You Can’t Build the Party Playing with Paradoxes

Beyond Bordigism and the Fraction

This following translation is from the penultimate chapter of Bordiga: Beyond the Myth, a collection of writings by Onorato Damen. This article is from the last decade of his life and is historically interesting for giving various arguments in defence of the founding and development of the Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt) in 1943. Its main target is naturally the Bordigist current which originally left the PCInt in 1952 before fragmenting into numerous splinters in the years that followed. Damen was always prepared to engage politically with anyone, including the Bordigists (it was they who refused to have anything to do with a party which they considered “activist”) and this article is no exception as he engages with a split from a split in Bordigism. His argument is thus not motivated by mere self-justification but was made to mend “the broken framework of the internationalist communist movement”. In 1972 this was once again a possibility and was to lead, five years later to the calling of the International Conferences (1977-80) out of which eventually emerged the IBRP (1984) which became the Internationalist Communist Tendency.

For Damen the main issue is always the relationship between party and class and he writes at length on this so we will add no more. For us the historically interesting issues are the question of electoralism and the unions. In this article he gives a clear outline of the issues. On the question of standing in elections Damen makes it clear that this is always a tactical issue and not one of principle. Indeed he was always critical of Bordiga putting abstentionism before communism in the period leading up to the formation of the Communist Party of Italy in 1921. Putting a tactic before your real goal made no sense to him and was indicative of a certain mechanical way of thinking that Bordiga constantly employed. For Bordiga the corruption of the old Socialist Party was due to its parliamentary orientation. This may have been true but from there to seek to exclude any possibility of using elections was to perhaps cut off possible supporters who only disagreed over the tactic. And as Damen pointed out elsewhere, Bordiga then not only abandoned abstentionism to join the Third International, but in his proposal to make the 21 Conditions mandatory for all parties wishing to enter the Third International made acceptance of electoralism mandatory! Damen though saw that electoralism after the Second World War was now largely impossible but did not exclude its use in exceptional circumstances. As he says here the only time that the Internationalist Communist Party found that it was worthwhile to participate in elections was in 1948. The Italian Republic had just come into existence two years earlier with the referendum abolishing the monarchy and this was the first election proper to be held. Only parties registering candidates had the right to a platform in each town and in the struggle against the Stalinists this was one way that the Party could reach thousands, if not millions of workers. As Damen states, this was not to win votes (they actually called for abstention in the election!)[1]. It was also as he says a one off situation which gave the Party the chance to extend its influence inside the working class at a time when the period of post-war reconstruction had not yet begun.

The second issue is the question of the unions. From the beginning Damen and his closest comrades in the Internationalist Communist Party had concluded that the unions were now integrated into the capitalist state. Usually Mauro (Stefanini) was the spokesman on this issue but he spoke for Damen too. In the split between the Internationalist Communist Party and the Bordigists this was one of the key issues. The latter still were very confused and considered it still possible to win positions in the unions. Damen and his comrades considered that though they had to be members of unions to be close to the class they should try to form organisations which tried to go beyond their manoeuvres on the economic level as well as insert a political agenda into the daily struggle of the class. These were the internationalist factory groups and were intended to ensure that there was a constant dialogue between the revolutionary internationalists of the PCInt and the class as a whole. This was yet one more issue that separated the PCInt from the Bordigists who never really understood how the role of unions had changed. It was an issue which was to lead to further splits in the Bordigist camp (even before Bordiga died).

Finally, a word on “Leninism”. Damen uses the term as did Bordiga, to refer to the successful Bolshevik experience of October 1917. For them it was the equivalent of “revolutionary”. What he was identifying was the role the Bolsheviks played in the development of the revolutionary class consciousness of the working class. Today the term is more controversial and more often used by those who are critical of the role the Bolsheviks played in the counter-revolution in which the party substituted itself for the class and imposed a new state authority. Damen was fully in agreement that this should not be repeated and one of the hallmarks of the 1952 Platform was the statement that

At no time and for no reason should the proletariat surrender its role in the struggle. It should not delegate its historical mission to others or transfer its power to other – not even its own political party”.

You Can’t Build the Party Playing with Paradoxes

from Prometeo 18 first half 1972

A couple of words of clarification on the theoretical-political platform published by some French comrades based round the initiative “Parti de Classe”.[2]

In the line with the historic continuity of the “Italian Left” the formation of the Internationalist Communist Party in Italy represented the logical and necessary outcome of the Fraction. In the final phases of the Second World War the Fraction could not just re-form, faced as it was with new and more complex tasks that had to be addressed.

