Political Platform of the Internationalist Communist Party (1952)

The Context

We have written much on workers’ history over the years but very little about our own as a tendency. There are good reasons for this, since analysing the present, and working for the future, are more fundamental tasks than the investigation of what our Italian comrades call our own “archaeology”. However as others, and not always those well-disposed to our tendency, have written their own distorted versions of the history of the Communist Left it is necessary, from time to time, to redress the balance.

The Committee of Intesa 1925

Here we are publishing the 1952 Platform of the Internationalist Communist Party in English for the first time. There are two documents which, above all, form the bedrock of the pre-history of the Internationalist Communist Tendency. This Platform is the second in chronological terms. It is a worthy heir to the first key document of our tradition, the Platform of the “Committee of Intesa” (1) of 1925. We translated and published this as a pamphlet back in 1995. The significance of that document was not only as a first open resistance to the “bolshevisation” of the Communist Party of Italy, which had been founded by the Communist Left, but also for its ringing opening declaration against opportunism.

It is mistaken to think that in every situation expedients and tactical manoeuvres can widen the Party base since relations between the party and the masses depend in large part on the objective situation … the party’s influence over the masses depends on a sharpening revolutionary situation and the extent to which it is true to the revolutionary task … The other currents apparently consider the problem of conquering the “masses” as a question of will. However little by little they are adapting themselves and are essentially lapsing into opportunism.(2)

The “other currents” referred to were the party’s new Comintern-imposed leadership headed by Gramsci and Togliatti and the Comintern itself. In Italy the Comintern had taken advantage of Bordiga’s imprisonment to replace him at the head of the Party. Gramsci and Togliatti were now in the process of replacing all the local party secretaries loyal to the original leadership of the Left. They started with Bordiga himself, who having “retired” from the Executive had been elected secretary of his local Naples federation. The Centre leadership’s excuse was that Bordiga was already too well known to the police.

The same thing happened in all the strongholds of the Left, culminating in the replacement of Bruno Fortichiari as secretary of the Milan federation. All this was taking place surreptiously, without discussion of any kind. Rather than go under without a fight, the Left decided to form the Committee of Intesa. Its Platform was intended to provoke a discussion inside the Party prior to its next conference (which in the event would not take place until 1926, and in Lyon in France). It was signed by Bordiga but the initiative had been taken by the other signatories: Damen, Fortichiari, Grossi, Girone, La Camera. Lanfranchi, Manfredi, Perrone, Repossi and Venegoni. Bordiga played no part in the subsequent agitation of the Committee inside the Communist Party of Italy.

Bordiga’s last acts of opposition were to draft the Lyons Theses of the Left in opposition to those of the Centre. By a rigged vote these were rejected in favour of Gramsci’s in 1926. By this time Bordiga had already made his last stand in the Communist International with his famous speech criticising both what “bolshevisation” had come to mean (not copying the revolutionary example of October 1917 but simply total control of the other parties by the Russian party) and the degeneration of the International which interfered in every party but did not discuss what was happening inside Russia. After this, apart from a letter to Korsch that same year, Bordiga did nothing for almost two decades.(3) He was arrested by the now well-established Fascist government on his return to Italy in 1926. Released in 1928, he was closely supervised by the Fascist police until 1934 but refused all entreaties by his former comrades to head for exile and cut off any further contact with them. In 1934 he took up his old career as an engineer and architect, travelling round Italy and working on various projects. He had already been expelled from the Communist Party of Italy (1930). Above anyone else, he had been responsible for bringing it into existence at Livorno in 1921.

The Inter-War Period

In exile (mainly in France and Belgium) and in the prisons and “in galera”, the internal exile system of Fascist Italy, the “Bordigists”, as the Italian Left was referred to, continued their fight against both Stalinism and Fascism, but now without Bordiga.

