Amadeo Bordiga 1951
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At the Lyons Congress of the Communist Party of Italy in 1926, shortly before the Communist International adopted the theory of “socialism in one country”, the Left presented a draft theses (The Lyons Theses) which predictably was rejected by the largely Stalinised party. In these theses our current drew not only the balance sheet of the situation in Italy, of its activity when it was in the leadership of the Communist Party of Italy, and of the activity of the Gramsci-Togliatti leadership which was imposed on the party by the Communist International in the years after 1924. It also drew the balance sheet of the international movement, of the advance and subsequently of the retreat of the revolutionary wave of the post World War 1 period, of the activity of the Communist International both in its splendid restoration of the principles and program of the revolution and in its weaknesses and errors in the domain of tactics and organisation.
The Lyons Congress marked the close of a period. From the out-break of World War I in 1914 to 1926 the Italian Left gave its contribution to the reconstruction of the world party, and it waged a struggle, increasingly defensive, to make this party into a truly effective organ which could realise the aims it had given itself. After 1926 our current was struck by the blows of the counter-revolution in full force, manifested both in the Stalinist persecution as well as in bourgeois repression, whether fascist in Italy or democratic in France. At the same time it found itself increasingly isolated from the currents which on the international level took a position more or less opposed to Stalinism and its liquidation of the revolutionary party. These opposition currents in effect had a different conception both of the causes of the victory of the bourgeoisie and of Stalinism, -and of the way to struggle against them. It became more and more difficult to resist the devastation of the counter-revolution which was brought to bear on the working class movement. While Trotsky desperately looked for the outbreak of the revolution in the last battles of the proletarian retreat and sought at all price — even in the end at the price of compromising principles — to maintain a mass organisation, our current (and notably the Fraction in Exile) endeavoured to preserve the continuity of our tradition and to sow the seeds where they did not exist.
With the support given by the official “communist” parties to the imperialist war and with their participation in bourgeois governments of national reconstruction after the war, it became clear that these parties had definitively and irretrievably sunk into social-chauvinism, the defence and respect of bourgeois democracy, and the most barefaced class collaboration. It was only after these events and after a series of attempts to bring to birth a party on its true Marxist foundations that our party was able to be definitively reconstructed. Although it was physically reconstructed essentially in Italy, it was not reconstructed as an Italian party but as the nucleus of a future international party and on the basis of an internationalist list program.
We must add a few words about the attempt at formation of the party in the period between the close of World War II and 1951 because the Fundamental Theses respond to and clarify certain problems existing during this period in order to lay the basis for the solid formation of the party in 1951-1952. During these years there was a formidable and praiseworthy attempt, based on a real combativity of many militants, to form a real party in Italy. This attempt however was surrounded by a great deal of confusion. The greater part of the comrades thought that the post World War II period would be a repetition of the previous post-war period and would result in a great revolutionary wave. This illusion not only led to a frenzied activism and a search for tactical and organisational expedients which in reality would destroy all the conquests of the left, but it also led to errors of principle and attempts to “update” and revise the Marxist theory. Given this extremely confused situation, it was necessary to struggle a number of years to clarify the divergences which were at work in a party not yet homogenous and which were masked behind differences apparently linked to the analysis of the period. This required first of all the re-appropriation of the Marxist doctrine in all its basic aspects and, on this basis, a complete appraisal of the revolution and counter-revolution in Russia and of the whole history of the Communist International. This work, which was reflected in the Fundamental Theses and in other basic works, had the result of producing a split at the end of 1951 between two orientations, then sufficiently delimited for their existence within the same organisation to have become impossible. To unite, as Lenin said, it is necessary to divide. Marxists of the Italian Left have never feared splits and have never held the illusion of those who believe they can achieve immediate success thanks to alliances and mergers with heterogeneous forces.
The real existence of the party, consequently, should be dated from the Fundamental Theses, which form the full text of a report to the general conference in Florence, December 8th and 9th, 1951. The Theses marked the close of one period and beginning of the veritable construction of our organisation. This meant that, after almost three decades of oblivion, the revolutionary movement was in a position to advance with a solid theoretical and organisational orientation and to develop all its work for the future revolution, which it knew to be many years away, on the basis of it own positions. This was possible because, for the first time since the tragedy of 1926 in the Russian party and the Communist International, the so-called “Italian” Left (which, however, distinguished itself by raising problems of principle and of tactics of international, not “national”, significance) was able to draw the lessons of the most awful counter-revolution the proletarian movement had ever suffered; it was possible because it was able to restore the continuity of the communist tradition that connects Marx and Engels to Lenin, to the Third International and to the battles waged by our current within the International and outside, against the frontist, populist, national and finally chauvinist deviations.
Precisely because it was conceived as a criterion for membership in the party — then still in its birth pangs and restricted to a very small corner of the world, isolated even within Europe — the text does not pretend to exhaust all the basic questions of Marxist theory and historical analysis. It develops only those questions regarded as essential in order to give the party an indispensable homogeneity and stability and in order to demarcate it from the other allegedly close currents, reserving the solution of other questions, which it nonetheless anticipates, to subsequent party texts. The present reader should refer to these works in order to obtain a complete picture of our theoretical and programmatic positions on such topics as the national and colonial question, the problem of the relationship between revolutionary struggle, i.e. the direct struggle for the seizure of power, and the immediate struggle for partial objectives (hence also between the revolutionary organisation and mass organisations), the tactical and organisational bases of the party, the appraisal of the economic and social structure of Russia and China, and so on.
Part I is the party program, the same program that was adopted at the foundation of the Communist Party of Italy in 1921. It was only within the guidelines of the invariant basis of this program that it was possible to add several points concerning our analysis of fascism, and more generally of the increasingly fascist nature of modern capitalist society, and concerning the relations between the world proletarian party and the state which is born as a result of the revolutionary victory, renouncing all the treachery and deceit of such an idea as “socialism in one country”.
Part II deals with the universal and permanent tasks of the communist party. While insisting on the central role of the party both in the preparation for the revolution and in the exercise of the dictatorship, it emphasises the necessity of wide-based organisations intermediary between the party and the class, grouping together proletarians struggling on the level of economic (trade union type) demands. It insists on the necessity of the party as an organ of the class, and it rejects, as communists have always done, all conceptions of the party as something exterior to and “above” the proletariat as well as the idea of the party-dissolved-in-the-masses. It advances as permanent the triple task of the party: study, propagandise, and organise.
Part III places our action in the context of the history of the working class movement and the revolutionary movements. It deals primarily with the question of tactics in the general sense (with the more specific aspects of this question being taken up by later works). With the different waves of opportunist degeneration it shows how an inadequate or erroneous conception and application of tactics by the revolutionary party contributed to, reinforced and facilitated the play of objective forces which have tended to denature the party. It develops the tactical problems which the Communist International and the Russian party faced in the years 1921-1926, and it gives an account of the struggle that our current waged against the weaknesses and errors of the tactics pursued by the Comintern, drawing a balance sheet of these experiences. It analyses the defeat of the proletarian movement in the third opportunist wave, the role of the “Stalinist” parties, their positions and their counter-revolutionary action.
Part IV deals with the activity of the party and its priority tasks in a ferociously counter-revolutionary situation. It condemns as illusory and deadly any idea that a quick victory was possible in such a situation. It shows that the primary activity of the party in such circumstances must be the re-establishment of the communist theory, of Marxism, and its fierce defence against any “innovations”.