In this line of continuity the Fraction was a passing moment between the party experience of the “Italian Left”, the Party of Imola and Livorno with its final historical affirmation in the “Committee of Agreement” (Comitato d’Intesa) through to its reconstruction as the Internationalist Communist Party (1943). This formed the only theoretical and organisational basis for any possibility of rebuilding the revolutionary party of the international proletariat.

Building the party in its traditional framework was possible in the historical phase of the collapse of fascism, which occurred concomitantly with a wider collapse, that of a socio-political and military front in the Second World War within which Fascist Italy was one of the most important pillars. The same operation would not have been possible at the time of the Fraction unless as a result of some slide into idealism and spontaneism and because the objective and subjective conditions necessary to generate its transformation into the party did not exist, not even in the slightest degree. Historically, the "Italian Left" was not and could not be, or embody, a "Belgian left" or a hypothetical "Franco-Belgian Left".

We don’t need not cling to an indefensible thesis built on "more geometrico"[3] and formal logic to undertake a review of the events that led to the formation of the Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt). Sometimes, a mistaken theoretical premise, or at least one not based on Marxist methodology, does not lead to constructive criticism which, in itself, is always useful, but to its opposite: the slippery slope towards degeneration.

Let's make the real issue clear.

The "Italian Left", despite the ups and downs of its experience, never theorised that the party could only come into existence in a revolutionary period, and that it should dissolve itself and reduce its tasks to that of a fraction in a counter-revolutionary period: was the Communist Party of Italy, created at Livorno under the ideological and political pressure of the "Italian Left", not founded in a period of growing counter-revolution?

The experience of the Italian Communists during the Fascist period, with the shift of the party to underground work, is typical in this respect: In that period not only was the problem of continuity and contacting the masses solved, but also the training of new cadres, who could, of course, strengthen the Stalinist organisation[4], but proportionally, could also have been used to expand the area of influence of the "Italian Left". (It should be borne in mind in this connection that the exclusion from the party of Damen, Fortichiari and Repossi , which took place in 1933 , was precisely because these comrades were working to rebuild the left fraction).

But a closer examination of the document reveals its most specious argument, and that is about the relationship between party and class. When it postulates that “the reconstruction of the proletariat as a class, that is, in a class political party” it is fully in line with a Marxist interpretation if it is saying that there can be no revolutionary class if it lacks a class party which come from within the class itself, but the postulate becomes a joke if it maintains that the party is useless when the class is temporarily a prisoner of opportunism and counter-revolutionary forces.

This type of identity between party and class is undialectical. It is mechanically conceived and has all the seriousness and consistency of a purely intellectual exercise.

The class as a whole, in its daily work and in the long history of its struggles has never gone beyond corporatist limits, beyond the stimulus of demands; trades union consciousness of the class has never become conscious of its historic goal as a revolutionary class: the battles, revolts, and insurrections which punctuate the long road of the workers’ movement have rarely been transformed through their own virtues into moments of revolutionary assault of the entire proletariat against the capitalist system as a whole.

From here arises the historic, permanent function of the revolutionary class party which has to carry out the task of theoretical elaboration, preparation of cadres, and act as the scientific laboratory of the class to spur and guide the process towards the historic objective of seeing the proletariat constituted as the dominant class.

To assign this task of self-sufficiency to the class in a pre-revolutionary period, as well as confining the building of the party to the period of the assault on power, where the consciousness of the masses is still mainly instinctive, even if its violence breaks the structures of the class enemy, means abandoning revolutionary Marxist methodology for metaphysical thinking. The latter replaces concrete, scientific data derived from economic and social reality with an ideological construct.

And this brings us to the critical comments on the formation of the Internationalist Communist Party which are made ​​by the comrades of Parti de Classe, which nevertheless refers to our experience (though it is appropriate) as something on which to draw out lessons and prospects for the construction, in their country, of the Internationalist Communist Party .