The historical continuity of a revolutionary communist current was due solely to all the other comrades of the Italian Left, operating in Italy and especially abroad, though also based on the fundamental contribution of Bordiga before 1926. Thanks to their commitment and their sacrifice the work of theoretical elaboration and practical activity continued and developed: and kept it alive, even if within objectively imposed limits, in terms of direct political leadership and action, which Bordiga would be uncomfortable, or even at odds with, on his reappearance in 1945.(4)

The task they faced was formidable, something we, living a century on, find difficult to grasp. They could not possibly have foreseen that “bolshevisation” would end up in the monstrous murder of so many communists under Stalin. They were aware that a counter-revolution was in progress, but it would be many years before the precise class nature of the USSR would be understood. And before that they were faced with the problem of how to comprehend what had happened to the first proletarian revolution, and the International it had produced, but from which they were now excluded. It is therefore no surprise that the Italian Left abroad went through many trials and tribulations (and publications!) which have been well-documented elsewhere and which is not our central concern here.

Less well-documented, for obvious reasons, was the “internal” opposition of the Italian Left inside Italy itself, starting in Mussolini’s prisons. Despite spending most of the years after 1926 in prison, or under close supervision by the Fascist state, Onorato Damen had taken a keen interest in events both inside and outside Italy. Some clandestine contacts had been maintained between Italy and the exiles (in the years 1938-43 mainly through Giacomo [Luciano] Stefanini who was arrested 4 times by the Fascists as he passed between Belgium and Italy). Through it all Damen could not understand Bordiga’s absence from the scene.

Bordiga’s political conduct with his constant refusal to take any political lead has to be considered. Political events that were sometimes of historical importance, came and went: the Trotsky Stalin conflict; Stalinism; our fraction abroad, in France and Belgium, had historically continued the ideology and politics of the Party of Livorno; (the civil war in Spain), the Second World War and, finally, Russia’s entry into the war as an imperialist power, but none found an echo in his lofty detachment.(5)

In one of the many prison encounters, Onorato Damen persuaded Bruno Maffi to abandon the liberal anti-fascism of Giustizia e Libertà for the working class politics of the Italian Left. The two of them, alongside Fausto Atti, Rosolino Ferragni, Giacomo Stefanini and others, would be among the principal founders of the Internationalist Communist Party in 1942-3. It was the only Party founded during the war condemning both the Axis and Allied sides as equally imperialist.

The Internationalist Communist Party

At this point the collapse of the Fascist regime in July 1943 left Italy divided between the Germans (who installed Mussolini as leader of the Republic of Salò in Northern Italy) and the Allies had fought their way up to Rome from Sicily. It was in the North of Italy that the class war in the factories erupted first. At the beginning of October 1942, a general strike broke out at FIAT in Turin, followed by mass strikes which in March 1943 extended to the Italian food, chemical, and metal industries. In these strikes in the factories of Turin and Milan, young workers talked openly of forming factory councils and soviets against the attempts by the Stalinist Italian Communist Party (PCI) to curtail them. These anti-war strikes were not confined to Italy alone but had already begun a year earlier among the German workers. Despite Nazi repression and their isolation they were still going on in 1942. The biggest struggles there broke out in 1943, when all the Italian immigrant workers ceased work, supported tacitly or actively by strikes by German workers.

And strikes against wartime austerity were not confined to the Axis powers. In Britain, much to the Daily Mail’s later disgust, workers at a factory in London making tail-fins for Halifax bombers went on strike and more than 16,000 women and some men walked out of the Rolls-Royce factory in Glasgow — where they should have been making engines for fighter planes.(6) They were soon to be followed by workers in the USA. In 1944, the last full year of the war, more strikes took place than in any previous year in American history...(7)

Similar movements broke out elsewhere and it seemed, to most revolutionaries at the time, as though a potential post-war revolutionary situation was developing, and not just in Italy. Recognising that the principal cause of the failure of the Russian revolution was due to its confinement to one country, the new party consciously adopted the title “The Internationalist Communist Party” (PCInt). It soon grew inside the workers’ struggles and established itself in the factories of Northern Italy despite having to operate in clandestinity. Its focus on trying to win workers from the pro-Allied partisan movement headed by Stalinists and liberals brought down upon it the wrath of Togliatti’s PCI. Not only did the PCI issue a death warrant for Damen signed by Togliatti himself but they actually succeeded in murdering two of the leading militants of the PCInt, Fausto Atti and Mario Acquaviva.