While the Theses place “theoretical” work in first place they also insist — and this is important to emphasise — on the necessity of pursuing all aspects of party work. They affirm that the nature of the party’s tasks does not change with the wind, according to the changing situations, but responds to its historical function. The conditions of the moment affect only the quantitative proportion of energy devoted by the party to the different sectors of activity and the immediate possibilities of action. Even when the party finds itself at the “deepest point of the depression” as it did in 1951, and even when it sees that “a resurgence of the revolutionary movement is conceivable only after a period of many years”, it does not renounce any of its activities. Even when the situation does not allow it to have an influence on the masses, it does not deny its task of indicating the political line to follow. Even when capitalist society, its material forces and its political agents construct a terrible barrier preventing the party from having an influence on the masses, the party does not lose any opportunity of penetrating into even the smallest fracture opened up in bourgeois society in order to widen it and implant its subversive doctrine. Even when its trade union activity is of necessity extremely limited, the party never renounces this sector of activity.
The party always attempts to develop all sectors of its activity, because it knows that while there are no artificial expedients for accelerating the resurgence of the class struggle, this resurgence does not depend only on objective factors but also on its own activity. Our rejection of “tactical expedients” cannot be interpreted as a passivity characteristic of those who would renounce their responsibility for accomplishing the tasks which are their own.
The party’s doctrine is based on the principles of historical materialism and critical communism expounded by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Capital, and in their other fundamental works. These same principles formed the basis for the constitution of the Communist International, founded at Livorno in 1921. They were contained in the party program published in Battaglia Comunista no. 1, 1951, and republished several times since then in Il Programma Comunista.
The program reads as follows:
“The International Communist Party is founded on the basis of the following principles established at the formation of the Communist Party of Italy (section of the Communist International) at Livorno in 1921.
An ever-growing contradiction between the productive forces and relations of production develops within the present capitalist social system, engendering the antagonism of interests and the class struggle between the proletariat and the ruling bourgeoisie.
The present relations of production are protected by bourgeois state power. No matter what form of representative system, no matter what use may or may not be made of electoral democracy, the bourgeois state always constitutes the organ for defending the interests of the capitalist class.
The proletariat can neither destroy nor change the system of capitalist relations of production from which its exploitation derives without overthrowing bourgeois power by means of violence.
The indispensable organ of proletarian revolutionary struggle is the class party. The Communist Party, uniting in its ranks the most advanced and most resolute part of the proletariat, unifies the efforts of the labouring masses, leading them from the daily struggle for group interests and limited improvements towards the general struggle for the revolutionary emancipation of the proletariat. The party’s tasks are to propagate revolutionary theory among the masses, to organise the material means for action, and to lead the working class through the development of its struggle by preserving the historical continuity and international unity of the movement.
After the overthrow of capitalist power, the proletariat can organise itself as the ruling class only by destroying the old state apparatus and instituting its own dictatorship. In other words it must deprive the bourgeois class, and the individual bourgeois as long as they survive socially, of all political rights and functions, and base the organs of the new regime on the producing class alone. The Communist Party, whose programme is characterised by the fact that it strives to realise these basic aims, represents, organises, and leads the proletarian dictatorship, sharing this role with no other party. The necessary defence of the proletarian state against all counter-revolutionary attempts can only be ensured by depriving the bourgeoisie and the parties which are enemies of the proletarian dictatorship of all means of agitation and political propaganda, and by equipping the proletariat with an armed organisation for repelling all internal and external attacks.
It is only the proletarian state which will be able to systematically intervene in the relations of the social economy, carrying out the whole series of measures which will assure the replacement of the capitalist system by the collective management of production and distribution.
As a result of this transformation of the economy and the concomitant transformation of all activities of social life, the need for a political state will be eliminated progressively, and the state apparatus will give way gradually to a rational administration of human activity.
The party’s position as regards the situation in the capitalist world and within the workers’ movement after World War II is based on the following points:
In the first half of the 20th century, the development of the capitalist social system has seen, in the economic sphere, the creation of employers’ organisations for the purpose of securing a monopolistic position on the labour market, attempts to control and manage production and exchange according to central plans, and even state management of entire sectors of production. In the political sphere, there has been a strengthening of the police and military power of the state, while government has assumed totalitarian forms. These developments are not new types of social organisation transitional between capitalism and socialism, much less a return to pre-bourgeois political regimes. On the contrary, they are definite forms of more direct and more exclusive management of power and the state by the most developed forces of capital.
This process precludes pacifist, evolutionist and “progressive” interpretations of the development of the bourgeois regime and confirms the Marxist prognosis concerning the concentration and antagonistic alignment of class forces. In order for the proletariat to strengthen and concentrate its revolutionary energies with a corresponding potential, it must reject the demand of an illusory return to democratic liberalism as well as the demand of legal guarantees, excluding both as agitational methods. The revolutionary class party must liquidate historically the practice of alliances for transitory goals, both with bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties and with pseudo-workers’ reformist parties.
The imperialist world wars show that the crisis of capitalist disintegration is inevitable. Capitalism has embarked definitively on the phase in which its expansion no longer intensifies the historical growth of productive forces but instead makes the accumulation of productive forces dependent upon periodic and growing destruction. The world wars caused deep, repeated crisis within the world organisation of workers, since the ruling classes succeeded in exacting national and military collaboration of the working class in both camps. The only historical alternative which can be posed in this situation is the resumption of the class struggle in every country, and its generalisation into a civil war by the working masses to overthrow the power of all bourgeois states and world coalitions, a civil war led by the international communist party reconstructed as an autonomous force opposed to all political and military powers.
Since the proletarian state apparatus is an instrument and a weapon of struggle in an historical transitional period, it does not derive its organisational strength from constitutional rules or from any representative schema. The highest historical expression of such an organisation until now has been the workers’ soviets born in the course of the Russian Revolution in October, 1917, when the working class organised itself militarily under the exclusive leadership of the Bolshevik Party. The burning issues of that period were the totalitarian conquest of power, dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, and the struggle to repulse external attacks by the bourgeois governments and to crush the internal rebellion of the defeated classes, of middle and petty-bourgeois layers, and of the opportunist parties, which are unfailing allies of the counter-revolution in decisive phases.
The proletarian regime must defend itself against the dangers of degeneration contained in possible miscarriages and set-backs in the process of economic and social transformation, the full realisation of which is not conceivable within the confines of a single country. This defence can only be insured by a constant coordination between the policy of the workers’ state and the unified international struggle of the proletariat of each country against its own bourgeoisie, the capitalist state and its military apparatus. This struggle which must be waged incessantly in whatever situation, be it peace or war, requires the political and programmatic control by the world communist party over the state apparatus in the country where the working class has conquered power”.
The working class can liberate itself from capitalist exploitation only through a political struggle, led by a political organ of the revolutionary class, the communist party.
The most important aspect of the political struggle in the Marxist conception is the civil war and the armed insurrection through which one class overthrows the power of the enemy ruling class and institutes its own power. This struggle cannot be successful unless it is led by the party organisation.
Just as the struggle against the power of the exploiting class cannot be accomplished without the revolutionary political party, like-wise the party is necessary for the subsequent work of eradicating the previous economic institutions. The dictatorship of the proletariat, which is indispensable throughout this by no means brief historical transitional period, will be exercised overtly by the party.
Before, during, and after the armed struggle for power, the party must also fulfil the following necessary tasks: the defence and propagation of revolutionary theory; the defence and reinforcement of the internal organisation through proselytism and propaganda for the communist theory and program; constant activity within the ranks of the proletariat wherever it is driven by economic needs and pressure to struggle in defence of its interests.
The party can include in its ranks neither all the individuals which constitute the proletarian class nor even the majority of the class. It includes only that minority which has attained a collective preparation and maturity, in theory and action, corresponding to the general vision and ultimate goal of the historical movement, in the entire world and throughout the historical course from the emergence of the proletariat to its revolutionary victory.
The party is not formed on the basis of individual consciousness. It not only is impossible for each and every proletarian to be conscious of the class doctrine, much less master it intellectually; but such a thing is not even possible for each party militant taken separately. Such a guarantee cannot even be given by the leaders, but only exists in the organic unity of the party.
