Community and Communism in Russia (I)
by: Jacques Camatte
Translation: David Brown
Published: In French in Invariance Series II, n. 4, 1974. In English 1978.
Markup: Transcription from the John Gray website. Markup by Rob Lucas, 2006.
Public domain: This work is completely free.



This text was originally intended to be the introduction to a french language edition of two of Amadeo Bordiga's texts on Russia: Russia and Revolution in Marxist Theory and Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today. However this proposed edition was the subject of legal action by the International Communist Party who claimed they held the copyright and was never published. Camatte's introduction was finally published in Invariance Series II, n. 4, 1974. This translation by David Brown was published in London in 1978.

Subsequently part of Bordiga's Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today was published (first by Editions de l'oubli in 1975, later by Spartacus) with a different introduction by Camatte. Russia and Revolution in Marxist Theory itself was finally published by Spartacus in 1978.

Publishing Bordiga's texts on Russia and writing an introduction to them was rather repugnant to us. The Russian revolution and its involution are indeed some of the greatest events of our century. Thanks to them, a horde of thinkers, writers, and politicians are not unemployed. Among them is the first gang of speculators which asserts that the USSR is communist, the social relations there having been transformed. However, over there men live like us, alienation persists. Transforming the social relations is therefore insufficient. One must change man. Starting from this discovery, each has 'functioned' enclosed in his specialism and set to work to produce his sociological, ecological, biological, psychological etc. solution. Another gang turns the revolution to its account by proving that capitalism can be humanised and adapted to men by reducing growth and proposing an ethic of abstinence to them, contenting them with intellectual and aesthetic productions, restraining their material and affective needs. It sets computers to work to announce the apocalypse if we do not follow the advice of the enlightened capitalist. Finally there is a superseding gang which declares that there is neither capitalism nor socialism in the USSR, but a kind of mixture of the two, a Russian cocktail ! Here again the different sciences are set in motion to place some new goods on the over-saturated market.

That is why throwing Bordiga into this activist whirlpool (and we also put ourselves there) provoked fear and repulsion. Nevertheless, running the risk of being carried along by this infamous mercantilism seems necessary because, on one hand, in every case, as Marx remarked "Can one escape dirt in ordinary bourgeois intercourse or trade? Precisely there is its natural abode." (Marx to Freiligrath, 29.2.1860.), and, on the other hand, the myth of Russian communism began to be washed fundamentally from the minds of those who searched and struggled and corrupted them less and less after the movement of May 1968. Bordiga's texts could be useful because of this, for passing from myth to reality and helping in the understanding of the coming communist revolution.

The Russian revolution has long been a thing of the past. It is interesting to study it nonetheless in the historical vibrations and in the questions it could not resolve. Bordiga, who closely followed all the vicissitudes of this revolution and its many faceted prolongation over the world, died in 1970. But his confrontation with the Russian phenomenon maintains an instructive and all-embracing character.

One has, then, to envisage the human being who produced the work presented here, because one must state from which historical global point of view it is that the Russian revolution is envisaged. Bordiga is especially known through Lenin's judgements; he was reproached for his abstentionism and taxed with anarchism. Also, for many people, Bordiga would only be the leftist who disappeared from the revolutionary scene around 1928. Superficially this is true, Convinced that it was the counter-revolution which generated great men, i.e. the clowns that he called battilocchi [1], he withdrew and disappeared into an anonymity [2] that was justified, but which is not to say that he abandoned the communist movement. From 1944 to 1970 he participated in the Internationalist Communist Party, which became the International Communist Party in 1964. His works appeared in the papers Battaglia comunista and il programma comunista and the reviews Prometeo and Sul filo del tempo.

Bordiga summed up his position on the Russian revolution at the end of the first part of Russia and Revolution in Marxist Theory [3] , which simultaneously unveiled his fundamental theoretical[4] attitude, his absolute resistance to doubt, not to heuristic doubt, which is by definition only a kind of cunning of reason according to Hegel, placing certainty in brackets, but the doubt which is the penetration of the adversaries' power, invasion by the surrounding ideology, impregnation with death because of the abandonment of all enthusiasm, and all revolutionary perspective, which is concretised in the alliance with the existing currents and the acceptance of dominant formulae.