They write:

"Outside and against the erroneous and voluntarist attempt by Trotskyists to build a new international “born of the worst defeat", the Left showed that the duty of revolutionaries was not to attempt major practical tasks (which belong to revolutionary times), but to maintain the thread of continuity, not so much in organisational (in the narrowest sense) as theoretical terms. But activism, an attitude then subjectively false in an objectively unfavorable situation imagines that the current situation can be changed not by objective economic factors (the end of the period of capitalist reconstruction), but through activity of a febrile character whose example would bring about a new revolutionary process. It is with this intention (despite some reservations) that in the midst of the democratic orgy (the intervention of the United States, the Anti-fascist Italian Committee of National Liberation) and despite the complete absence of the proletariat as a revolutionary class in 1943, that the Internationalist Communist Party of Italy, an artificial organisation whose practice we can say has always been inversely proportional to their theoretical effort, was proclaimed."

"At first, there was the illusion that the revolutionary party might not be ready in the immediate post-war situation because it was considered that the "war -revolution" schema where the victorious revolution of October 1917 was the outcome, would not fail, once again, to reproduce its essential lines in a militarily defeated, economically ruined, Fascist Italy. This schema could not be discounted since it was for this that the organisation was proclaimed - but because it did not try to gradually build itself: it had to be present and available immediately – this not only did not recur, we had exactly the opposite."

"The "party" of 1943, born not of the deep contradictions of capital, but of some surface wrinkles of its re-accumulation process in the period of reconstruction, gradually saw a reduction in the number of its militants, losing after 1948 all Marxist justification for its immediate existence."

Our Activism?

It’s easy to see we are dealing here with an extremely hostile presentation in which it is obvious that adherence to certain positions typical of the "Italian Left", taken to the extremes of formalism can provide convenient cover for a deep but inarticulate critique of the Leninism that was and will continue to be the Leninism of the "Italian Left" which, in its most productive years and as a consequence of its activity, was total.

For the rest, there is also the vexata quaestio*[5]* (but not too much of the truth) of participation in elections and revolutionary parliamentarism which has also been prudently drowned out; that is to say, reduced to a tactical moment. This was badly understood by some epigones, subsequently won over by the left, who then brought to the fore the issue of the theoretical immutability of abstentionism. But even those positions have, in this specific case, a short life, and it is no surprise that the much vaunted "invariance" was ultimately reduced to a pile of shifitng variations which brought ridicule to what was more serious in the inheritance of the "Italian left".

For us, the October Revolution is an undeniable fact that presupposes a Bolshevik party, that is to say that Lenin's party should be considered as a historical precedent and an ideal model to follow; everything else offered to us by the later revisionist, and objectively anti-Leninist, culture arises from the psychology of defeat of the revolution and is most often a by-product of a sentimental aversion to Stalinism.

We said that Lenin's party was the perfect model, the only successful one in the history of the revolutionary proletariat, and from which we draw the following:

  1. The permanence and continuity of the party whose propaedeutic[6] and revolutionary work is the stimulus without which the proletariat cannot release the handbrake and go beyond the limits of a trade unionist and corporatist consciousness that it naturally tends to.
  2. It is necessary to retrace critically the positions taken by the "Italian left" even from the depths of the First World War to find the thread of its continuity, with the most significant steps being the Congress of Bologna (1920), the Congress of Livorno (1921), its leadership of the Communist Party of Italy until the dismissal of the left leaders (1923), and the Committee of Agreement (Comitato d’Intesa) on the eve of Congress of Lyon (1925-1926).

The Fraction, made up of the traditional and most effective cadres of the Left, who had been the backbone of the Communist Party of Italy were then regrouped around the "Committee of Agreement" to defend its majority political line against the leadership and its platform of opposition in the Congress of Lyons, against the new course imposed by the International. This fraction was therefore already a potential party.

In 1943, in the tumultuous and final phase of the Second World War, with the prospect of the collapse of a key sector of the war front, with the economic and political disintegration of fascism underway and the inevitable deterioration of the state structure, the basic and immediate task of the Communists was to work to create the most suitable tools for generating a favorable revolutionary outcome to the crisis. Lenin had acted in this way achieving a favourable outcome, but he would have acted in the same way even if the result was not consistent with the immediate needs of the party. Not one of those who believed then in the need for the organisation of the party was mechanically fixed on seeing a repetition of the events similar to those experienced by Lenin before the Bolshevik October.