Until 1945 there was no contact with the comrades in the South who, under Allied occupation, were able to operate rather more freely than in the North. Here there were workers who also rejected the class collaborationist PCI. Various small groupings thus emerged but the most significant was the Left Fraction of Italian Communists and Socialists, formed in Naples at the beginning of 1944. It claimed to be in the tradition of the Italian Left, making particular reference to the abstentionist communist fraction of 1919. It did have some confusions though especially in its relations with the PCI and the need for a new party.

Bordiga maintained some contact with this Fraction and in early 1945 broke his silence of nearly two decades in his contribution to a pamphlet, For the Constitution of the True Communist Party, edited by R.M. Pistone and L. Villone (the latter soon went over to Trotskyism). This document of March-April 1945, also saw that a revolutionary situation was developing which made it possible for a new Party to come about, but strangely it also called for revolutionaries "to develop within the socialist and communist parties a continuous work of ideological clarification". This fits in with Bordiga’s attitude at the time. When the Southern comrades had earlier asked Bordiga what practical steps they should take, he advised them to take part in the Bari Congress of the PCI (January 1944). In the end this Fraction dissolved and its members joined the PCInt in late 1945.

The PCInt was now en route to becoming virtually a ‘mass party’. Over the next couple of years it would have something like 4-5,000 members grouped in 13 federations, with 72 sections. It had a weekly press in some towns (like Cremona), held numerous public meetings, and was deeply implanted in the main industrial centres, with its own factory publications. There were however two problems. The first was that the Fraction abroad, despite years of serious work and discussion had never really settled many political issues. Indeed it had collapsed on the eve of the Second World War with one part of it (headed by Perrone [Vercesi]) claiming, only weeks before Hitler’s invasion of Poland, that imperialism had no need of a general war as the needs of the capitalist war economy were satisfied by a succession of small wars!

An early issue was the question of the unions. The Fascist unions disappeared with the regime and political parties had started the process of rebuilding the old unions. At the first Convention of the PCInt in Turin in 1945 there was a wide-ranging discussion on the precise response the PCInt should make to this development. Most agreed with Stefanini (who was already one of Damen’s closest collaborators and spoke for him in this debate) that the unions were now part of the capitalist state but what policy should flow from this was at the heart of the debate. Stefanini thought that Party members should enter the unions but form their own “factory groups” inside the workplace in opposition to the class collaborationist line of the union apparatus. This was rejected by Perrone arguing that the Party should go back to the 1920s position of forming “class unions” acting as a transmission belt to the Party. This though looked like a proposal to try to capture or re-capture the leadership of the existing unions. The debate was an amicable one and so the decision was deferred by the setting up of a commission to examine the question more deeply.

However “going back to the 1920s”, and building on the work of the comrades both inside and outside Italy during the inter-war period, was soon to differentiate two tendencies inside the PCInt. This differentiation became more acute with Bordiga’s return to political life. Bordiga fired a warning shot of this when he sent a draft Platform to the Central Committee of the PCInt for consideration at the same Turin Convention (having refused all the invitations to attend it). The draft arrived with Bordiga’s peremptory ultimatum that it should be adopted by the PCInt. The ultimatum was rejected and the document referred back to Bordiga for amendment since it was considered incompatible with the positions already defended by the PCInt.(8) He redrafted it but it was only accepted as a contribution to discussion.(9) It was already clear that the twenty year absence from political developments had put Bordiga on a slightly different course to that of most of the founders of the PCint. Damen noted this:

His manner of talking differed from ours (when he was trying to push for a general political direction not always coinciding with that of the party) even if, roughly speaking, the method of analysis was the same as always. He maintained that the Russian economy should not be spoken of in terms of State Capitalism but as State Industrialism; October was no longer a socialist but an anti-feudal revolution and therefore he talked only of an economy “tending towards capitalism”. But he did not seem very convinced of what he was saying, and the corrections he had to make to his thinking shortly afterwards confirm this.(10)

The Split of 1951-2

Bordiga never formally joined the PCInt but from 1949 onwards he contributed a regular column “On the Thread of Time” to its publications. Using this, and private correspondence largely with his “loyalists”, Maffi and Perrone, he began to doubt the very foundation of the PCInt. Damen later summed up the issues that developed.

It should be remembered that Bordiga was not even a member of the party: he never participated directly in the organisation and activities of the party; he was deliberately absent from the Convention of Turin (1945) and the First Congress in Florence (1948), despite the fraternal solicitations and telegrammes sent to him by his comrades. That same attitude of rejection and condemnation of all activity, then still clandestine, and which had characterised the whole period of his private retreat, would resurface for good part in Bordiga from the fall of fascism to 1951. At this date his dissent burst into the open on the question of imperialism, on the unions, and on national independence struggles. Through the voice of his loyalists, Bordiga had repeatedly called for the liquidation of "that" party, which he found excessively “activist”.(11) There were, he said, too many "boots" on the ground, “carelessly spawning an activism that devalues theory". It was better to return to the more limited role of a fraction and a lack of interest in political action ("renegade" stuff) and trade union struggle. The participation of internationalist militants in the workers' struggles was, for Bordiga, "a personal problem" and, in the expectation of the rebirth of the class union, he ranked different "types of union" as his solution to the "immediate problem of participating in the work in them" that is, to keep oneself out of the revolutionary communist party".(12)

The definitive victory of the counter-revolution, and the stabilisation of capitalism after the Second World was recognised by everyone but it now emboldened the future “Bordigists” to increase the volume of their siren calls for the dissolution of the Internationalist Communist Party. For Perrone in particular Bordiga’s call for a return to fraction work was like a resurrection of his own disastrous position in the 1930s. Damen, and his comrades, fully recognised the victory of the counter-revolution and the possibility that a new world war would soon follow. He stuck though to the fact that, whatever the situation, the class party should organise itself for whatever fight lay ahead. To do otherwise was to leave a “lacuna” in the class which could only be filled by counter-revolutionary elements. Directly after the Florence Congress he replied to the defeatists:

The harder authentic revolutionaries fight, the more they become tempered by that climate. The Party entrusts these revolutionaries with the historical task of its continuity even in the most difficult situations, even in war. For many it will eventually be a matter of going through the same experiences all over again.(13)

Indeed, in some ways this was already happening as the debates about the existence or non-existence of the Party had also taken place in the Fraction before the Second World War. The added and complicating factor was directly linked to the figure and personal history of Bordiga who remained tenaciously attached to the experience of the Third International, whose collapse he never fully understood, but which the rest of “Italian Left” had spent two decades coming to terms with.

The fight for the continued existence of the Internationalist Communist Party became a fight to clarify what were the important class positions in this post-war period. In a future article we will go into this in greater detail but for now the differences can be summarised as follows.(14)

On the USSR Bordiga still tried to insist that it was not capitalist, but in the process of industrialising and thus was not really imperialist either, whereas Damen spent most of the Five Letters trying to get him to acknowledge that not only was the USSR state capitalist but equally imperialist as the USA. For Bordiga and co. at this time the Stalinist Communist Parties were also not seen as bourgeois or capitalist but as either “opportunist” or “centrist”. It was as if nothing had happened for him since his “retirement” from political activity in the Twenties.

