the nineteenth century, the German Socialists supported by Engels refused to join the Kulturkampf, the «struggle for culture» against clericalism led by the Prussian state, because it would have meant giving up class independence.

Similarly in France, the Marxist current – despite its theoretical weaknesses and polical errors – refused to fight alongside the bourgeois fraction for secularism. Its representatives denounced «The imaginary war-game against clericalism [which] conceals a more serious purpose which is to absorb the energy of workers and to divert them away from their class interests, for the struggle against Capital they wish to substitute the fight against God. The cult of Human Rights, of the Fatherland, freedom of trade, and all bourgeois ideology, tend to the same result « (Paul Lafargue, Le Socialiste. 15-18 September 1901) and the «so-called secularists [ who] produce or attempt to produce very docile fodder for exploitation» (Guesde, « Laïcisation à faire » «Secularization to be made» Le Socialiste, October 22, 1887).

Then as now, the workers should not let themselves be fooled by the secular crusades they must fight only on the class terrain for the defense of their interests and the communist revolution (1).



(1) This is a translation from: «Le « laïcisme » contre le prolétariat» Le Prolétaire n°507.

 Laïcisme is the ideology (and also the activity) of those who fight for laïcité (the neutrality of the bourgeois State towards religion or the separation of Church and State; it’s a bourgeois ideology which was revolutionnary in the epoch of feudalism, i. e. before the bourgeois revolution was accomplished, when it was necessary to fight against the power of the Church which defended the Ancien Regime.

 Today there are reactionary bigots but we can’t fight them under the catchword of laïcité, secularism, alongside the «enlightened» or atheist bourgeois, like the class-collaborationist secularists (or laicists) desire, just as we can’t fight the fascists alongside the bourgeois democrats and under the catchword of democracy.

(2) See in this regard: «La laïcité, un principe bourgeois» («Secularism, a bourgeois principle») Le Prolétaire brochure n°31



International Communist Party



Back Sumary