Therefore, just as we reject every theory of individual action or of mass action independent of a precise organisational tissue, we also refuse any conception of the party as an assemblage of erudite, enlightened, or conscious individuals. Instead, the party is a tissue, a system, which has the organic function within the proletarian class of fulfilling the revolutionary tasks in all their aspects and through all their complex phases.
Marxism has always emphatically rejected the syndicalist theory wherever it appeared. This theory offers the class exclusively economic organs in the form of trade, industrial, or factory organisations, to which it attributes the ability to develop the social struggle and accomplish the social transformation.
While Marxism considers the trade union in itself to be an insufficient organ for the revolution, it regards it as an indispensable organ for the mobilisation of the class on the political and revolutionary level, which is effected through the presence and penetration of the communist party in the working class economic organisations. In the difficult phases presented by the formation of economic associations, only those associations containing solely proletarians and which proletarians join voluntarily, without being obliged to profess specific political, religious or social beliefs, can be considered as favourable for the party’s work. Such an open character does not exist in denominational organisations where membership is obligatory, nor in those that have become an integral part of the state apparatus.
The party never adopts the method of creating selective economic organisations composed only of workers who accept the principles and leadership of the communist party. But the party recognises unconditionally that neither the pre-insurrectionary situation nor the entire phase, when the party’s influence over the masses grows decisively, can take shape unless a layers of organisations for immediate economic defence involving a large proportion of the proletariat extends between the party and the class and unless a network emanating from the party (nuclei, groups, and communist trade union factions) exists within these organisations. The task of the party during unfavourable periods when the proletariat is reduced to passivity is to foresee the forms and encourage the emergence of organisations for carrying out the immediate struggle for economic defence. In the future such organisations may assume entirely new aspects, possibly different from the already well-known type of trade unions, industrial unions, factory councils and so on. The party always encourages forms of organisations that facilitate contact and common action between workers from different localities and different occupations, while it rejects closed forms.
In the succession of historical situations the party remains aloof from the idealist and utopian vision that entrusts the improvement of society to a union of chosen or enlightened individuals, apostles, or heroes; from the libertarian vision that entrusts the same task to individual rebellion or to a revolt of masses without organisation; from the syndicalist or economist vision that entrusts it to the action of economic, apolitical organisations, whether or not it is accompanied by advocacy of violence; and finally from the voluntarist and sectarian vision that, disregarding the real determinist process through which the class insurrection arises from actions and reactions which far precede theoretical consciousness and even a clear will, advocates a small “elite” party which either surrounds itself with extremist trade unions — none other that its own look-likes or commits the error of isolating itself from the proletariat’s network of economic and trade union organisations. The latter error was typical of the German KAPD and Dutch Tribunists(1), and was always fought against by the Italian Left within the Third International. The Italian Left took a specific position on the strategic and tactical questions of the proletarian struggle, which can only be treated in connection with that period and the sequence of historical phases in the proletarian movement.
(1) The members of the Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands (KAPD) in Germany, and the Dutch group inspired by Gorter and Pannekoek and assembled around the review De Tribune. They separated from the International definitively in 1921.
It is impossible to advocate a position of intransigence (that is of refusal on principle of all alliances, united fronts, or compromises) valid for all the historical phases of the proletarian movement, without lapsing into an idealism that seeks justification in mystical, ethical, and aesthetic considerations foreign to the Marxist vision. Questions of strategy, manoeuvre, tactics and practice of the class and of the party are posed and resolved only in the context of history. Consequently they must be understood in relation to the larger global process of the proletariat’s advance in the period between the bourgeois and proletarian revolutions, and not according to a minute study case by case preoccupied with particulars of place and time and entrusted to the whim of leadership groups and committees.
The proletariat itself is above all a product of the capitalist economy and industrialisation. Therefore, since communism cannot originate in the inspirations of individuals, academic circles, or sects, but only in the struggle of the proletarians themselves, one of the preconditions for communism is the irrevocable victory of capitalism over the forms that preceded it historically, in other words, the victory of the bourgeoisie over the feudal landed aristocracy and over the other classes of the ancien régime in Europe, Asia, and all countries.
At the time of the Communist Manifesto modern industry had only begun to develop and was limited to a very few countries. In order to hasten the explosion of the modern class struggle, the proletariat was called upon to fight alongside bourgeois revolutionaries in anti-feudal insurrections and in the wars of national liberation which in that period could only assume the form of armed struggles. Thus the participation of the workers in the great French revolution and in its defence against the European coalitions (including its Napoleonic phase) belongs to the great historical course of proletarian struggle, in spite of the fact that even then the bourgeois dictatorship suppressed the first communist social manifestations fiercely.
Due to the defeats suffered by the still allied proletarians and bourgeois in the revolutionary movements of 1848, Marxists consider this period of anti-feudal strategy to extend to 1871 in Europe since historical feudal regimes still existed in Russia, Austria, and Germany, and since the conquest of national unity in Italy, Germany, and also Eastern Europe remained a precondition for European industrial development.
The year 1871 is an obvious historical turning point. The struggle against Napoleon III and his dictatorship is already clearly a struggle against a capitalist form, not a feudal one, and hence a product and evidence of the antagonistic concentration of modern class forces. Although it perceived a military obstacle to the modern bourgeois historical development of Germany in Napoleon Ill, revolutionary Marxism immediately championed the exclusively proletarian struggle against the French bourgeoisie that was waged by all parties of the Paris Commune — the first workers’ dictatorship.
With this phase the possibility of a choice between two opposed historical groups and between two national armies is closed for Europe, since a “restoration” of pre-bourgeois forms had become socially impossible in two historical areas: England and North America on the one hand, and Europe as far as the border with the Czarist and Ottoman empires on the other.
Disregarding the Bakuninist movement in the First International (1867-1871) and the Sorelian movement in the Second International (1907-1914), which we consider foreign to Marxism, the first wave of opportunism in the ranks of the Marxist proletarian movement was social-democratic revisionism. With the bourgeoisie’s victory assured everywhere, a phase without insurrections and without wars was opened. The revisionist position, pointing to the extension of industry, the increase in the number of workers, and universal suffrage, held that socialism was possible through a gradual and bloodless evolution. Thus Bernstein attempted to empty Marxism of its revolutionary content by asserting that it did not belong to the working class, being instead a distorted reflection of the bourgeois insurrectionary period. In this phase, the tactical question of alliances between progressive or left bourgeois parties and proletarian parties acquired a new dimension. It was no longer a matter of assisting the birth of capitalism, but of passing from capitalism to socialism through laws and reforms; it was no longer a matter of fighting together in the city and countryside, but of voting together in parliamentary assemblies. Such a proposal of alliances and blocs and even the acceptance of cabinet posts by the proletariat’s leaders assumed the historical character of a defection from the revolutionary path, and therefore radical Marxists condemned all electoral blocs.
The terrible second wave of opportunism struck the proletarian movement at the outbreak of the war in 1914. Countless parliamentary and trade union leaders, large groups of militants, and even entire parties portrayed the war between states as a struggle that might lead to a restoration of feudal absolutism and to the destruction of the bourgeoisie’s civilised conquests as well as its modern productive network. Accordingly they preached solidarity with one’s own national state in war-time. This was so on both sides of the front, since on the side of the advanced bourgeoisies of England and France there was Czarist Russia.
The majority of the Second International plunged into opportunist complicity in the war. Few parties, among them the Italian Socialist Party, escaped this fate, and only advanced groups and factions aligned with Lenin, who defined the war as a product of capitalism and not a conflict between capitalism and more ancient social forms. Lenin concluded not only that the Union Sacrée and the national alliance had to be condemned, but that the proletarian parties in each country must call for revolutionary defeatism against all warring states and armies.
The Third International was formed on the historical anti-social-democratic and anti-social-patriotic basis.