On the unions, the Bordigist faction did not recognise that these were now integrated into the capitalist state and that therefore the possibility of conquering them was not ruled out. They also supported the struggle of “peoples of colour” (Bordiga) in their fight against colonialism, and failed to recognise that, in the epoch of imperialism, national liberation struggles were now impossible, since the local bourgeoisies could only win “independence” by swapping one imperialist domination for another.

However it was on the question of the Party that the widest divergence became clear. Both sides agreed that the Party was an indispensable tool that the working class creates for itself in the process of its emancipation. However Bordiga now insisted that the Party was not simply a part of the class but was the class. Gone was Marx’s distinction between a “class in itself” and “a class for itself”. Now one could only speak of a class if it was represented by a class party. This would not only lead the struggle for power but once in power would never let it go. For Damen and his supporters the lesson of the Russian Revolution was that the “class cannot delegate its historical mission to others … not even to its class party”. Communism is not just a new mode of production that can be instituted by decree. It can only be constructed by millions creating it for themselves. The Party can lead the way but the class has to complete the task itself.

By 1951 these matters had all come to a head. By then Maffi and Perrone had succeeded in winning a majority inside the Executive Committee (EC) for Bordiga’s positions. Damen, Stefanini, Bottaioli and Lecci were thus expelled from the EC, and the various Federations which they belonged to were declared dissolved. The expelled EC members however, appealed to the members in a new Congress, and a majority backed their theses which were a prefiguration of the document that follows. Written some seven decades ago it obviously includes formulations and issues which were of their time (“internal commissions” for example) and this have been superseded since in both the 1982 revision and in the Platform of the Internationalist Communist Tendency. However it retains its interest as a historic milestone in the formation of our tendency in direct continuity with the fight of the internationalist communist left against the counter-revolutionary consequences of the failure of the post-war revolutionary wave in the 1920s.

Communist Workers’ Organisation

January 2020

Notes

(1) “Intesa” can be translated as “alliance” or “understanding” or “agreement”. The pamphlet contains the original Platform, plus correspondence around it, and an introduction on how the Communist Party of Italy which was founded by the Communist Left was undermined by “orders from Moscow”. Under “bolshevisation” its best leaders were ejected from the leadership even though they still had the support of the overwhelming majority of the members. It is still available from the CWO address at £3.

(2) Platform of the Committee of Intesa, p.18

(3) For the only full copy of this in English see Onorato Damen, Bordiga Beyond the Myth, pp.142-5

(4) Fabio Damen, L’area internazionalista e la scissione del 1952 in the pamphlet Per una analisi critica del tardo-bordighismo e dei suoi epigoni

(5) ibid.

(6) dailymail.co.uk -s-shameful-secret-Second-World-War-strikes-reveal-disgusting-lack-patriotism.html

(7) libcom.org

(8) Fabio Damen, L’area internazionalista e la scissione di 1952 at leftcom.org

(9) Nonetheless, the various Bordigist organisations today print this document as if it had been accepted.

(10) Quoted in leftcom.org. One of the corrections Bordiga had to make was to finally recognise that the USSR was state capitalist – something he denied in the exchange of Five Letters with Damen in 1951. See leftcom.org

(11) Bordiga’s piece On Activism can be found at libcom.org In fact many of the arguments Bordiga makes in this were accepted by all the PCInt. However what Bordiga really wanted to argue for was that the Party did nothing and waited for the class to recognise its existence. A position which his followers were unable to maintain themselves. Damen partially replied to him in the section “Overturning Praxis” in the Five Letters quoted above.

(12) Thesis of 1951 on The Party and Economic Action. On this see in the Introduction to the collection of Documents of the Conference of Turin – 1945 and of the Congress of Florence – 1948, and Notebook No. 3 of Battaglia Comunista (dedicated to the internationalist split of 1952). leftcom.org

(13) Battaglia Comunista, November 1948, CWO translation.

(14) But for now the issues are dealt with at length not only in the Five Letters (see footnote 10) but also in Onorato Damen, Bordiga Beyond the Myth which is still available from our address.