The views expressed by Comrade Perrone[7] at the Turin Meeting (1946), which he later confirmed at the First Congress in Florence (1948), were open expressions of an entirely personal experience which contained perspectives based on a political fiction that it is not fair to refer if you want to make a valid criticism of the formation of the Internationalist Communist Party. Similarly, it is quite arbitrary and not based on any serious Marxist research to ascribe the later numerical decrease of the party to objective causes and to errors of perspective, while not having the courage to deepen their analysis of the internal process of disintegration which was the result of the defence of the personal interests of one who was not ready for militant activity, and disagreed over the analysis of the nature of the Soviet economy, and the role of Internationalist Communist Party.[8]

This is the climate in which we took on the initiative of building the class party, and any reference to Lenin and the Bolshevik Party was, and remains, the only possible and valid one in history; a different assessment would have been impossible because of the reluctance that was common to all of us to tie our work to a theory unrelated to the material situation of the class struggle, lost in the clouds of a theoretical paradox like, for example, considering the party and the historical legitimacy of its existence as mechanically linked to the reconstruction of the proletariat as a class. Hence the totally idealistic attempt to identify the party and class, as when the objective of the "reconstruction of the proletariat as a class, that is to say, in a class political party ..." is posed. This is intellectual sophistry that appears brilliant in its mathematical certainty, but is completely baseless when it relates to the vicissitudes of the class struggle and the historic and ongoing role of the party which is linked to the ups and downs of these struggles. In this aspect, the Bordigist distinction between "historical party" and "formal party" is no less false because there never has been a case of a party as the bearer of theses, doctrine, programme and capacity for development of revolutionary theory, which lives in the stratosphere and does not find every day in the heart of the class struggle, the reasons for the theoretical elaboration and constant confirmation of its validity.

The fundamental problem, and the most difficult to solve for a revolutionary minority is the problem of its presence and of operating on a political platform for a whole historical period of capitalism, whatever the objective conditions, including those of war and a counter-revolution still in progress, to help the working class to rise from a consciousness of its immediate interests to a consciousness of being the historical class antagonist to capitalism.

The problem of the continuity of the party is not our invention, but it is the characteristic position of the "Italian Left." Leaving aside what Bordiga infamously written on this subject, we consider it useful to reproduce a significant passage from a statement prepared by the Executive Committee of the Left Fraction of the P.C.d’I August 1933

"With Fascism victorious in Germany, events took a different path to that of world revolution, taking instead the road that could lead to war. The party does not cease to exist even after the death of the International. The party does not die, it betrays. The party is directly related to the process of class struggle, and is expected to continue its action, even when the International is dead. Thus, in case of war, when the International has disappeared from the political scene, the party exists and calls the proletariat to take up arms, not to transform the imperialist war into a civil war but to continue its own struggle even during the war ... ". (Excerpt from Towards the Two and Three Quarters International ...?)

Bilan, Year I, No. 1).

We in the "Italian Left" who bear the responsibility for having formed the Internationalist Communist Party, even if we do not think we solved this problem, we are nevertheless conscious of being in the process of working towards solving it. We have done this with perseverance, tenacity and through our ongoing contact with the factories, paying attention to the daily problems of workers in order to translate them into class terms, through issuing the party press which gives constant nourishment to activists on a national scale, and in the factory groups which we are in the process of building.

But we are not worried about knowing, with mathematical precision, where the task of the fraction finished and how and when that of the party begins.

We lived through it all, we were the main instigators and we are proud to have done what we considered the right thing to do.

In this specific case, the Internationalist Communist Party has all its papers in good order: it has to its credit defined the capitalist nature of the Russian economy; openly denounced, in the middle of the Second World War, the imperialist role of Russia which is no different from the other belligerent States through its participation in the division of the world into spheres of economic and political influence; made a frontal attack on Stalinism as part of the global counter-revolution; struggled against the war and against the supporters of the anti-fascist national war movement, pointing out that it was in reality, a decisive factor in the strategy of U.S. imperialism and not an armed people’s uprising against capitalism and imperialist war. Also to its credit, there is its open struggle, without tactical concessions, against the leadership of the Togliattian PCI, the Italian version of Stalinism. This poisoned the terrain of the working class forces emerging from the fascist war, already on the edge of being dragged into a new deception, that of the anti-fascist national war, a prelude to dragging the proletariat into the politics of economic reconstruction to resume the process of accumulation practically broken by the disastrous outcome of the war.