The entire proletarian International not only refused the practice of alliances with other parties for the exercise of parliamentary power; more than that, it denied that the proletarian party alone could conquer power by legal means, however “intransigent” this party may be, and on the ruins of the peaceful phase of capitalism it reaffirmed the necessity of armed violence and the dictatorship.
Not only did the Third International repudiate all alliances with warring governments, even in “defensive” wars, and maintain a class opposition, even in wartime; beyond this, it strove to carry out defeatist action behind the battle lines in every country in order to transform the imperialist war between bourgeois states into a civil war between classes.
The revolutionary reply to the first wave of opportunism was the formula: no electoral, parliamentary, or ministerial alliances to obtain reforms.
The reply to the second wave was the tactical formula: no war alliance, after 1871, with one’s own state and bourgeoisie.
The belated effect of these reactions prevented the proletariat everywhere from taking advantage of the turning point and collapse of 1914-1918 to engage and win the fight for revolutionary defeatism and for the destruction of the bourgeois state.
The sole imposing historical exception was the victory of October 1917 in Russia. Russia was the only large European state still ruled by a feudal regime, and was only sparingly penetrated by capitalist forms of production. In Russia there was a numerically small party which had a tradition of firmly adhering to the correct positions of Marxist doctrine. It had opposed the two opportunist waves within the International, and after the splendid dress rehearsal of the 1905 uprising it had proven its ability to grapple with the problems of a fusion of two revolutions: bourgeois and proletarian.
This party fought alongside of the other parties against Czarism in February 1917, then immediately afterwards against both the liberal bourgeois parties and the opportunist proletarian parties, and succeeded in defeating all of them. Moreover, it played a central role in the reconstruction of the revolutionary International.
The significance of this tremendous event is crystallised in irrevocable historical results. In the easternmost country bordering the western European area a relentless struggle led the proletariat alone to power, even though its social development was not entirely complete. After sweeping away the western-style liberal-democratic forms that had just been instituted, the proletarian dictatorship undertook the enormous task of pressing forward economic evolution, a task which entailed overcoming both feudal and new-born capitalist forms. The accomplishment of this task required a victorious resistance against attacks by counter-revolutionary armies and capitalist forces. This necessitated the mobilisation of the whole world proletariat to the side of the Soviet power for the attack on the western bourgeois powers. And, with the spread of the revolutionary struggle to the continents inhabited by non-white peoples, it required the mobilisation of all the forces ready to take up armed revolt against the Imperialism of the white imperialist centres.
In the European area the strategy of anti-feudal blocs with the left-bourgeois movements is entirely closed and is replaced by the strategy of armed proletarian struggle for power. But in the backward countries, on the terrain of armed struggle, the emerging proletarian communist parties could not scorn participating in insurrections by other anti-feudal social elements either against the local despotic rulers or against the white colonial masters.
In Lenin’s time the historical alternative was as follows: either the world struggle of the proletariat would result in a victory with the overthrow of capitalist power at least in a large part of advanced Europe and the consequent transformation of the Russian economy at rapid tempo, leaping over the capitalist stage to catch up with western industry which was already ripe for socialism; or else the large centres of bourgeois imperialism would survive, with the consequence that the revolutionary power in Russia would have to retreat and confine itself to the tasks of only one of two social revolutions, the bourgeois revolution, applying an immense effort to the construction of a capitalist — not a socialist -economy.
Thus hastening the conquest of power in Europe was necessary to prevent the soviet state within a few short years from being violently overthrown or from degenerating into a capitalist state. As soon as it became apparent that bourgeois society was reconsolidating itself after the grave shock of the first World War, and that the communist parties would not succeed in winning their battles, except in a few very quickly suppressed attempts, the obviousness of this necessity prompted a search for means to destroy the influence still exerted on significant layers of proletarians by social democracy and opportunism.
Two counterpoised methods were advanced: the first considered the parties of the Second International, which were conducting an open and ruthless campaign against the communist program as well as against revolutionary Russia, as avowed enemies, and fought them as a part — the most dangerous — of the bourgeois class front. The second consisted in resorting to expedients, to strategic and tactical “manoeuvres”, in order that the masses influenced by the social-democratic parties could be won over to the communist party.
The second method was erroneously justified by invoking the experiences of Bolshevik policy in Russia, thereby deviating from the correct historical position. The Bolshevik’s proposals of alliances with other parties — petty-bourgeois and even bourgeois parties — were conditioned by the fact that Czarist power had declared all these movements illegal and compelled them to adopt insurrectionary struggle. In Europe it was not possible to propose common action, even for purposes of a manoeuvre, on the level of parliamentary or trade union legalism. In Russia, the experience of liberal parliamentarianism and legal trade unionism had been very brief in 1905 and lasted only a few months in 1917, whereas in the rest of Europe a half-century of degeneration had turned these domains into fertile ground for extinguishing all revolutionary energies and for imprisoning proletarian leaders in the service of the bourgeoisie. The guarantee provided by the Bolshevik party’s firmness in the area of organisation and with respect to principles was quite different from any guarantee offered by the existence of proletarian state power in Russia, since — as history has demonstrated — due to the very fact of the existing social relations and international relationship of forces, this power was more vulnerable to the danger of renouncing revolutionary principles and directives.
Consequently the left-wing of the International, to which the enormous majority of the Communist Party of Italy belonged until it was practically destroyed by reaction (promoted above all by the historical errors in strategy), demanded that in the West all alliances and proposals of alliances with socialist and petty-bourgeois political parties (the tactic of political united fronts) be rejected. It agreed that communists must attempt to enlarge their influence on the masses by participating in all economic and local struggles and by calling upon workers from all organisations and persuasions to develop these struggles to the maximum. But it denied absolutely that the activity of the party should ever be subordinated to the action of political committees, fronts, blocs, or alliances between several parties, even if only for the purpose of public declarations not affecting the internal intentions and directives of the party apparatus. With even greater vigour it rejected the alleged “Bolshevik” tactic when it assumed the form of the “workers’ government” slogan, an agitational formula (which on a few occasions led to disastrous practical experiences) for taking power by parliamentary means through a heterogeneous majority comprising communists and socialists of all shades. If the Bolshevik party had been able to envision participating without danger in provisional and multi-party governments during the revolutionary phase, and if this enabled it to pass immediately to the most abrupt autonomy of action and even the outlawing of its temporary allies, then this was possible solely because the configuration of historical forces was entirely different: the period of double revolution created an immense pressure, and the existing state was bound to crush any attempt to take power by parliamentary means. It was absurd to transpose such a strategy to a situation where the bourgeois state had a half-century of democratic tradition behind it, with parties that had submitted to constitutional legality.
In the balance, the tactical method pursued by the International from 1921 to 1926 proved negative, and in spite of this, at each Congress (Third, Fourth, and Fifth, and the Enlarged Executive of 1926), more opportunistic variants were adopted. This method was based on the following rule: change tactics according to the assessment of the situation. Every six months new stages in the development of capitalism were revealed by spurious analyses, and each stage had to be combated with new manoeuvres. This is what is at the root of revisionism, which has always been “voluntaristic”. When it recognised that the predictions about the advent of socialism had not yet been fulfilled, it thought it could force history with a new practice, but in fact it only ceased to struggle for the proletarian and socialist objective of our maximum program. The reformists of 1900 reasoned that since the situation precluded the possibility of insurrection from then on, it was senseless to await the impossible; why not work for concrete possibilities, elections, legal reforms, and union gains. When this method failed, trade union voluntarism reacted by placing the blame on political practice and on the political party as such, and advocated action by audacious minorities in a general strike led by the unions alone in order to change the situation.