Bordiga wrote a lot on the Russian revolution. His activity was greatly conditioned by the need to defend it and, on the other hand, in 1951 he declared:

"The analysis of the counter-revolution in Russia and its reduction to formulae is not a central problem for the strategy of the proletarian movement during the recovery that we await, because it is not the first counter-revolution and marxism has known a whole series of them."  [5]

All his activity tended to go beyond the Russian revolution to pose the future revolution, while one can definitely state that he did not succeed in cutting his umbilical cord, the link with this revolution.

He immediately supported the Bolsheviks in 1917, without at times knowing the totality of the events and, in certain cases, he foresaw the measures they would take. The revolution was no surprise for him, it did not make him question marxism, but was an enlightening confirmation. What fundamentally preoccupied him was the preparation of the party in Italy as well as in the rest of the West for the accomplishment of the same task as the Bolsheviks': the seizure of power. It was from this viewpoint that he carried on the polemic on the creation of soviets. For him, they were born at the very moment of the revolution. But in Italy, especially in 1917, one had to aid it, to lead it, and one needed the class organ, the party, for that. Moreover, he stated that the soviets were most often conceived of through an anarcho-syndicalist vision: the proletariat creates the organs which are substituted (the capitalist mode of production (CMP) still being in force) for the capitalist organs: cf. his articles in il Soviet in 1919-20. From 1919 on Bordiga thought that a great revolutionary opportunity had been lost and that the revolutionary phase had passed. Therefore one had to strengthen the party and to resist the foreseen offensive from the right which wanted to destroy the socialist forces. His interventions in the Communist International were in favour of strengthening the parties, claiming that the adoption of measures was so that all the parties of the International would have purely marxist positions, hence his role in the adoption of the 21 conditions, two of which were written under his inspiration. To confront the struggle on a world scale, one would have to have the correct class positions, flawlessly, without equivocation.

Later, when the phase of recession was really underway, the Communist International tried to restart revolutionary activity by going to the masses (united front), then by bolshevizing the national communist parties. Bordiga stood up against all these formulations, considering them to be camouflage measures of withdrawal, while being patent manifestations of a new wave of opportunism. However, he never questioned the proletarian, socialist, character of the Russian revolution. He thought that it had some peculiarities, but he neither spoke like the KAPD (Communist Workers' Party of Germany), which called it a "bourgeois revolution made by communists" (The Principle of the Antagonism between the Soviet Government and the Proletariat) from 1922 on, nor of the duality of the revolution:

"The Third International is a Russian creation, a creation of the Russian Communist Party. It was created to support the Russian revolution, that is, a partly proletarian, partly bourgeois, revolution." [6]
Also, in replying to Korsch, who sent him the Platform of the Left:  [7]
"One cannot say that the 'Russian revolution was a bourgeois revolution'. The 1917 revolution was a proletarian revolution, while it would be wrong to generalise its 'tactical' lessons. Today the question posed is knowing what happens to a proletarian dictatorship in a country when a revolution does not follow in the others.... It seems that you exclude the possibility of a Communist Party policy which would not end in the restoration of capitalism. That would be to revert to justifying Stalin or to supporting the inadmissible policy of 'his dismissal from power'." (Naples, 28.10.26.) [8]
Put another way, throughout this period he did not take a position on the social nature of the USSR. What was essential for him (and what few of his critics understood) was the nature of the Russian state and which class was in power. This was shown by the programme, by the actions of the party running the state. For Bordiga, the Russian party alone should not have run the state. That should have been done by the Communist International. That is why the 1926 debate, ending in the victory of the theory of socialism in one country, was crucial for him because it indicated a capital change of the state which no longer could be defined as proletarian because it was no longer at the service of the world revolution. But:
"One cannot simply state that Russia is a country tending towards capitalism." [9]

That is why it was only after the transfer of the USSR to the side of the western democracies that Bordiga stated that, henceforth, the counter-revolution had really triumphed and that capitalism would be built in the USSR.

If capitalism tended to triumph, how would one characterise the USSR and, on the other hand, what was the origin of capitalism's development? Was there a retreat, that is, would there have been socialism and, from that, the CMP would have been reinstalled in Russia? Bordiga maintained his political thesis in this debate which developed very vigorously after 1945. He still talked of the socialist characteristics of the economy in Soviet Russia from the Revolution to Today [10] . Here he replied to the question: which class is in power in Russia?

