Pravda No. 66, July 15, 1912.
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, , Moscow, Volume 18, pages 170-172.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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A few days ago the Thirteenth Congress of the Italian Socialist Party came to a close in the town of Reggio Emilia.
The struggle within the Italian Socialist Party hag assumed particularly sharp forms in recent years. Originally there were two basic trends: revolutionary and reformist. The revolutionaries upheld the proletarian character of the movement and combated all manifestations of opportunism, i.e., the spirit of moderation, deals with the bourgeoisie, and renunciation of the ultimate (socialist) aims of the working-class movement. The cardinal principle of this trend and the basis of its views are the class struggle.
The reformists, in fighting for reforms, i.e., individual improvements of political and economic conditions, kept forgetting the socialist character of the movement. They advocated blocs and alliances with the bourgeoisie to the point of socialists entering bourgeois ministries, of renouncing consistently republican convictions (in monarchical Italy, republican propaganda In itself is not considered unlawful), of defending “colonial policy”, the policy of seizing colonies, of oppressing, plundering and exterminating the natives, etc.
These two basic trends, which exist in one form or another in all socialist parties, gave rise in Italy to two further extreme trends that deviated completely from socialism and tended therefore to dissociate themselves from the workers’ Socialist Party. One of these non-socialist extremes is syndicalism, which became “fashionable” in Italy at one time. The syndicalists inclined towards anarchism, slipped into revolutionary phrase-mongering, destroyed the discipline of the working-class struggle and opposed the use of the parliamentary platform by socialists, or upheld such opposition.
Anarchist influence is feeble everywhere, and the working-class movement is rapidly ridding itself of this sickness.
The Italian syndicalists (led by Arturo Labriola) are already outside the Socialist Party. Their role in the working-class movement is negligible. The Marxist revolutionaries in Italy, as in other countries, do not in the least indulge in anarchist sentiments and trends, which disrupt the proletarian movement.
The reformists are less staunch with regard to the extreme Right reformists who, by drifting to a liberal labour policy, pass completely into the liberal camp and desert to the bourgeoisie. That is why the removal of these traitors to the working-class cause from the Socialist Party seldom takes place without the Marxist revolutionaries having to wage a most bitter struggle against all reformists. This was the case in France, for example, where Millerand, an opportunist and reformist, ended by a deal with the bourgeoisie and entered a bourgeois Ministry.
The same is true of Italy. There the reformists have split into Left reformists (led by Turati) and Right reformists (led by Bissolati). The Reggio Emilia Congress marked the last act of this split.
There were three trends at the Congress: (1) the revolutionaries (they had about 12,500 votes at the Congress, according to the number of their supporters in the Party); (2) the Left reformists (about 9,000), and (3) the Right reformists (about 2,000). The revolutionaries moved for expelling Bissolati and another three extreme Right reformists from the Party. As for the Left reformists, one-third of them also favoured expulsion, but they wanted the reason for it to be expressed in “milder” terms, while two-thirds were against expulsion and for a mere censure.
The revolutionaries, who were in a majority, as the above figures show, gained the upper hand, and Bissolati and Co. were expelled.
What were Bissolati’s views and actions which necessitated his expulsion from the Party? Bissolati, in the face of numerous decisions of the Party, went so far in backing the bourgeois Ministry as to almost become a “minister without portfolio” himself (that is, not being a minister, he behaved like a supporter and member of the bourgeois Ministry).
Despite republican convictions, which Italian socialists strictly adhere to, Bissolati began to make trips to the Quirinal, where he visited the king and held negotiations with him! He went as far as to defend Italy’s present war against Turkey, although the entire Party has emphatically condemned the war as shameless bourgeois plundering and a dirty business—massacring African natives in Tripoli by means of improved deadly weapons.
Following the expulsion of Bissolati and Co., all the Right reformists left the Party and founded a party of their own, which they named the Socialist Reformist Party. Behind that façade is in reality a “party” of liberal-monarchist “labour” politicians.
A split is something distressing and painful. But some times it becomes indispensable, and then all weakness, all “sentimentality” (a term used in Reggio by a compatriot of ours, Balabanova), is a crime. The leaders of the working class are not angels, saints or heroes, but people like anyone else. They make mistakes. The Party puts them right. The German Workers’ Party sometimes had to correct the opportunist errors of even such great leaders as Bebel.
But when someone persists in an error, when, to defend an error, a group is formed that spurns all the decisions of the party, all the discipline of the proletarian army, a split becomes indispensable. And the party of the Italian socialist proletariat has taken the right path by removing the syndicalists and Right reformists from its ranks.