Similarly, when the International saw that the Western proletariat did not take up the struggle for its own dictatorship, it resorted to expedients in order to break the impasse. The result of this was that once the momentary imbalance in capitalist forces had passed, the objective situation and the relationship of forces were not appreciably changed, while the movement became weakened and more and more corrupted. Thus it happened that the impatient revisionists to the right and left of revolutionary Marxism ended up in the service of the bourgeoisie in the Union Sacrée of the war. Theoretical preparation and the restoration of principles were sabotaged by the confusion created between the conquest of total power by the proletariat and the formation of “friendly” governments through the support and parliamentary or ministerial participation of communists. In Saxony and Thuringia the experiment ended in a farce, and only two policemen were needed to remove the government’s communist leader from his post.
No less confusion was caused in the realm of internal organisation, and the difficult task of splitting the revolutionary elements from the opportunists in different parties and countries was compromised. It was thought that new elements, easily manipulable by the centre, could be obtained by tearing off the left-wings en bloc from the socialist parties. The new International instead, after an initial period of formation, should have had a stable operation as the world party of the proletariat, to whose national sections new proselytes had to adhere individually. The conquest of large groups of workers was sought, but in reality there was only conniving with the leaders, and this disorganised the leading cadres of the communist parties, continuously changing and re-changing the composition of their leaderships during periods of active struggle. Factions and cells within the socialist and opportunist parties were acknowledged as communist, and organisational fusions were practised. Thus, rather than becoming fit for struggle, almost all parties were maintained in a state of permanent crisis, and functioned without continuity or a well-defined delimitation between friend and foe; consequently continuous failures occurred in the various nations. The Left instead demands organisational uniformity and continuity.
Another point of disagreement was the replacement of a territorial organisation of communist parties by one based on the workplace. This restricted the horizon of the rank-and-file organisations, which consequently comprised only elements from the same trade with parallel immediate economic interests. The natural synthesis of the various social “thrust” in the party with its single final objective was weakened. It was expressed only in slogans and directives transmitted by the representatives of the higher centres, who moreover had become party officials and began to exhibit all the characteristics that had been criticised in the political and trade union functionarism of the Second International. This critique cannot be confused with a demand for “internal democracy” or with the regret that party leaders cannot be chosen through “free elections”. Instead, at issue were a profound divergence of conceptions concerning the organic character of the party as an historical body living in the reality of the class struggle, and a profound deviation in principle, which rendered communist parties unable to foresee and confront the opportunist danger.
Analogous deviations arose within Russia, where, for the first time in history, the movement faced the difficult problem of organisation and discipline within a communist party that had attained total state power and naturally had undergone an enormous growth in its membership. The difficulties of the relationship between the domestic social struggle for a new economy and the external political revolutionary struggle created differences of opinion between the Bolshevik Old Guard and new members. The party’s leading body which now had not only the party apparatus, but also the entire state apparatus in its hand, was not content with basing itself on the party’s doctrine, its tradition of struggle, and the unity and organic character of the international revolutionary movement in order to promote its own opinions or those of the majorities which formed within the leadership, but began to suppress the opposition and protests of militants by means of measures executed by the state apparatus. It proclaimed that in the interest of the revolution any disobedience toward the party centre not only had to be suppressed by internal organisational measures, including even expulsion from the party, but it should also be considered as an attack against the revolutionary state. Such a false relationship between the two organs, the party and the state, obviously created the possibility that the group controlling both of them might enforce the abandonment of the principles and historical line that had characterised the party during the pre-revolutionary period and that belonged to the whole revolutionary proletarian movement.
The party must be considered an organism, united in its theory and action; and membership in it imposes binding obligations on the leaders and militants. But joining (or leaving) the party must not be accompanied by any physical coercion, and this rule must be observed before, during, and after the seizure of power. The party alone, and with complete autonomy, leads the struggle of the exploited class to overthrow the capitalist state, just as it leads the state of the revolutionary proletariat alone and with complete autonomy. But precisely in its capacity as an historically transitory revolutionary organ, the state cannot intervene with legal or police measures against members or groups in the party without this signifying a serious crisis. From the moment when this practice was adopted in Russia the party experienced an influx of opportunist elements with no other objective than to procure advantages or to induce the state to favour their interests, and these dubious members were accepted without hesitation. Thus, instead of the state beginning to wither away, the party dangerously swelled in size. Because of the mechanical reversal of this relationship, foreign elements succeeded in eliminating the orthodox Marxists from the leadership of the party and the Soviet state, and the betrayers of revolutionary principles were able to paralyse, then try and sentence the consistent defenders of those principles, including those who perceived the irreparable deviation too late. In fact, the government, feeling the repercussions of all the relations it maintained with domestic enemy forces as well as with foreign bourgeois governments (including antagonism and open struggle), resolved the problems and dictated solutions to the leadership and organisational centre of the Russian party. The latter, in turn, easily dominated the parties of the other countries in the international organisations and congresses and manipulated the directives of the Comintern which became increasingly conciliatory and eclectic.
The Italian Left, without contesting the revolutionary historical merits of the Russian party, which had led the first proletarian revolution to victory, always maintained that the contributions of other parties still engaged in open struggle with the bourgeois regime remained indispensable. Hence in order to resolve the questions of revolutionary action in Russia and the rest of the world, the following hierarchy was necessary: the International of world communist parties; its different sections, among them the Russian section; and finally, for Russian policy, the Communist government executing the party’s directives. Any other arrangement could only compromise the internationalist character of the movement and its revolutionary efficiency. Lenin himself had acknowledged on many occasions that if the revolution were to extend to Europe and the world, the Russian party would assume not even second place, but the fourth place at best in the general political and social leadership of the communist revolution. Only on this condition was it possible to avoid the possibility of a divergence between the interests of the Russian state and the objectives of the world revolution.
It is not possible to date precisely the beginning of the third opportunist wave, the third pathological degeneration of the world proletarian party, following the two previous ones which had paralysed Marx’s International and led to the shameful decline of the second Socialist International. After the political, tactical, and organisational deviations and errors dealt with in points 11 to 16 above, the International succumbed to a full-fledged opportunism with Moscow’s attitude toward totalitarian forms of bourgeois government and the repression of the revolutionary movement. These forms appeared after the great proletarian assaults that followed the first World War in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bavaria, the Balkan states, etc.. In a formula of questionable Marxist accuracy the International defined these forms, from the economic point of view, as a capitalist offensive aimed at lowering the standard of living of the working class, and, from the political point of view, as an attempt to suppress the freedom of liberal democracy. Whereas traditionally Marxism had considered liberal democracy to be the most propitious atmosphere for the corruption of the revolutionary movement, the International presented it as a milieu favourable for a proletarian offensive. These new forms were actually the fullest and most complete realisation of the great historical course foreseen only by Marxism: on the one hand, economic concentration testifying to the social and global character of capitalist production and compelling the capitalist system to consolidate its apparatus; on the other hand, the consequences in the area of politics and social war resulting from the inevitable final confrontation between classes envisioned by Marxism, corresponding to a situation in which the pressure exerted by the proletariat still remained below the defensive potential of the capitalist class state.