The Italian bourgeoisie owes above all (if not only) to the policy of Togliatti, and thus his party, the fact that the liquidation of fascism was largely limited to external appearances, and that the true essence of fascism, its nerve centres and essential structures passed safe and sound into the hands of the men and parties of the new Christian Democrat and Communist management, the two main pillars of the "resistance" and therefore the two biggest profiteers of the democratic-republican partyocracy.

Our party, strong in the best militants forged in the heat of ideological and political conflict at Imola and Livorno, or heirs of the Fraction; strong in the adhesion of large groups of partisans who had understood the real nature of partisanism, of whom everything could be asked except to lead the armed struggle in an anti-fascist rather than anti-capitalist direction; strong especially in the accession of young recruits committed to opposing imperialist war and the Stalinist mystification, forced the Togliatti leadership into a policy of provocations and blackmail to break and silence the only voice that at the time spoke in the language of the class and posed before the masses the only possible perspective for the proletariat, the socialist revolution.

The party's participation in the election campaign of 1948 has to be seen and understood in that context: it was not for electoral gains or even slavish application of the theses on revolutionary parliamentarism of the Second Congress of the International. There was only one goal at the bottom of the decision to be "participationists": inserting the party in the electoral mechanism was to enable the organisation to conduct a major battle of political clarification; not to ask for votes but to have the opportunity to show the working masses, in the broadest possible way, the true face of the revolutionary party which the press and propaganda of Togliatti’s party sought to defile with accusations and insinuations that it always failed to prove. The occasion was more conducive than ever to face the beast in its very lair[9]. In reality, the party has never been offered, neither before or after, the possibility to frontally and openly attack the Stalinist vulture in the factories, in the biggest industrial complexes, and on the streets, with the consequence of seeing the Stalinist front break every time and the alignment of the most politicised elements, and those most inclined to critical independence, with the internationalists.

This tactic may seem adventurous only to those looking at the party with the fixed eyes of the Fraction.

In this regard, here is how the comrades of the "International Communist Left" expressed it

"Participation _or not in elections is conditional and subject to the assumption that any tactic is justified only to the extent that, in any given situation, it helps to increase the political tension against capitalism_. "(From the Draft Outline of the Declaration of Principles for the International Bureau of the International Communist Left, 1946).

From a tactical point of view, the party was out in the open for the first time, and was engaged in the class war against the strongest and most dangerous fortress of the capitalist parliamentary democratic system.

Between a tactic which tends to bring the party out into the open and the opposite tactic of withdrawing from the game; between the development of the party and the reduction of the party to a fraction, we find the nub of the split of the party into two sections, which by a strange coincidence, then in fact became two parties.

And what is worse in this review of the events is the discovery that the split occurred at a time in the history of the labour movement when the conditions were favorable for expansion and consolidation of the revolutionary party. This is demonstrated in fact by the continuity and the growing influence the two parties later had. It was the only political force in the Italian experience that embodied a tradition, a method, and a class platform of the revolutionary left which now has the task of patiently repairing the broken framework of internationalist unity. Moreover, disputes of theoretical, organisational and tactical issues, which had divided the two internationalist formations such as national revolutions, the nature of the Russian economy, the nature and role of the union in the imperialist epoch, are now behind us in the sense that two decades of experience have pushed the 1952 dissidents back to the original positions of the "Italian Left."

The Unions *and Leninist Teaching*

And we come now to the union question, the punctum _dolens*[10]*_ of the minority of the French revolutionary left. The French group “Parti de Classe” to which we dedicate this note, start, on this subject, from a critical premise about the entryist tactic (it presupposes a different and opposing way of seeing the nature of the union in the imperialist phase) that we consider fair and which coincides with the position that our party has always supported, but it concludes with indications for tactics towards the unions that leave us surprised and greatly perplexed.

In this group too, the tendency to avoid the Leninist teaching on how Communists work with unions which are integrated into the system, is also alive.

But to get away from the line drawn by Lenin's work involves, in every way, a vertical drop into the void. And it is somewhat surprising that a movement that claims to uphold Marxist methodology and is in the tradition of "Italian Left" addresses the union problem in terms of a certainty that is matched only by the simplicity of its formulation.

