Dear Comrade Chaulieu,
The split of Socialisme ou Barbarie in 1958 was about organization. After the de Gaulle coup d'etat in May 58, there was an influx of members into S ou B. These are mainly students fighting against the Algerian war because of the draft. The number of members jumped up suddenly from less than 20 to more than 100. The problems of organization that had previously been discussed almost constantly became a practical problem and not simply theoretical speculation in a narrow circle. This problem was closely connected to a political analysis with two contradictory positions (this opposition never appeared publicly in the review, but could be seen in the internal bulletins): on one hand a majority followed, for a short period, Chaulieu (Cornelius Castoriadis) in foreseeing a workers' revolt against the "fascism" of de Gaulle; on the other hand the minority said that de Gaulle was there to solve the problems of French capitalism and to end the Algerian war.
at last it would be the basis for a new development of the group. We can see that the "wrong" analysis manipulating the "mass" was then paving the road to the party. The two proposed structures were not compatible:
- the majority following Chaulieu wanted to create cells which would meet from time to time in a general assembly to define the group's policy and to elect a political board which would have the function to implement the adopted policy.
The members would have had to defend the position of the majority in public and to follow it even if they disagreed. Disagreements would have to be contained inside the group as a whole or in the cells.- the minority wanted to promote autonomous workers cells where all problems would be discussed, even the general line discussed in general assemblies. Everybody could express his own ideas at any moment and through any means. It should be said that neither the majority nor minority followed what they were looking for on paper.
other committee was transformed into the ICO. The structure of the ICO was a practical structure rather than a political or theoretical structure. In a certain way it was what the ILO dreamed of building when it split from Socialisme ou Barbarie: Most of the participants of the regular meetings were informal militants of informal factory groups. The ICO paper reported the situation and struggles in each factory according to the regular meeting reports and there was a kind of consensus around autonomous activity rather than a political statement. Participants were from various origins, anarchists, Marxists, or non- aligned militants, but linked by a strong feeling about class struggle. Interest in other struggles in France and abroad developed with more contacts, and from time to time in more general discussions, but the group, though slowly growing, stayed small up until 1968. In 1968 a lot of people, again mostly students, became connected with the ICO. The ICO became a kind of federation of small groups scattered all over the country. During the 15-day May General Strike, everybody was strongly involved in the struggle at his place of work and everybody then agreed not to act like a group "organizing the workers" but to encourage autonomy wherever he was.
Communism in France: S&B, ICO and Excahnges 1998
The Council Communist Archive