The Thirtieth Anniversary of the Death of Onorato Damen

4th Dec. 1893 - 14 Oct. 1979

“Without the revolutionary party, every revolt will exhaust itself within the system.”

Onorato Damen was one of the most representative and prestigious figures of the International Communist Left. When still very young, he fought against revisionism in the PSI and the opportunism of Turati, Treves and Modigliani. With the outbreak of World War I he was sent to the front, and then demoted from sergeant to private and sentenced to two years in military prison for “public insults against institutions, incitement to desertion and denunciation of the imperialist nature of the war.” Subsequently he worked for the socialist newspaper La Lotta (Struggle), in Fermo in Le Marche, he worked at the Chamber of Labour in Bologna and in the Casa del Popolo of Granarolo as secretary of the municipal committee of the Leagues; secretary of the Chamber of Labour in Pistoia and was arrested in 1921. A supporter of the Italian Communist Left, Damen was a member of the abstentionist Fraction of the PSI and then of the Trade Union Central Committee of the Communist Party of Italy (Livorno 1921).

A target of fascist reaction, he was “kidnapped” by the fascists because he refused to recant his “Bolshevik” ideas. Having resumed contact with the Communist Party of Italy, Damen found himself involved in a gunfight in which a fascist was killed. Acquitted of murder, he was imprisoned for three years in Florence. Released, the Communist Party of Italy in France illegally transferred him to France through the Bureau Politique to organise fellow migrants. Director of the weekly L’Humanité in Italian, he returned illegally to Italy in 1924 and was elected deputy in the district of Florence. Within the Communist Party of Italy the rupture between the leadership headed by Gramsci and the Bordigist left was emerging and Damen criticised the degenerative direction of the party but also the somewhat passive attitude of Bordiga.

In 1925, Damen was behind - with Repossi and Fortichiari - the establishment of the Comitato d’Intesa in defence of the work of the Left and the political foundation upon which the Communist Party was formed in 1921. In 1926 he was confined to Ustica, then arrested and sent back to the Prison at Florence and included amongst the Florentine Communists on trial for conspiracy against the State. The Special Court sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment, of which seven were served in the penitentiaries of Saluzzo, Pallanza, Civitavecchia (where he led a prison revolt) and Pianosa. In 1929 he was expelled from the Communist Party of Italy which was now in the service of international counter-revolution. Granted amnesty in 1933 as an “unrepentant communist”, Damen was confined to five years in Cantù in Brianza. In late 1935 he was arrested again and stopped by police several times in 1937 concerning the events in Spain, suspected of spreading “propaganda of the international left opposition against the policy of the Comintern and against Stalinism in Spain” (Source; the fascist police). Arrested at the outbreak of World War II and sent into internal exile, he was released after the fall of Mussolini in July 1943.

Despite everything, Damen managed - through maintaining illegal contacts and never giving up the role of an active militant despite all the sacrifices this demanded - to make his crucial contribution to the birth of the Internationalist Communist Party, the only class response to the slaughter of imperialist war in rejection of “defence” of one imperialist power against another. And the few internationalists outside the prisons were in the forefront when, in 1943, the proletariat of the North was set ablaze, spreading illegal leaflets and their first series of Prometheus - newspaper of the Internationalist Communist Party.

In 1945, Togliatti and the PCI asked the Committee for National Liveration to sentence to death the leaders of our Party, labelled as “Gestapo agents”, primarily Onorato Damen. (In the meantime our comrades Fausto Atti and Mario Acquaviva were murdered by the henchmen of the Communist Party of Italy.) Saved by his unquestionable moral uprightness, acknowledged among political adversaries, afterwards Damen tirelessly contributed to leadership of the Internationalist Communist Party, and to the difficult struggle to rebuild the political organization necessary for the battles of the revolutionary proletariat.

The present crisis facing capitalism gives Marxism new strength and theoretical vigour. It confirms once again that the world proletariat can only achieve “progress” and “liberation” in the era of imperialist domination through the socialist revolution. The work and teachings of Damen have allowed all of us to resist, to defend and strengthen the political and organizational foundations of the future international party of the proletariat, capable of merging theory and practice in concrete and decisive political action.

“The fundamental, and most difficult problem for a revolutionary minority to solve is that of its intervention, and to work on the basis of a political platform for a whole historical period, that of capitalism, no matter what the objective conditions may be, including those of war and counter-revolution, to help the working class to rise from a consciousness of its immediate interests to a consciousness of its essence as a historical class antagonistic to capitalism.” (Onorato Damen)

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