"In fact the class exploiting the Russian proletariat (and which will appear, perhaps, in broad day light in not too long) is today constituted by two evident historical forms: international capitalism and the same oligarchy which dominates in the interior and on which the peasants, traders, enriched speculators and the intellectuals, who swiftly obtain the greatest favours, all depend."

The whole of the article shows Bordiga's international perspective and the importance he gave to the political factor, i.e. to the capacity that a proletarian state could have to apply measures in the direction of the development of the bases of socialism. To return to the ruling class, he characterised it in other articles as a host of hidden entrepreneurs. This did not stop him from speaking of bureaucracy too, but he did not make it a determining strata or, as did Chaulieu, a ruling class. Yet, the difficulties with which he tried to unmask the existence of this class were always stated. He had to intervene in the debate on the social nature of the USSR in which some envisaged state capitalism where the state would be all powerful and could run capital, and others saw bureaucratic capitalism (Chaulieu in Socialisme ou barbarie no. 2), and on the role of the USSR in the play of international forces. Most 'left' revolutionaries tended to see the USSR as the centre of the counter-revolution because state capitalism or bureaucratic capitalism was, according to them, a much more powerful form of domination, a higher stage of capitalism than the one possible in West Europe or in the USA.

Bordiga began to draft Property and Capital [11] in reply, with really fundamental elements of explanation, producing a contribution to the clarification of the future of Russian society and that in the West, bordering on simple Leninist repetitions. In the chapter Modern Tendency of the Enterprise without property, allocations and concessions, he confronted a question that he took up again later in Economic and Social Structure of Russia Today [12] , he stated:

"The modern state has never really had a direct economic activity, but it has always been delegated by the intermediary of allocations and concessions to capitalist groups." [13]
Here we see the assertion of the positive critique of state capitalism and the bureaucracy-class. This is explained in the chapter Economic Interventionism and Direction as capital handling the State:
"It is not a case of the partial subordination of capital to the state, but an ulterior subordination of the state to capital." [14]
Finally he analysed The Phases of the Transformation of Russia after 1917 where he dealt with the question of the ruling class in Russia:
"The difficulty in finding a physical group of men who constitute this bourgeoisie which was not formed spontaneously and which, to the extent that it was formed under Tsarism, was destroyed after 1917, presents a great difficulty due only to the fact of the democratic and petit-bourgeois mode of thought which the pretended masters of the working class have infected it with for decades." [15]
Thus it was a matter of knowing who represented the capitalist economic interests. It is clear that Bordiga would have to contradict such a bourgeois mode of thought in its archaic (i.e. democratic) form: everything that exists, which manifests itself, must be represented, there must be an intermediary between the thing and those who see it, the intermediary is a delegation of the existence regarding those who must state and study this existence. For Bordiga, a fundamentally anti-democratic man, the intermediary had no importance. On the other hand, the bureaucracy was chosen to fill the hiatus by all those who preoccupied themselves with Russia, Bordiga showed that, on the contrary, the bureaucracy depended on the businessmen:
"...the bourgeoisie, which has never been a caste, but which emerges by defending the right of 'virtual' and total equality, becomes a 'network of spheres of interest which constitute themselves in the cell of each enterprise', at the rate and to the extent that the bourgeois enterprises become personnel collectives, anonymity's, and finally 'public'. The personnel of such a cell is extremely varied. They are no longer owners, bankers or shareholders, but more and more speculators, economic experts and businessmen. One of the characteristics of the development of the economy is that the privileged class has an increasingly changing and fluctuating human material (the oil sheikhs who were bailiffs and will be so again). As in all epochs, such a network of interests and persons, who are more or less visible, has relations with the state bureaucracy, but it itself is not the bureaucracy, it has relations with 'circles of politicians', but it is not a political category. During capitalism above all such a network is 'international' and today there are no longer national bourgeois classes. There are national states of the world capitalist class. Today the Russian state is one of them, but with a certain historically unique origin. In fact it is the only one originating in the unity of two revolutions by the political and insurrectionary victory. It was the only one that was turned back from the second revolutionary task, but it has still not exhausted the first: making Russia a region of mercantile economy (with profound consequences for Asia)."  [16]
Concerning the role of Russia on a world scale, Bordiga stated that the centre of the counter-revolution was the USA and not the USSR. The USA could intervene alone or through the UN, and in his polemic with Damen [17] , he offered this witticism to make himself better understood:
"..let us remove Baffone (i.e. Stalin) from Moscow and, so as not to ridicule anyone, let us replace him with Alpha (i.e., Bordiga). Truman, who has already thought over these questions, would arrive five minutes later." [18]