"Tactically - these comrades write - the revolutionary party, instead of trying to vainly extend its influence in unions integrated into the capitalist system should instead exercise it in informal economic organisations that are created more or less spontaneously by workers - and even encourage - and transform them into vehicles of its slogans. Otherwise, this would introduce confusion among the workers and lead them to believe that the official unions organisations belong, or may be captured by them, provided a red leadership seizes them."

"The mobilisation of the proletarian forces will no longer be in the official unions, but outside of them and against them."

The polemical argument that these comrades are conducting against the deformation of the policy on the unions as it has been understood and applied by the comrades of Programma Comunista and on which we agree, does not concern us because, contrary to the belief of the Parti de Classe comrades, we do not recognise that group, as the exclusive interpreter of the "Italian Left," tradition, unless you want to consider Comrade Bordiga as we knew him before and after Livorno, before and after the Second World War, as the personification of this current. In this case, the comrades of Parti de Classe are invited to send their critical analysis of the political line followed by the one section of the Left, ours, whose members were the initiators and organisers of the constitution of the "Committee of Intesa (Committee of Understanding or Agreement)" (1925) which aimed to set in motion the defence of the current platform with an attack on opportunism; the same comrades who were the followers and leaders of the Fraction against its desired dissolution by Comrade Perrone when the Second World War broke out; those same members who, in 1933, were excluded and reported to the fascist police by the leaders of the PCI with the accusation that they were re-organising the "Left"; those same comrades who founded and developed the Internationalist Communist Party; finally, the very ones who, in order to defend the platform of the Left and its continuity, realised that they also had to break with the man who gave the Left, until 1926, the best of his theoretical and militant activity.

To return to the "union" problem, the best refutation consists in the reconstruction of the main points of what the party has done, and intends to do, consistent with the known position of the Left:

  1. In the phase of imperialism and the planned economy, any planning would be impossible without the active consent of the unions. They have become in fact, on a par with the state and private entrepreneurs, guarantors of the success of the plan.
  2. The unions, having reached the top of the economic and political state of which they feel a necessary and integral part, the only policy open to them is to work with it, by subordinating the protests of the working masses to the requirements of its plans and the realisation of greater profits. It is only on this condition, which is offered by unions that have moved away from their historic task, that the plan is possible, and with it, the consolidation and the salvation of the system.
  3. But the union leaders can only do this if the unionised masses are ready to submit to their political power. This demands a strategy that limits and reduces the threat of intervention of the masses. This is done through the bait of the rolling strike always being offered to them, to deal with their wider and more pressing economic and political demands. From this changing reality, the union, whatever its politics, draws the sustenance that defines its existence and its functionality, throughout the entire history of capitalism.
  4. If the union apparatus is integrated into the system, the mass of workers they oversee are not, or at least not directly, and they, however, have never stopped fighting against a capitalism which exploits them, although they are as yet unable to exceed the limits of trade unionist and sectional demands. This is basically the same framework experienced by Marx, by Lenin, by ourselves, and consequently the unions of the Third International have brought nothing new in relation to the Social Democratic unions of the Second International, or against the unions of today which bring such delight to our social and political life.
  5. The mass of workers will not come spontaneously and autonomously to a consciousness of their essence as class antagonist and to the consciousness of the historical purpose that is implicit in their struggle against capitalism, but it is this same mass of workers who through their work create the objective conditions for that consciousness and it is from this the consciousness that the class party brings together and elaborates the goal of a revolutionary propaedeutic[11] needed to revive the whole class.
  6. To this end the "Italian Left" aims to create with the permanent organisation of "factory groups", even in the midst of enormous difficulties, as training centres for ideological and political dissemination which become in fact vehicles for slogans critical of the unions. Factory groups solve the problem of contact with workers in the areas which are socially and politically the most sensitive to party propaganda, a prime and indispensable condition for a policy of recruiting new worker cadres on the basis of active militancy and revolutionary struggle.
  7. Should we create a new union outside and against the official union? Or should we join new organisations arising spontaneously from working class initiative? Leaving aside the facile observation that new unions would never find enough space to form a self-sufficient grassroots organization, even if it were possible, the new union would be modelled on the official union with all the faults and the few virtues of traditional unions.

We would like to ask the comrades of "Parti de Classe" to point out a single example of an unofficial union on an international scale which is an exception to our analysis and which can be taken as a model by revolutionary organisations, outside the experiences offered by the history of the workers’ movement of the Second and Third Internationals.

