Amadeo Bordiga. 1965

Considerations on the party’s organic activity when the general situation is historically unfavourable

1. The so-called question of the party’s internal organisation has always been a subject in the positions of traditional Marxists and of the present Communist Left, born as an opposition to the errors of the Moscow International. Naturally, such a topic is not to be isolated in a watertight compartment, but is instead inseparable from the general framework of our positions.

2. What is part of the doctrine, of the party’s general theory, can be found in the classical texts; it is also exhaustively summarised in more recent works, in Italian texts such as the Rome and Lyon theses, and in many others with which the Left made known its prediction of the Third International’s ruin; the phenomena the latter demonstrated were no smaller in seriousness than those related to the Second International. Such literature is still partly being used now in the study on organisation (meant in its narrow sense as party organisation and not in the broad sense of proletarian organisation, in its varying historical and social forms) and we are not trying to summarise it here, referring the reader to the above mentioned texts and to the vast work in progress of the "Storia della Sinistra", of which the second volume is being prepared.

3. Anything concerning the party’s ideology and nature, being common to us all and beyond dispute, is left to pure theory; and the same goes for the relations between the party and its own proletarian class, that can be condensed to the obvious inference that only with the party and with party action the proletariat becomes a class for itself and for the revolution.

4. We are used to call questions of tactics – though we repeat that autonomous chapters or sections do not exist - those historically arising and going on in the relations between the proletariat and other classes; between the proletarian party and other proletarian organisations; and between the party and other bourgeois and non-proletarian parties.

5. The relation existing between the tactical solutions, such as not to be condemned by the doctrinal and theoretical principles, and the varied development of situations, objective and – in a sense – external to the party, is undoubtedly very changeable; but the Left has asserted that the party must dominate and foresee such relations, as is developed in the Rome theses on tactics meant as a project of theses for international tactics.

There are, synthesising to the extreme, periods of objective favourable conditions, together with unfavourable conditions of the party as subject; there may be the opposite case; and there have been rare but suggestive examples of a well prepared party and of a social situation with the masses thrown towards revolution; and towards the party which foresaw and described it in advance, as Lenin vindicated for Russia’s Bolsheviks.

6. By avoiding pedantic distinctions, we may wonder in which objective situation is today’s society. Certainly the answer is that it is the worst possible situation, and that a large part of proletariat is controlled by parties – hired by the bourgeoisie – that prevent the proletariat itself from any classist revolutionary movement; which is even worse than direct crushing by the bourgeoisie. It is not therefore possible to foresee how long it will take before – in this dead and shapeless situation – what we already termed as "polarisation" or "ionisation" of social molecules, takes place, preceding the outburst of the great class antagonism.

7. What are, in this unfavourable period, the consequences for the party’s internal organic dynamics? We always said, in all the above mentioned texts, that the party cannot avoid being influenced by the character of the real situation surrounding it. Therefore the big existing proletarian parties are – necessarily and avowedly – opportunist.

It is a fundamental thesis of the Left, that our party must not abstain from resisting in such a situation; it must instead survive and hand down the flame, along the historical "thread of time". It will be a small party, not owing to our will or choice, but because of ineluctable necessity. While thinking of the structure of this party, even in the IIIrd International’s epoch of decadence, and in countless polemics, we rejected – with arguments that it is now unnecessary to recall – several accusations. We don"t want a secret sect or élite party, refusing any contact with the outside, owing to a purity mania. We reject any formula of workerist or labourist party excluding all non-proletarians; as it is a formula belonging to all historical opportunists. We don’ t want to reduce the party to an organisation of a cultural, intellectual and scholastic type, as from polemics more than half a century old; neither do we believe, as certain anarchists and blanquists do, that a party is imaginable which is involved in conspiratorial armed action and in hatching plots.

8. Being the opposite of the social complex concentrated on falsification and destruction of theory and sound doctrine, it is evident that today’s small party has, as an outstanding character, the duty of restoring the principles of doctrinal value; but it is unfortunately deprived of the favourable setting that saw Lenin achieving such a work after the disaster of the First World War. But it does not imply that we have to erect a barrier between theory and practical action; because beyond a given limit we would destroy ourselves and all our basic principles. We thus claim all forms of activity peculiar to the favourable periods, insofar as the real force relations render it possible .

