Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 6 No. 1

Overlooking Left Communism?

Dear Editor

Given the historical insignificance of Trotskyism in Italy compared to the much larger and politically important Left Communist current, your feature on the Italian left (Volume 5, no. 4) was always going to be something of a test of whether Revolutionary History is genuinely open in its treatment of the history of the revolutionary movement, or, at root, is a sophisticated expression of Trotskyism.

In your editorial, you studiously adopt an open, non-sectarian tone, deciding to give a ‘say’ to ‘what stood on the left’ of the Communist Party. But then, in the very next sentence, you ‘naturally give pride of place to the Trotskyists’ ... ‘on the basis of the censorship from which they have suffered’. Why ‘naturally’? If you refer to the censorship of the bourgeoisie and its Stalinist servants, it is hard to see how Italian Trotskyists have suffered more than the Left Communists. This justification is unconvincing.

The main articles actually contain a lot of interesting material, but what is striking about this issue as a whole is the complete absence of contemporary texts from the Italian movement; in fact the only historical document included is a short manifesto from 1943 written by the Trotskyist Fourth International! (Even so, the material included is sufficient to reveal the dubious political origins of the Trotskyist New Italian Opposition, and the opportunist tactics of Trotsky himself, who used the NOI as a way of undermining the Left Communists, after the latter’s refusal to participate in attempts to create unprincipled and artificial coalitions.)

Then, as if to show that all the openness couldn’t last, immediately after the main articles Al Richardson is sent in to do a Trotskyist hatchet job on the only available history of the Italian Left in English, the pamphlet of the International Communist Current.

It would be a fruitless exercise to engage in a lengthy polemic with Mr Richardson; as if to emphasise just how far Trotskyism has travelled from its roots in the degenerating Communist International, in one of his wilder flights of sectarian rhetoric he ridicules the Italian Left for denouncing the Social Democratic parties as capitalist (after their betrayal in 1914), as akin to ‘1960s Maoism’ (p. 198). Can I refer him to the Communist International’s Manifesto of 1919, written by one Leon Trotsky in his revolutionary days, which clearly denounces these self-same parties ‘which had become transformed into subsidiary organs of the bourgeois state’? In the meantime, I would recommend all those genuinely interested in ‘learning about history in order not to repeat it’, to read the contemporary texts of the debate between the Italian Left and the Trotskyists, published in French as Le Trotskysme contre la classe ouvrière (International Communist Current, 1990), which show that before it finally betrayed in the Second World War, Trotskyism was an opportunist current in the workers’ movement.


Martin Tomlinson

Updated by ETOL: 28.9.2011