Political Platform of the Internationalist Communist Party (1952)

Introduction

The theses which we are publishing here date back to the Milan Congress of 1952. It was a time when the Party suddenly found itself faced with an attempt from inside its leading bodies to put in doubt its very existence as a party. The Internationalist Communist Party had come into existence to encapsulate, in the continuity of its cadres, through its tradition in the “Italian Left”, and in its fundamental ideas, the programmatic and organisational precondition for the future party of the working class.

In our theoretical and political work, even if modest, which followed the events of the workers' international struggles, we are not looking for signs of infallibility, but for confirmation of the validity and the accuracy of the questions posed in the programme of our Second Congress (Milan, 1952), such as the nature and function of the party, the political and economic character of the Russian state, and the role of the colonial revolts in Asia and Africa.

The present publication thus allows comrades to critically re-examine our political platform which is today as alive as ever, despite operating in the midst of such an unforeseen collapse of men, ideals and programmes. This gives us an irreplaceable test bed for the development of these theses at a Third Congress of the Party.

General Problems

1. The contradiction between capitalism’s productive forces and the relations of production, in which the proletariat expresses its historical antithesis, is what gives rise to class struggle. This is not an episode of this or that phase of capitalist development, but a permanent reality of this mode of production. On a political level this class struggle will fluctuate in importance and intensity, according to the circumstances of the time. It will disappear the day that the revolutionary victory of the proletariat gives birth to the system of socialist production and distribution – which will coincide with the revolutionary destruction of all organs and forms of bourgeois power.

2. The class party is the specific, permanent and irreplaceable organ of the revolutionary struggle of the working class.

3. The Internationalist Communist Party is the political organ of the working class and the tool, neither temporary nor provisional, for its emancipation. In no phase of its history can the proletariat exist without the living and active presence of its party. Likewise the revolutionary party is nothing if it does not root itself as deeply as possible in the class. If it becomes detached from the everyday life of the class, from its struggles for both its immediate and more fundamental demands, the victorious counter-revolution will reduce its importance and silence it, but will never be able to destroy it historically.

4. The Party regroups the most advanced and most conscious section of the proletariat and attempts to unify the efforts of the working masses by showing them that their partial and immediate movements cannot triumph if they do not link themselves to the struggle for the revolutionary emancipation of the proletariat.

The Party also has the task of awakening revolutionary consciousness in the masses; of tearing them away from the reactionary and mystifying influence of national-communism, national-socialism and social democracy; of preparing the weapons of revolutionary theory and the material means of action, in order to direct the proletariat, in the course of the struggle, towards its final objectives.

5. We reject the conception that in the phase of counter-revolution (although no school of revolutionary Marxism has ever tried to demonstrate when and how the bourgeoisie’s exercise of power ceases to be counter-revolutionary!), the Party must limit itself to peaceful proselytising and propaganda whilst concentrating on the study of so-called fundamental problems, thus transforming its work into a fraction, if not a sect. This concept is undialectical and implies the liquidation of the organ of revolutionary struggle.

6. The world wars, which came out of the increasingly serious contradictions within the capitalist system and which gave rise to modern imperialism, have caused the disintegration of capitalism (whatever its form of domination). In this phase class struggle will have to be resolved by armed conflict, by insurrection of the exploited masses against the power of the bourgeois States in their various phases of development, from the USA to Soviet Russia and to the new Peoples’ Democracies.

7. In terms of the revolutionary programme, objective analysis of the situation reveals that, to the detriment of the proletarian struggle, the first Proletarian State has completely disappeared. It has entered anew into the cogs of world capitalism. Thus the second imperialist war saw the Russian State — the first revolutionary and conscious manifestation of working class power (1917), integrate itself with the general interests of the bourgeoisie.

In the supreme interest of the future revolution, the Internationalist Communist Party has a duty to subject the causes and effects of the process of degeneration of the first Proletarian State to the fire of Marxist critique, without ideological concessions or political weakness.