9. All this should be treated much more broadly, but it is still possible to achieve a conclusion about the party’s organisational structure in such a difficult transition. It would be a fatal error to consider the party as dividable into two groups, one of which is dedicated to the study and the other to action; such a distinction is deadly for the body of the party, as well as for the individual militant. The meaning of unitarism and of organic centralism is that the party develops inside itself the organs suited to the various functions, which we call propaganda, proselytism, proletarian organisation, union work, etc., up to tomorrow, the armed organisation; but nothing can be inferred from the number of comrades destined for such functions, as on principle no comrade must be left out of any of them.

The fact that in this phase the comrades devoted to theory and to the movement’s history may seem too many, and too few those yet ready to action, is a historical accident. But above all it would be senseless to carry out an investigation into the number of those devoted to the one and to the other display of energy. We all know that, when the situation radicalises, countless elements will side with us, in an immediate, instinctive way, and without the least training course aping scholastic qualifications.

10. We know very well that the opportunist danger, ever since Marx fought against Bakunin, Proudhon, Lassalle, and during all the further phases of the opportunist disease, has always been tied to the influence on the proletariat of petty-bourgeois false allies. Our infinite diffidence towards the contribution of these social strata cannot, and must not, prevent us from utilising – according to history’s mighty lessons - exceptional elements coming from them; the party will destine such elements to the work of setting the theory to order; the lack of such a work would only mean death, while in the future its plan of propagation will have to identify it with the immense extension of revolutionary masses.

11. The violent sparks that flashed between the reophores [???] of our dialectics instructed us that a comrade, communist and revolutionary militant is one who has been able to forget, to renege on, to tear away from his mind and from his heart the classification in which he has been enrolled by the Register of this putrescent society; one who sees and mingles himself in the whole of the millenary space that binds the ancestral, tribal man, fighter against wild beasts, with the member of the future community, fraternal in the joyous harmony of social man.

12. Historical party and formal party.

This distinction is in Marx and Engels and they were right to deduce from it that, being through their work in the line of the historical party, they disdained to be members of any formal party. But no one of today’s militants can infer from it he has the right to a choice: that is of being clearly with the "historical party", and to care nothing about the formal party. Thus it is, owing to the sound intelligence of that proposition of Marx and Engels, which has a dialectical and historical sense - and not because they were supermen of a very special type of race.

Marx says: party in its historical meaning, in the historical sense, and formal, or ephemeral, party. In the first concept lies the continuity, and from it we have derived our characteristic thesis of the invariance of doctrine since its formulation by Marx; not as the invention of a genius, but as the discovery of a result of human evolution. But the two concepts are not metaphysically opposite, and it would be silly to express them by the poor doctrine : I turn my back on the formal party, as I go towards the historical one.

When from the invariant doctrine we draw the conclusion that the revolutionary victory of the working class can only be achieved with the class party and its dictatorship; when, on the basis of Marx’s words we maintain that without a revolutionary and communist party, the proletariat may be a class for bourgeois science, but it is not for us and Marx himself; then the conclusion to be deduced is that, in order to achieve victory, it will be necessary to have a party, worthy at the same time of both characteristics, those of historical party and formal party, i.e. to have solved in the reality of action and history the apparent contradiction – that dominated a long and difficult past – between historical party, then as far as the content (historical, invariant programme) is concerned, and contingent party, that is relating to the form, operating as a force and a physical praxis of a decisive part of the struggling proletariat.

This synthetic clarification of the doctrinal question must also be quickly related to the historical transitions lying behind us.

13. The first transition from a body of small groups and leagues – which the workers’ struggle came out of – to the International party foreseen by doctrine, takes place when the 1st International is founded in 1864. There is no point now in reconstructing the process leading to the crisis of such an organisation, that under Marx’s direction was defended to the last from infiltration of petty-bourgeois programmes such as those of libertarians.

In 1889 the IInd International is built, after Marx’s death, but under Engels’ control, though his directions are not followed. For a moment there is the tendency to have again in the formal party the continuation of the historical one, but all that is broken up in the following years by the federalist and non-centralist type of party; by the influences of parliamentary practice and by the cult of democracy; by the nationalist outlook on individual sections, no longer conceived as armies at war against their own state – as was wanted by the 1848 Manifesto; open revisionism rises up disparaging the historical end and exalting the contingent and formal movement.