Bordiga saw the basic victory of the counter-revolution in the fact that the Stalinists had sided with the USA during the 1939-45 war. The USSR had been bought with the US Dollar, He stated that the same would happen to China at the time of the Korean war.

All this was given in thesis form at the Internationalist Communist Party Naples meeting, Lessons of counter-revolutions, double revolutions, capitalist revolutionary nature of the Russian economy (1951). These were partly scandalous for some people; how could one continue to use the adjective revolutionary for the USSR in 1951? Now Bordiga restated it in Russia and Revolution in Marxist Theory; for him there had been other revolutions and there are others (when Bordiga wrote) than the one we have to realise: the communist revolution. Given its non-appearance and especially the lack of any important precursory sign of its approach, it was evident (for Bordiga) that the generalisation of the CMP in Russia and Asia was a revolutionary phenomenon, as Marx had stated in 1848 for the development of capital in Europe.

However, if one considers now that the Russian revolution has, by definition, only been able to give rise to the CMP, the characteristics of present Russian society must be described again as well as those of the ruling class. If the questions unfailingly re-emerge, it is because the analysis had not basically regained the essential point of capital's development and it had not described the most recent tendencies. That is why Bordiga had to return to Marx so as to describe the Russian phenomenon.

"True to a vision which has forgotten materialism is the one al lowing itself to go astray when it does not see the 'person' of the individual capitalist in the front rank. Capital was an impersonal force from the youngest Marx, Determinism without men is meaningless, that is true, but men constitute the instrument and not the motor."  [19]
The debate, in fact, centred again on a definition of capital. In Murder of the Dead he recalled that Marx characterised the CMP by the production of surplus-value and the greed for surplus-labour ("The voracious appetite for surplus labour" in Capital Vol., I [20] ). He confronted the "novelty of state capitalism" on this basis:
"Once constant capital is posed as zero, gigantic development of profit occurs. That is the same as saying that the enterprise profit remains if the disadvantage of maintaining constant capital is removed from the capitalist. This hypothesis is only state capitalism's present reality. Transferring capital to the state means that constant capital equals zero. Nothing of the relationship between entrepreneurs and workers is changed, since this depends solely on the magnitude of variable capital and surplus-value. Are analyses of state capitalism something new? Without any haughtiness we use what we knew from 1867 at the latest. It is very short: Cc = O. Let us not leave Marx without this ardent passage after the cold formula: "Capital is dead labour which, vampire like, lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks." " [21]
Bordiga developed this theme which he often readopted on the relationship between state capitalism, business activity and speculative exploitation of natural disasters (defining the Italian economy as a specialist in the economy of disaster). Here he showed that capitalism is, at its greatest development, generalised gangsterism universal delinquency and, let us add, madness.
"To exploit living labour, capital must give birth to dead labour. Liking to suck warm young blood, it kills corpses." [22]

For it is only through the destruction of constant capital, above all the fixed part, that it can free the new production process where capital can again satisfy its greed for surplus labour.

On the other hand, he replied in Doctrine of possessed by the Devil [23] to the question, what is the ruling class? Here again he relied on Marx's analysis in Capital:

"The person of the capitalist no longer matters here, capital exists without him a hundred fold the same process. The human subject has become useless. A class not comprising of individuals? The state not at the service of a social group, but an impalpable power, a work of the Holy Ghost and the Devil? Let us refer to the irony of our old Mr. Marx. Here is the promised quote: "By turning his money into commodities which serve as the building materials for a new product, and as factors in the labour process, by incorporating living labour into their lifeless objectivity, the capitalist simultaneously transforms value, i.e. past labour in its objectified and lifeless form, into capital, value which can perform its own valorisation process, an animated monster which begins to 'work', 'as if possessed by the devil'." " [24]

In 1952 Bordiga replied to Stalin's Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR with Dialogue with Stalin [25] where he restated what he had said in previous articles (cf. In the Whirlpool of mercantile anarchy); the Russian revolution was over. He also refuted the Stalinist thesis of the law of value persisting under socialism, a refutation repeated several times after. Each time Bordiga was obliged to return to Marx's work to resume the integral study of the critique of political economy.