If we then refer to the more or less spontaneously created union organisations which we might use to spread the union policy of the party, it must be said without fear of contradiction that those organisations which were formed on the wave of the union agitations of the hot autumn of 1969 by extra-parliamentary groups and students in Italy, France (1968) and elsewhere, have slowly faded away and are, in any case, forced to flow back into the channel for the maintenance of the system, bringing bitter and acute disillusionment to the few minorities who responded to their quite idealistic appeal. This is the reason for a new stampede to the parties against which they had carried out their so-called revolutionary struggle.

On the presence or absence of Internationalist Communists in the unions, let’s look again at what is said in "Draft Outline of the Declaration of Principles for the International Bureau of the International Communist Left" (1946):

_"A) In a historical situation where the problem of the seizure of power is not posed, the mass organisation can only be based on demand struggles: the unions. When the situation becomes revolutionary, and the problem of the seizure of power is posed, it is then that we find the factory workers’ councils (soviets), whose goal is not to advocate improvements in capitalist society, but to seize power in the factories."

"It is obvious that if the historical rupture does not led to revolution, the process of the existing unions linking with the state will continue. As long as this process is not over, that is to say is not completed, our position is to remain in the unions. If they remain statified then the question of giving birth to new mass organisations will arise."_

There is one and only one fundamental problem which comes out of this debate: to break down the barriers of a theoretical premise vitiated by a series of fallacies which are linked by a formal logic, which ignore the actual and historic task of the workers’ struggle and to distort it, by playing down the class role of the revolutionary party of the proletariat.

The assertion of the absence of the class in the context of the current situation is piece of sophistry, even if in class terms, it is temporarily defeated; and the consequences that is drawn from this is a fallacy which is that if there is no class there can be no class party genetically linked to it; and the final fallacy is the identification of the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship of the party by transferring to the post-revolutionary party-class identity from the pre-revolutionary period.

The conclusion? With a proletariat which is not yet a class, with a political organisation which is not a party, with official unions where workers are considered lost to the class struggle and to any attempt by the revolutionary minority to influence them ideologically and politically, the resulting framework, and the perspectives that can be drawn from it, would lead to our depressing self-elimination from the political scene if Marxism did not indicate that the following certainties, even if relative, are still certainties, permanently present in the labour movement.

The proletariat has been the only historically antagonistic class to capitalism throughout its existence. It comes to consciousness of its essence as a revolutionary class in the period of the attack on capitalist power, conditioned as it is by a process of education and development in the tormented and uninterrupted course of an irrepressible class struggle.

This process of education and development is possible to the class because of the active presence of the party which is formed out of the class and engages with it in a powerful synthesis, the ideal reasons for its growth as a revolutionary force.

Onorato Damen


[1] The leaflet issued in 1948 “Don’t Vote for Any Party” can be read in Italian at

[2] The comrades regrouped around the review “Parti de Classe” initially came out of a French group of the Bordigist International Communist Party which produced the review “Invariance” which we are talking about here and only later did they also break with “Invariance” to form the present group.

[3] Literally “in the manner of geometry”. Damen here refers to the futile attempt to turn ideas into mathematically worked out axioms or theorems (following the principles of [Euclidian] geometry). The most famous example of this was Spinoza’s attempt to systematise the thoughts of Descartes in this way.

[4] After 1923 the process of “bolshevisation” of Communist Parties outside the USSR was begun which developed into a purge of any internationalists who could not accept the Moscow line. In Italy Gramsci and Togliatti were brought in to replace the Left and to carry out this process which culminated in the Lyons Congress of 1926.

[5] Disputed question

[6] Work of preliminary preparation before you can embark on a course of study

[7] Ottorino Perrone, also know as Vercesi was a leading member of the Fraction in Belgium and later the main supporter of Bordiga in his campaign to dissolve the Internationalist Communist Party. He was the main instigator of the dissolution of the Fraction on the eve of the Second World War on the grounds that as the proletariat no longer existed then neither could proletarian political organisations. It was this kind of abstract metaphysical position that became one of the hallmarks of Bordigism and which Damen fought all his political life.

[8] In short, Bordiga

[9] To which we can add the material fact that by registering and putting up candidates the PCInt got the right to speak on all platforms in every town square where they could directly confront the lies of the Stalinists.

[10] Key point.

[11] See footnote 5.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Revolutionary Perspectives

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