The rise of the IIIrd International, after the 1914 disastrous failure of almost all sections into pure democratism and nationalism, was seen by us – in the first years after 1919 – as the complete reconnection of historical party and formal party. The new International arose declaredly centralist and anti-democratic, but the historical praxis of the entrance into it of the sections federated in the failed International was particularly difficult, and made in too much of a hurry by the expectation that the transition, from the seizure of power in Russia to that in other European countries, would be immediate.

If the section that in Italy rose from the ruins of the old party of IInd International, was particularly inclined – not certainly by virtue of persons, but because of its historical origins – to feel the necessity of welding together the historical movement and its present form, that was due to the hard struggles it waged against the degenerated forms, and to the refusal of infiltrations; which were not only attempted by those forces dominated by nationalist, parliamentary and democratic type positions, but also by those (in Italy, maximalism) influenced by anarcho-syndicalist, petty- bourgeois revolutionarism. Such left-wing current fought particularly in order to have more rigid conditions of admissions (construction of the new formal structure), completely put them into effect in Italy, and it was the first to realise the danger for the whole International, when they gave faulty results in France, Germany, etc.

The historical situation, in which the proletarian State was only formed in one country, while in the others the conquest of power had not been achieved, made difficult the clear organic solution of leaving in the hands of the Russian section the helm of the world organisation.

The Left was the first to realise that, whenever the behaviour of the Russian State would start showing signs of deviations – both in internal economy and in international relations – a discrepancy would take place between the politics of the historical party, i.e. of all revolutionary communists of the world, and that of a formal party defending the interests of the contingent Russian State.

14. Such an abyss has since then been fallen into that the "apparent" sections, depending on the Russian leader- party, are carrying out, in the ephemeral sense, a vulgar policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie, no better than the traditional one of the corrupted parties of the IInd International.

The above enables, and entitles, the groups that come from the struggle of the Italian Left against Moscow’s degeneration, to understand better than anyone else on which path the true, active (and therefore formal) party can keep itself faithful to the characters of the revolutionary, historical party; that potentially exists at least since 1847, which, from a practical point of view, proved itself in great historical events, through the tragic series of the revolution’s defeats.

The transmission of this undeformed tradition, to the efforts made to create, without historical pauses, a new international party organisation cannot be organisationally based on the choice of men, though very qualified or well informed of the historical doctrine. Organically speaking, such transmission can only utilise, in the most faithful way, the line linking the action of the group through which the above mentioned tradition revealed itself 40 years ago, to the present line. The new movement cannot wait for supermen, nor have Messiahs, it must be founded on the revival of what could be preserved for a long time; but preservation cannot be restricted to the teaching of theses and to the search for documents, it uses living instruments in order to form an old guard and to hand over – uncorruptedly and potently – to a young guard. The latter rushes off towards new revolutions, that might have to wait not more than a decade from now the action on the foreground of the historical scene; the party and the revolution having no concern at all for the names of the former and the latter.

The correct transmission of that tradition beyond generations – and also for this beyond names of dead or living men – cannot be restricted to that of critical texts, nor only to the method of utilising the communist party’s doctrine by being close and faithful to classical texts; it must be related to the class battle that the Marxist Left – we don’t want to limit the revival only to the Italian region – set out and carried out in the most inflamed real struggle during the years after 1919, and that was broken, more than by the relations of force with respect to the enemy class, by the dependence on the centre, the centre of the historical world party degenerating to that of an ephemeral party, destroyed by opportunist pathology, until such dependence was, historically and de facto, broken.

The Left historically tried, without breaking from the principle of world centralised discipline, to give revolutionary battle – although defensive – while keeping the vanguard proletariat intact from any collusion with the middle classes, their parties and their doomed-to- defeat ideologies. Having even the historical chance of saving, if not the revolution, at least the core of its historical party, being missed, it has today begun all over again, in a torpid and indifferent objective situation, within a proletariat infected to the bone by petty-bourgeois democratism. But the dawning organism, by utilising the whole of the doctrinal and praxis-based tradition – as confirmed by the historical verification of timely expectations – puts it into effect also with its everyday action; it pursues the aim of re-establishing an always wider contact with the exploited masses, and it eliminates from its structure one of the starting errors of the Moscow International, by getting rid of democratic centralism and of any voting mechanism, as well as every last member eliminating from his ideology any concession to democratoid, pacifist, autonomist or libertarian trends.