The statement that the Russian revolution was over left a question undecided. How was it that the proletariat could perform a bourgeois revolution? (Bordiga accused Lenin of being the great bourgeois, Stalin, the romantic revolutionary). October 1917, was it not at all proletarian? It was then that Bordiga drafted a series of articles studying the earliest origins of the Russian revolution. He insisted on the conclusion already drawn by the KAPD in 1922: the revolution was a double, proletarian and bourgeois, revolution. Since the former had been reabsorbed (that had already been partly affirmed in 1946) and the second had largely flourished. The proletariat has thus realised the bourgeois revolution:

"With this state of suspense passed by with the very wars lost on the frontiers and the national humiliation of seeing the Muslim and yellow peoples more advanced in the capitalist methods of warfare, they had found all the tendencies for the 'romantic' task of the proletariat; i.e. how to resolve the historical puzzle of not taking power itself, but of giving it to its social exploiters. A whole literature worked for this and by a series of giants from, perhaps, Gogol on, while the greats, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Gorky, had in various ways and to different extents, absorbed the social postulates of the West: characteristic of romantic and non-marxist thought." [26] "As there was no bourgeoisie conscious of its own class power, the marxists thus set to work as 'enlighteners', i.e. to repeat the bourgeoisie's thought in its romantic part."  [27]
Finally there are eight theses on Russia in The Bear and its Great Novel[28] They define the result of the revolutionary process. Thesis five dealt with the ruling class:
"The statement of the present lack of a statistically definable bourgeois class does not contradict the previous thesis, since this fact was stated and foreseen by marxism well before the revolution, given that the power of modern capitalism is defined by the forms of production and not by national groups of individuals."
Then Bordiga thought that he had sufficiently clarified the 'Russian question' and that one could approach other important ones:
"The comrade (Bordiga) foresaw that this meeting would include a section dedicated to the problem of America and western capitalist countries in particular, given that a considerable previous work had sufficiently crystallised in outlines a general definition of our mode of considering Russia and its social economy. It showed the marxist concept of the double revolution, one grafted on the other, or impure revolution (giving the term an historical and not a moral meaning). The Dialogue (with Stalin) and other texts had sufficiently systematised this part, now we have to study a pure, solely anticapitalist, proletarian, revolution."  [29]

But the umbilical cord linking the PCI militants to the Russian revolution was difficult for them to break and, for them, all these explanations had not clarified enough the 'enigma'. They called for the subject to be exhausted somehow. After dealing with Factors of Race and Nation in Marxist Theory and The Agrarian Question [30] , which was in fact an introduction to a study of Russia (Bordiga insisted on the thesis capitalism = agrarian revolution, and on the fact that the agrarian problem was the central problem which the Russian revolution had to resolve and the communist revolution also will have to resolve), he had to return to Russia to begin Russia and Revolution in Marxist Theory.

Thus the reader can gain an idea of the way in which the work presented was born. One should note that the majority of the themes were treated in a fragmentary fashion in articles and, besides, there was a continual exchange between the explanations of Russian society and the clarification of the critique of political economy. There is the constant theme of the dictatorship of the proletariat which could have directed the development of the productive forces in immense Russia. That is why what interested Bordiga was the nature of the state, not only because he did not delude himself on the fact that the state could avoid being determined by the economic and social structure. He knew very well that, in Russia, from a certain moment, the social forces would inevitably have to eliminate the proletarian state unsupported by a revolution in the West. But he did not go into the economic domain, but into the political field in order to find the involution of the revolution. It was only when the state had become definitely capitalist that he really preoccupied himself with the economic and social structure, for now one had to understand how the forces which will have to struggle for the future communist revolution will be born and orientate themselves. It is revealing that it was at the time of the Twentieth Congress, the time that he stated that Russia had confessed to its integration into the capitalist camp, that he gave his prediction of the communist revolution for 1975.