The leaders of the International committed a gross historical error by confusing these events of the postwar period with the Kerensky period in Russia. This led not only to a grave error of theoretical interpretation, but also to an unavoidable reversal in tactics. A defensive and conservative strategy was established for the proletariat and for the communist parties, recommending the formation of fronts with all the least combative and shrewdest bourgeois groups (and consequently the least sound allies) which maintained that it was necessary to secure immediate advantages for the workers without depriving the popular classes of rights of association, voting rights, etc.. The International did not understand that fascism or national socialism had nothing to do with a revival of feudal and despotic forms of government, nor did it signify a predominance of supposedly right bourgeois strata opposed to the more progressive big industrial capitalist class, much less an attempt by classes intermediate between the employers and the proletariat to set up an autonomous government. Moreover, it did not understand that fascism, discarding the repugnant mask of parliamentarism, inherited pseudo Marxist social reformism in toto, and assured the workers and the most deprived masses not just a vital minimum, but a series of advances in the realm of social assistance, through a number of measures and interventions by the class state in the interest of preserving capitalism. Thus the International issued the slogan of the struggle for freedom, which was imposed on the Italian party by the chairman of the International from 1926. Yet almost all the party’s militants wanted to combat fascism, then in its fourth year in power, with autonomous class politics, and not by making blocs with all the democratic, or even monarchist and catholic parties, for the purpose of demanding the return of constitutional and parliamentary guarantees. From this period the Italian communists had striven to denounce the content of the anti-fascism practised by all the middle bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, and pseudo-proletarian parties; and in vain they warned that all revolutionary energies would end up in ruins once the International had embarked on the path of degeneration which finally led to the Committees of National Liberation during the Second World War.
The policy of the communist party is by its very nature offensive, and in no case must it fight for an illusory preservation of conditions characteristic of capitalist institutions. If the proletariat had to fight alongside bourgeois forces in the period before 1871, it was not to enable the bourgeoisie to preserve its established positions or prevent the fall of historically attained forms, but instead to enable it to destroy and surpass historically antecedent forms. In the field of daily economics as in general world politics, the proletariat has nothing to lose and therefore nothing to defend, and its only task is to attack and conquer. Therefore in the appearance of concentrated, unified, and totalitarian forms of capitalism, the party above all must recognise its total ideological victory. It consequently must concern itself exclusively with the real relationship of forces for the preparation of the revolutionary civil war, since this relationship has been rendered unfavourable precisely by successive waves of opportunist and gradualist degeneration. It must do everything in its power to unleash the final attack, and when it cannot do this, it must face defeat; but it must never in a cowardly and defeatist manner beseech the devil of fascism to go away, which would amount to begging stupidly for tolerance or forgiveness from the class enemy.
In the second of the great historical opportunist waves the betrayal took humanitarian, philanthropic, and pacifist forms, and culminated in a repudiation of the insurrectional method and armed action, later turning into an apology for legalised state violence in the war. What is new in the third degenerative wave is that betrayal and deviation from the revolutionary class line are also presented in the form of combat and civil war. In the present phase, the critique of deviation from the class line remains the same, whether the latter takes the form of common fronts, blocs, or alliances formed for purely propagandist or electoral and parliamentary purposes, or whether it consists in a hybrid collusion with movements alien to the communist party with the object of bringing one government to power over another within a country by means of a military struggle entailing the conquest of territory or strongholds. Hence, the policy of alliances during the Civil War in Spain (during a period of international peace) as well as the entire partisan movement and the so-called “Resistance” against the Germans or the fascists (during World War II), despite the violent methods employed, represent an unequivocal betrayal of the class struggle and a form of collaboration with capitalist forces. The communist party’s refusal to subordinate itself to committees composed of heterogeneous parties or situated above parties can only become more resolute when legal agitation gives way to the vital and primordial domain of conspiracy, military preparation and military organisation, where it is criminal to have anything in common with non-proletarian movements. It is useless to recall that in cases of defeat, the collusions always ended with a barrage of reprisals against the communists, and in cases of apparent success, with the complete disarming of the revolutionary wing and the denaturation of its party, giving rise to a new consolidation of bourgeois law and order.
All these manifestations of opportunism, both in the tactics imposed on the European parties as well as in the governmental practice in Russia, were crowned after the outbreak of the Second World War by the Russian state’s policy vis à vis the other belligerent states and by the directives given by Moscow to the communist parties. Not only did these parties not refuse to support the war in all capitalist countries, nor take advantage of the war in order to initiate class actions of revolutionary defeatism with the objective of smashing the state; on the contrary, in the first phase Russia concluded an agreement with Germany, and consequently, while it was decided that the German section should not take action against the Hitler regime, Russia dared to dictate a so-called Marxist tactic to the French and English bourgeoisies, and Moscow recommended that the parties conduct illegal actions against the state and army. But as soon as the Russian state found itself in military conflict with Germany, it consequently acquired an interest in the effectiveness of all the forces opposed to Germany. Not only were the parties in France, England, etc., given the opposite political directive and the command to go over to the Front for national defence (exactly as the Socialists denounced by Lenin had done in 1914), but all theoretical and historical positions were reversed, and the war conducted by the Western powers against Germany was declared — not imperialist — but a war for freedom and democracy, and this from the very beginning, since 1939, when the war broke out and all the pseudo-communist press and propaganda had been directed against England and France.
Thus it is clear that the forces of the Communist International (which formally was liquidated as a certain point in order to provide the imperialist powers with a better guarantee that the communist parties in those countries were completely at the service of their respective nations and fatherlands) had not been employed at any time during the long war to bring about the fall of a capitalist power or the conditions for a conquest of power by the working class. Instead, they were employed only in open collaboration with an imperialist camp; and moreover a collaboration with one or another camp according to the changing military and national interests of Russia. The fact that it was no longer a case of simple opportunist tactics, even driven to its extreme, but a total abandonment of the historical positions of communism was proved by the audacity with which the political appreciation of the bourgeois powers was reversed. France, England, and the United States, defined as imperialist and plutocratic in 1939-40, became representatives of progress, freedom, and civilisation in the subsequent years, and shared the program for world reorganisation with Russia. But such a spectacular transformation, which was alleged to be in conformity with the theory and texts of Marx and Lenin, did not even have a definitive character, since the first dissensions after 1946 and the first local conflicts in Europe and Asia were enough for Russia and its followers to condemn these same states, in the stronger language, as the most heinous imperialism.
The ordeals faced by the revolutionary parties that assembled in Moscow in 1919-20 spiralled as they went from contacts with the just denounced social-traitors and social-patriots, to united fronts, to experiments with coalition workers’ governments that renounced the dictatorship, to blocs with petty bourgeois and democratic parties, and finally to a total enslavement in the war policies of capitalist powers, today [19511 not only openly acknowledged to be imperialist, but even no less “fascist” than Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Consequently it is no wonder that in the last thirty years any vestige of revolutionary class character in these parties has been completely destroyed.
The third historical wave of opportunism has combined the worst characteristics of the two preceding waves, just as capitalism incorporates all the phases of its development in its modern structure.
At the end of the second imperialist war the opportunist parties were allied with all the avowed bourgeois parties in the Committees of National Liberation and participated alongside them in the formation of constitutional governments. In Italy they even participated directly in monarchist cabinets, deferring the questions of the institutional state form to a more “opportune” moment. Consequently they repudiated the use of revolutionary means for the conquest of political power by the proletariat, sanctioning the necessity of legal and parliamentary struggle, to which all the class impulses of the proletariat had to be subordinated in the interest of a conquest of political power by a peaceful and electoral road. They advocated participation in governments of national defence, preventing any opposition to governments committed to the war, just as they had refrained from sabotaging the fascist governments during the first years of the conflict, and supported the war efforts through the production of indispensable goods.
Opportunism pursued its disastrous course, and even sacrificed the Third International formally to the class enemy of the proletariat, imperialism, in order to promote “a further strengthening of the United Front of the Allies and other united nations”. Thus the historical prediction of the Italian Left, formulated during the first years of the existence of the Third International, had come true. It was inevitable that the growth of opportunism and its domination over the workers’ movement should lead to the liquidation of all its revolutionary orientations.
Therefore the reconstruction of the class force of the world proletariat has been severely belated and difficult, and will require a greater effort than ever before.