Bordiga's writings on the USSR after 1957 are not very interesting. They are only an illustration of what he had stated and explained in earlier texts. Besides, what was virulently repeated was the axiom: one did not construct communism, one only destroyed the obstacles to its development. He would have had to have made an exhaustive analysis of the development of the CMP to make a fundamental contribution. Now this was (in spite of several essential remarks, possibly points of departure for fruitful research) too 'physiocratic' because it considered the mass of production and its growth rhythms. In 1964, after the failure of Khruschev's economic measures, his sacking and the satisfaction of the kolkhozians' demands, Bordiga remarked:

"Nevertheless, obviously the road to the full forms of capitalism in Russia will be hard and difficult and will have again to bring large capital into conflict with small property, which large capital has not been able to avoid supporting and reinforcing. Thus is buried the heroic and huge effort of the Bolshevik avant-garde which foresaw the sole possibility for resistance in the wake of the proletarian world revolution, like a besieged fortress, as refuge in state capitalism controlled by the proletarian dictatorship, committing the leap to economic socialism to the arms of the future and inevitable revolutionary wave in the industrialised countries in the West." [31]

Unfortunately this diagnosis was used in an immediate and polemical fashion to show that, unlike what Khruschev had trumpeted, the USSR could not catch up with the USA. One should have asked the question: are there not geo-social areas where the CMP cannot develop and, if it did, would that not be at the cost of immense difficulties so that even the positive side that there had been in the West would be obliterated in these areas? But this implied the adoption of a critical attitude to the Bolsheviks' actions. Now Bordiga was not up to asking such a question. He always maintained the Leninist presuppositions and followed them through to their conclusions. One can say that, somehow, the Russian revolution ended as a political phenomenon with him, a phenomenon having to master the economic forces in the direction of developing to socialism.

It is useful to know Bordiga's other works so as really to understand his position on Russia. We shall summarise them briefly. Bordiga was fundamentally anti-democratic and anti-innovating, i.e. he fought those who thought that it was necessary and possible to create a new theory or that one must publish marxism, defined as:

"One uses the expression 'marxism' not to mean a doctrine discovered and introduced by the individual Karl Marx, but to refer to the doctrine arising with the modern industrial proletariat and 'accompanying' it during the whole course of a social revolution -- and we conserve the name 'marxism' despite all the speculation and exploitation of it by a series of counter-revolutionary movements." [32]

What is essential is the reference to a class defining itself by the mode of production it aims to create. The method by which it has to realise this creation is its programme. The fundamental lines of the programme for the proletarian class were established from 1848. They are: the proletariat must constitute itself as a class, thus as a party. Then it must make itself the state to destroy all classes, thus itself, and allow the development of communism (cf. The Fundamentals of Revolutionary Communism, 1957). The party is thus seen on the one hand as part of the class, as the prefiguration of communist society, "the projection into the present of the social man of tomorrow" (cf., The Theory of the Primary Function of the Party, 1959), on the other as an organ of resistance at the moment when the proletarian class has been beaten and finds itself under the influence of the ruling ideology, and so the party has to maintain the 'class line'. Marxism, seen not only as the theory of the revolution, but as the theory of the counter-revolution, can resist, and this consists in maintaining the entire programme of the class. Thus the formal party to which Bordiga belonged could see itself as the intermediary between the preceding phase, when the proletariat was constituted as a class, and the coming phase, when the revolution would rise anonymously, setting the whole class in motion. Bordiga admitted that the formal party could disappear, that is, that it could come about that there would no longer be any revolutionaries defending the class programme after a certain time, but the party must be reborn after a "distant but enlightening future" by following the dynamic present in capitalist society and the fact of the absolute necessity of communism for the species.

What therefore is basic in the phase of recession (i.e. of strong counter-revolution which forces the class to retreat to earlier positions), is the description of communism, the very behaviour of Marx and Engels, which Bordiga said they took all their lives to describe. So one can maintain the line of the future in the despicable present, so resisting the counter-revolution by the rejection of all democratic formulae and all stray impulses to innovate. This implies a structural anti-activism because one can only intervene in 'periods ripe with history' of humanity. Then one must throw oneself headlong into the battle and not to give in at the first shock, not abandon the party as soon as the enemy has gained a certain advantage. This was the meaning of the reflections on the debate of 1926. One should have resisted, the world proletariat organised by the Communist International should have faced capitalism while awaiting the opening of the fresh revolutionary cycle. But once this was abandoned, one had to some extent to pass through purgatory and then await the counter-revolution to complete its tasks. Bordiga thought that this was realised in 1956. Hence the proclamation of a new revolutionary cycle culminating in 1975.

One had to restore marxism, negated by the Stalinists, one more time during the period of waiting, without ever losing sight of the immediate movements of the class, in order to see how far they shake the implacable dictatorship of capital. But this has to be done without illusions. Thus he stated that there would not be a revolution after the Second World War (the fascist nations had lost the war, but fascism had won), that the Third World War was not imminent, the cold war only being a form of peace. Therefore there could not be a revolution after a short maturation as those who believed in an imminent third conflict inevitably giving rise to a revolution afterwards held. The Berlin movement (1953) was not the start of a new revolutionary cycle. Nor too was the 1956 Hungarian uprising, because both were the work of multi-class movements while the proletariat could only win by organising autonomously, in struggling for its own ends.

Nevertheless, it is evident that all this belongs to the past and many ask what importance does it have? What importance in not flattering Yugoslavia as a new socialist country? Of not having repeated the same operation for Cuba, China, or having not stated that the centre of the revolution was, nonetheless, in the countries of the so-called third world? In fact, what use is it when all the world is now convinced of the opposite?

It is because, in fact, he had a foresight of a certain future of society that Bordiga was able to have a well determined behaviour allowing him to escape the revolutionary masquerade of the post-war period led by Trotskyist and similar groups. His coherence lay there, a theory is not useful if it does not afford a foresight. Now one cannot foresee without any certainty.

Bordiga disagreed with the Bolsheviks several times over the question of democracy. He was an abstentionist, rejecting all participation in parliament, all democratic mechanisms. One had to define tactics rigorously in relation to the conditions of clearly defined struggles in the historical phases when the proletariat intervened, Similarly he rejected the theory of state capitalism and considered the theory of imperialism to be completely insufficient etc. Despite that, we have already repeated, he never broke with Lenin because he was, for Bordiga, the theoretician of the dictatorship of the proletariat (coherent with Marx) and that he was capable of applying it in a huge country. On the other hand, the whole development of the anti-colonial revolutions reinforced the correctness of the Leninist position for him. Hence the birth of the uncritical apologia for the Bolsheviks and, so doing, he defended the Italian left and himself against accusations of anarchism, ultraleftism, passivity etc., which led him to maintaining false judgements on the KAPD, Pannekoek etc., especially where it concerned questions where they were definitely very close to him.

But this is only a particular aspect of Bordiga's work. What is essential, what characterises him, makes him entrancing, living, is what was indicated in Bordiga: la passion du communisme; his certainty of the revolution, communism, displayed prophetically. Humanity advanced by revolutionary leaps up to communism, according to him. This evolution was the work of millions feeling their way and, sometimes, leaping enlightened by huge revolutionary explosions. He compared all human history [33] to a huge river bounded by two dykes, on the right that of social conservatism on which marched a chanting band of priests and police as the cantors of the official lies of the class, on the left that of reformism on which paraded the men devoted to the people, the businessmen of opportunism, the progressives. The two bands insult each other from opposite banks, while fully agreed that the river should remain in its channel. But the immense flood of human history also has its irresistible and menacing swellings and sometimes, rounding a meander, it floods over the dykes, drowning the miserable bands in the impulsive and irresistible inundation of the revolution which overthrows all old forms and gives society a new face.


1. "Why have we called the theory of the great men the theory of the battilocchio? The battilocchio is a person who draws attention and simultaneously shows his complete vacuity." (il Battilocchio 1953) (Translator's note)

2. We have discussed this question elsewhere and we have tried to define the historical importance of Bordiga (cf. La gauche communiste d'Italie et le PCI, Invariance Serie I, n. 9, and the introduction to Bordiga: la passion du communisme (Spartacus, Paris, 1974). A number of Bordiga's texts have been translated into French in Programme Communiste, Le Fil du Temps and Invariance. The translations in the first two are often inexact, not purely on the level of translation, which is often a matter of appreciation, but because the translators often thought that they had to remove what did not suit them and to add what they wanted to Bordiga's texts. To avoid many notes, the reader is advised that the themes discussed in this study, often simply alluded to, have been treated more or less exhaustively in Invariance.