The counter-revolutionary influence on the world proletariat, which was broadened and deepened by the direct participation of opportunist parties on the side of the victorious states in the second world conflict, has resulted in a military occupation of the defeated states in order to prevent an uprising of the exploited masses. This occupation was accepted and justified in its counter-revolutionary intent by all the so-called socialist and communist parties during the conferences at Yalta and Teheran. Thus any serious possibility of revolutionary attack against the bourgeois powers was obstructed, both in the victorious allied countries and in the defeated countries. This demonstrated the correctness of the position of the Italian Left, which considered World War Il to be imperialist and the military occupation of the defeated countries to be counter-revolutionary, and predicted the absolute impossibility of an immediate revolutionary resurgence.
In perfect consistency with all its increasingly counter-revolutionary past, Russia and its affiliated parties modernised the theory of permanent class collaboration, postulating the peaceful, global co-existence between capitalist and socialist states. A peaceful competition between states was substituted for the struggle between states, burying once more the doctrine of revolutionary Marxism. A socialist state, if it does not declare holy war against imperialist states, declares and maintains the class struggle within the bourgeois countries, and prepares the proletariat in theory and practice for insurrection. This is the only position that conforms to the program of the communist parties, which do not hesitate to proclaim openly their opinions and aims (The Communist Manifesto, 1848), and advocate and postulate precisely the violent destruction of bourgeois power.
Therefore the states and the parties that admit the hypothesis of peaceful “coexistence” and “competition” between states instead of propagating the absolute incompatibility between enemy classes and the armed struggle for the liberation of the proletariat from the yoke of capitalism, are in reality neither revolutionary states nor revolutionary parties, and their phraseology only mask the capitalist content of their structure.
The persistence of this ideology within the ranks of the proletariat represents a tragic obstacle. Until it is surmounted there will be no resurgence of the class struggle.
The political opportunism of the third wave appears more abject and shameful than its predecessors, since it has descended to the most repugnant depths of pacifism.
The manoeuvre that consists in alternating between pacifism and partisan resistance conceals the triple scandalous about-face in the appreciation of Anglo-American capitalist imperialism, defined as imperialist in 1939, democratic and a “liberator” of the European proletariat in 1942, and once again as imperialist today.
In reality, even at the time of World War I, American capitalism showed that it was a powerfully reactionary and imperialist power (albeit in a lesser degree than today). Lenin and the Third International drew attention to this several times during the glorious period of revolutionary struggle.
By exploiting the attraction pacifism possesses for the workers, opportunism exercises an undeniable profound influence on them, although it is obviously inseparable from social pacifism.
Defence of peace and country constitutes propaganda themes common to all states and parties coexisting within the United Nations, the new edition of the League of Nations, that “den of thieves” as Lenin called it. These themes are based on class collaboration and represent the fundamental principles of opportunism.
The present-day opportunists show that they are completely outside the revolutionary process, and that they are not even at the level of the utopians, Saint-Simon, Owen, Fourier, nor even at the level of Proudhon himself.
Revolutionary Marxism rejects pacifism as a theory and a propaganda method, and subordinates peace to the violent overthrow of world imperialism. There will be no peace until the whole world proletariat has been liberated from bourgeois exploitation. Moreover, Marxism denounces pacifism as a weapon of the class enemy used to disarm the proletariat and deliver it from the influence of the Revolution.
It has become a habitual practice for opportunism to offer a helping hand to the parties of imperialism, to form national governments of “national unity” between classes. Stalinist opportunism has realised this aspiration in the highest bourgeois international organisation, the United Nations, declaring an increasingly broader, unlimited inter-class collaboration on the condition that war between the two rival imperialist blocs be avoided and that the repressive apparatus of the states be camouflaged by a veil of democracy and reformism.
Where Stalinism rules uncontested it has realised this conditions by setting up a national power in which all social classes are represented. In this way it pretends to harmonise opposed interests, as in the bloc of four classes in China, where the proletariat, far from having conquered political power, is constantly subjected to the pressure of youthful industrial capitalism, and pays the price of “National Reconstruction” on the same basis as the proletariat of all the other countries of the world.
The disarming of revolutionary forces offered to the bourgeoisie by the social patriots of 19 14 and by the ministerialists such as Millerand, Bissolati, Vandervelde, Mac Donald, etc., scourged and battered by Lenin and the International, pales before the scandalous and cynical collaboration of the present social-patriots and ministeria lists. The Italian Left opposed the slogan of “workers’ and peasants’ government”, showing that either it was a synonym for the dictatorship of the proletariat, and was thus an equivocation and a pleonasm, or it meant something else, and was thus unacceptable. It rejected all the more the overt theory of class collaboration, even if it was presented as a transitory tactical means. It claimed the unconditional monopoly of the state and its organ by the proletariat and the class party and called for its unitary and indivisible class dictatorship.
Since its inception the history of capitalism has presented an irregular development marked by the periodic cycle of crises, established by Marx to be more or less ten years apart and preceded by periods of intense continuous development.
Crises are inseparable from capitalism which, in spite of these, does not cease to grow, expand, and swell, until the matured forces of the revolution deal it a final blow. Parallel to this the history of the proletarian movement during the course of the capitalist period presents phases of high pressure and advance, phases of sudden or gradual retreat caused by defeat or degeneration, and phases of long wait before a resurgence. The Paris Commune was violently defeated and a period of relatively peaceful development followed, during which precisely the revisionist and opportunist theories emerged, proving the retreat of the revolution.
The October Revolution was defeated through a gradual involution, culminating in the violent annihilation of its surviving architects. Since 1917 the revolution has been the missing element and even today (1951) a resurgence of the revolutionary forces does not appear to be imminent.
In spite of its cyclical crises the capitalist mode of production has extended and taken hold in all countries almost without relent in its technical and social aspects. On the other hand, the tormented history of antagonistic class forces is linked to the vicissitudes of the general historical struggle, to the potential contradiction already present at the dawn of bourgeois rule over the feudal and pre-capitalist classes, and to the political evolution of the two historical class enemies, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, a development marked by victories and defeats, by error in tactics and strategy. The first clashes date from 1789, proceeding through 1848, 1871, 1905 and 1917 to today. All the while the bourgeoisie has sharpened its weapons of struggle against the proletariat, corresponding to the increasing growth of its economy.
By contrast, in the face of the gigantic extension and growth of capitalism, the proletariat has not always been able to employ its class energies successfully, and after every defeat has fallen back into the net of opportunism and betrayal, remaining far from the revolution for an increasingly long period of time.
The cycle of victorious struggles, of even more disastrous defeats, and of opportunist waves in which the revolutionary movement has succumbed to the influence of the enemy class, represents a broad field of positive experiences through which the revolution matures.
After the defeats, the revolutionary resurgences have been long and difficult. But although it does not appear on the surface of political events, the thread of the movement has not been broken; it maintains the revolutionary class tradition crystallised in a small vanguard.
Periods of political depression:
- from 1848 to 1867, from the second Parisian revolution to the eve of the Franco-Prussian war, the revolutionary movement was embodied almost exclusively in Marx and Engels and a small circle of comrades.
- from 1872 to 1889, from the defeat of the Paris Commune to the beginning of the colonial war and the re-opening of the capitalist crisis which would lead to the Russo-Japanese war and then to World War I, a period of reflux of the movement during which the consciousness of the revolution is represented by Marx and Engels.
- from 1914 to 1918, the period of World War I during which the Second International collapsed and Lenin and other comrades from a few countries carried the movement forward.
With 1926 another unfavourable period for the revolution began during which the October victory was liquidated. Only the Italian Left maintained the theory of revolutionary Marxism intact and in it alone are crystallised the premises of the class resurgence. During World War II the conditions of the movement worsened further, since the war placed the whole proletariat at the service of imperialism and Stalinist opportunism.
Today we are in the midst of the depression, and a resurgence of the revolutionary movement is conceivable only after a period of many years. The length of the period corresponds to the gravity of the wave of degeneration, as well as to the increasingly large concentration of enemy capitalist forces. On the one hand Stalinism has assumed the most destructive characteristics of the two preceding waves of opportunism, and on the other the process of capitalist concentration today is tar greater than that immediately following World War I.
Today, although we are at the deepest point of the political depression and the possibilities for action are considerably reduced, the party, following revolutionary tradition, does not intend to break the historical line of preparation for a future large-scale resurgence of the class movement, which must Integrate all the results of the previous experiences. The restricted nature of practical activity does not mean a renunciation of revolutionary postulates. The party recognises that the restriction of certain sectors of activity is quantitatively accentuated, but the entirety of the aspects of its activities is not changed on account of this, and the party does not renounce any area deliberately.
Today the principal activity is the restoration of the theory of Marxist communism. We are still at the stage of “the weapon of critique”. The party will present no new doctrine but reaffirms the full validity of the fundamental theses of revolutionary Marxism, which have been confirmed amply by facts and more than once falsified and betrayed by opportunism in order to cover retreats and defeats.
The Italian Left denounces and combats the Stalinists today, as it has always denounced all revisionists and opportunists.
The party bases its activity on anti-revisionist positions. Lenin combated the revisionism of Bernstein as soon as it appeared on the political scene, and restored the principled line by demolishing the arguments of the two social-democratic and social-patriotic revisions.
The Italian Left denounced the first tactical deviations as soon as they emerged within the Third International, as the first symptoms of a third revision, which has manifested itself fully today and which contains the errors of the first two.
The proletariat is the last exploited class and consequently in its turn will exploit no one. This is precisely why the doctrine was born with the birth of the proletarian class itself and can be neither modified nor revised.
The development of capitalism from its inception to today confirms the theorems of Marxism as they are set down in the classical texts, and all the purported “innovations” or “teachings” of the last thirty years only confirm that capitalism still lives and must be destroyed. Therefore the central point of the present doctrinal position of the movement is this: no revision of the original principles of the proletarian revolution.
The Party today undertakes a work of scientific observation of social phenomena, with the aim of confirming the fundamental theses of Marxism. It analyses, confronts, and comments on recent and contemporary events. It repudiates any doctrinal elaboration that tends to found new theories or to demonstrate the inadequacy of the Marxist doctrine for the explanation of phenomena.
All this work of demolishing opportunism and “deviationism” (Lenin: What Is To Be Done?) is today the basis of party activity. The party follows revolutionary tradition and experiences in this work during these periods of revolutionary reflux and the proliferation of opportunist theories which had as their violent and inflexible opponents Marx, Engels, Lenin and the Italian Left.
With this correct revolutionary evaluation of the present-day tasks in hand, the party, although small and having only limited links with the mass of the proletariat, although tenaciously attached to the theoretical task as the most immediate task, absolutely refuses to consider itself as a circle of thinkers or simple researchers who are looking for new truths or who have supposedly lost yesterday’s truth and consider it inadequate.
No movement can triumph in history without a theoretical continuity, which is the experience of previous struggles. Consequently the party prohibits personal freedom to elaborate and conjure up new schemata and explanations of the contemporary social world. It prohibits the individual freedom of analysis, critique, and perspective even for its members who are the best prepared intellectually, and defends the firmness of a theory which is not the product of blind faith, but the content of the proletarian class science, constructed from the experiences of several centuries, not from the thought of individuals, but from the force of material facts, reflected in the historical consciousness of a revolutionary class and crystallised in its party. Material facts have only confirmed the doctrine of revolutionary Marxism.
The party, despite the limited number of its members resulting from clearly counter-revolutionary conditions, does not suspend proselytism and the propagation of its principles in all oral and written forms, even if its meetings are attended by only a few individuals and its press has a limited circulation. The party considers its press as the principal activity in the present phase, since it is one of the most effective means permitted by the real situation for indicating the correct political line for the masses to follow, and for an organic and more extensive propagation of the principles of the revolutionary movement.
Events, and not the will or determination of individuals, thus also determine the extent to which the penetration of the broad masses is possible, limiting it today to a small part of the party’s general activity. Nonetheless the party does not pass up the opportunity to insert itself into every fracture, every break, knowing well that there can be no resurgence until this sector of its activity has been expanded amply and has become dominant.
The acceleration of the process depends not only on the profound social causes of historical crises, but also on the work of proselytism and propaganda with the reduced means at the party’s disposal. The party denies absolutely that the process can be stimulated by expedient recipes and manoeuvres directed at groups, leaders and apparatchiks that usurp the name “proletarian”, “socialist”, or “communist”. These methods, which characterised the tactics of the Third International after Lenin’s absence from the political scene, had no other effect than the disorientation of the Comintern as the organisational expression of the theory and the operative force of the movement, while every “tactical expedient” caused the parties to lose sections of their membership. These methods have been advocated and approved by the Trotskyist movement and by the Fourth International, which wrongly consider them to be communist methods.
There are no fixed recipes for accelerating the class resurgence. There are no “manoeuvres” or “expedients” that can make the proletariat listen to its class voice. Such methods cannot make the party appear for what it truly is, but instead deform its function, undermining and compromising the effective resurgence of the revolutionary movement, since the latter is based on the real maturation of the situation and on the ability of the party to respond adequately, an ability that it can acquire only through doctrinal and political inflexibility. The Italian Left has always combated the method of resorting to tactical expedients to stay afloat, denouncing it as a deviation from principles and incompatible with Marxist determinism.
The party, in line with its previous experiences, thus abstains from issuing or accepting invitations, open letters, and agitational slogans as a basis for forming committees, fronts, and agreements with other political movements and organisations, whatever they may be.
The party does not conceal the fact that in phases of resurgence it cannot strengthen itself in an autonomous way unless a form of trade union associationism of the masses emerges.
Although the trade union has not always been free from the influence of the enemy classes and has functioned as a vehicle of extended and profound deviations and deformations, and although it is not a specific revolutionary instrument, nonetheless it is an object of the party’s attention, and the party does not refuse voluntarily to work within it, distinguishing itself clearly from all the other political groups. While the party recognises that it can conduct trade union activity only in a sporadic manner today, it never renounces this activity. From the moment when the concrete numerical relationship between its members, sympathisers, and unionised workers in a given branch reaches a certain proportion, and on the condition that the organisation in question does not exclude in its statutes and a priori the possibility of conducting an autonomous class activity, the party will undertake to penetrate it and attempt to conquer its leadership.
The party is not a direct descendent of the Abstentionist (Left-Wing) Faction of the Italian Socialist Party, although this tendency played a large role in the movement that culminated in the formation of the Communist Party of Italy at Livorno in 1921. The opposition of the Left within the Communist Party of Italy and the Communist International was not based on the theses of abstentionism, but on other basic questions. Parliamentarianism loses its importance little by little with the development of the capitalist state, which will assume the form of an open class dictatorship as Marxism has recognised since its inception. Even where they seem to survive, the parliamentary electoral institutions of the traditional bourgeoisies are emptied of their content more and more. What remains is only an empty phraseology which in moments of social crisis reveals the open dictatorial form of the state as the final expression of capitalism, against which the revolutionary proletariat must direct its violence. Therefore since this historical level and this present relationship of forces has been reached, the party can have no interest in democratic elections of any kind and does not develop its activity into this domain.
It is a fact of revolutionary experience that revolutionary generations succeed each other rapidly and that the cult of the individual is a dangerous aspect of opportunism, since the defection of old leaders to the enemy and to conformism due to exhaustion is a natural fact confirmed by rare exceptions. This is why the party directs the maximum attention to the youth and devotes the maximum effort to the recruitment of young militants and to their preparation for political activity, excluding any careerism or personality cult.
In the present historical atmosphere of counter-revolutionary high potential, we are compelled to create young leadership elements which will guarantee the continuity of the revolution. The contribution of a new revolutionary generation is a necessary condition for the resurgence of the movement.