3. Russia et rivoluzione nella teoria marxista in il programma comunista 1954 no. 21 - 1955 no. 8.

4. We talk of a theoretical attitude because it is not a question of separating theory from practice. One must always tend to have a global activity with all human manifestations integrated.

5. Lezioni della contra-rivoluzione (Naples meeting, September 1951) Edizioni il programma comunista no. 7, p.3.

6. Leitsatzen der Kommunistischen Arbeiter-Internationale, in Kommunistiche Arbeiter-Zeitung (Essner Richtung) 1922 no.1. English edition in Herman Gorter The Communist Workers' International (London 1977)

7. The Platform of the Left was adopted at a national conference of the extreme left in Berlin (2.4.1926.) and was published in the pamphlet Der Weg der Komintern (Berlin, 1926). Partial English translation in Helmut Gruber Soviet Russia masters the Comintern (New York, 1974).

8. First published in Prometeo no. 7, October 1928.

9. ibid.

10. La Russia sovietica dalla rivoluzione all'oggi in Prometeo serie II, no. 1.

11. Proprieta e capitale in Prometeo serie II 1-4.

12. Struttura Economica e Sociale della Russia d'Oggi in il programma comunista 1955 no. 10 - 1957 no. 12.

13. Prometeo serie II no. 1 p. 22.

14. ibid, p. 24.

15. ibid. no. 4, p. 123.

16. ibid.

17. Old member of the Italian left, still living. He was a communist deputy before the Second World War. During that war he actively defended the thesis of the transformation of the imperialist war into a class war and was one of the main founders of the Internationalist Communist Party in 1943 (Bordiga did not participate in it, he was not in agreement over the opportunity of creating such a party). His various disagreements with Bordiga, especially over the Russian question and the perspectives of the development of the workers' movement after the war, were one of the reasons for the split of 1952. One part of the party was to become the International Communist Party (with Bordiga), the other kept the old name (with Damen) and continues to publish the paper Battaglia comunista and the review Prometeo. Damen has written a small book Amadeo Bordiga Validita e limiti d'una esperienza (epi, Milan, 1971).

18. ibid. p. 46 (letter to Damen from Bordiga, 9.7.51.)

19. Bussole impazzite (Compasses struck with madness) in Battaglia comunista 1951 no. 20

20. Capital Vol.I (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976) p. 344

21. Omicidio dei morti in Battaglia comunista 1951 no. 24. The citation is from Capital Vol. I p. 342.

22. ibid.

23. La dottrina del diavolo in corpo in Battaglia comunista 1951 no. 20

24. Cf. Capital Vol. I p. 302. The final citation is from Goethe's Faust and is correctly translated as "as if its body were by love possessed" (as in Fowkes' edition). We have changed the citation only to maintain coherence with Bordiga's title and the citation translation of the Italian edition of Capital.

25. Dialogato con Stalin (ed. Prometeo, Milan, 1953)

26. Fiorite primavere del capitale (Flowering spring of capital) in il programma comunista 1953 no. 4

27. Malenkov-Stalin: toppa non tappa (Malenkov-Stalin: patchwork not a stage) in il programma comunista 1953 no. 6

28. L'orso e il suo grande romanzo in il programma comunista 1955 no. 3

29. Meeting at Genoa in il programma comunista 1953 no. 90

30. I fattori di razza e nazione nella teoria marxista (Factors of race and nation in marxist theory) in il programma comunista 1953 nos. 16-20. La questione agraria (The Agrarian Question) in ibid. 1953-4.

31. Involuzione Russe; 'Terra e liberta' (Russian involutions; 'Land and liberty') in il programma comunista 1964 no. 22

32. L'invarianza storico di marxismo (The historical invariance of marxism) in Sul filo del tempo 1954 p. 19

33. Piena e rotta della civilita borghese (Filling and Bursting of bourgeois civilization) in Battaglia comunista 1951 no. 23