8. The concepts of “national socialism”, “new democracy” and “liberation of oppressed people” are opposed to Marxism and must be rejected as part of the ideology and tactics of conservative forces. “Anti-fascism” is the most recent ideological and political lie behind which capitalism played the card for its own class preservation during the Second World War.

9. The Party believes that the epoch of national movements is incontrovertibly over. This also goes for the colonial countries with an essentially precapitalist economic structure where indigenous capitalism entangles itself with that of the colonising country through tight links of the same class character in order to jointly realise their domination over the “colonised” proletariat.

In the period between the Second and the Third World Wars, i.e in the harshest period of imperialist domination over the world, struggling in solidarity with national liberation movements, whichever they might be, means putting the Party on the side of the class enemy, acting on the side of the bourgeoisie, which is where every national movement necessarily leads us.

Therefore, the Party rejects revolutionary alliances with the bourgeoisies of the West or the East (including Asia) and participation in wars of national formation; it likewise rejects the false dialectical conception that the Party should struggle for the victory of bourgeois revolutions over feudal regimes in order to support the success of the capitalist revolution. It believes that in all cases this would mean struggling for the triumph of one imperialism over another.

10. In the framework of the development of the counter-revolution, the national “communist” parties, now completely degenerated and transformed into blind instruments of the imperialist policy of the Russian State, have abandoned all methods of class struggle by agitating under the deceptive banner of anti-fascism, as if the greatest enemy to combat was no longer capitalism but merely one of its expressions: fascism.

This experience demonstrates that acting outside the dialectical concepts of Marxism only puts us back in the heart of bourgeois history, that is, fighting the effects and not the causes of capitalist stagnation.

The Internationalist Communist Party, which has by turns openly taken a position against the multi-coloured series of “new” schemas – “partisan struggles”, “national liberation movements”, “campaigns for peace”, etc. – will act energetically to rid the workers of these false conceptions, in order to restore the real historic conditions of the conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and establish a new balance of forces.

11. After the overthrow of capitalist power, the proletariat will only be able to organise itself as the dominant class by destroying (and not just by seizing) the bourgeois state apparatus and by installing its own class dictatorship. Political representation in the proletarian State will be based on the mass organisms that will have arisen during the revolutionary period, in which any expression of the bourgeoisie will be excluded from all political rights.

12. The State of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, born of a victorious proletarian revolution, is a realisation of the international proletariat, surpassing the limits of national experience as the first episode of the proletarian revolution in the world.

13. The defence of revolutionary conquests and organs of proletarian power, which, for historical reasons, might remain isolated whilst waiting for a further development in the international situation, will be confined to the armed insurrectionary workers and never to a permanent army.

14. The essential and immediate response of the proletariat to the problem of organising the State into its own dictatorship is one of “instant destruction” of the old administrative machine in order to immediately start to build a new one that precludes the expansion and reinforcement of all bureaucracy, and allows instead for its gradual suppression. The Proletarian State as a rule must ensure: the absolute electability to all positions, the instant recall of all functionaries without exception, and the reduction of their payment to that of an “average waged worker”.

15. Only the Proletarian State, kept on the path of revolutionary continuity by cadres of the party, who in no circumstances will be able to identify with it or integrate themselves into it, will be able to systematically implement social and economic measures which will lead to the capitalist system being replaced by socialist management of production and distribution.

16. Following this economic transformation and the changes that will occur in all areas of social life, thus allowing for the abolition of class divisions, the need for a political State will likewise gradually disappear, and its operation will gradually be reduced to that of the rational administration of human activity.

Doctrine

It is necessary for the revolutionary Party to develop certain aspects of Marxist doctrine, the instrument for orientating and guiding revolutionary action. The variety of doctrinal interpretations have led to, and continue to lead to, serious internal disagreements and divisions in the revolutionary vanguard.

In opposition to the formal and sometimes mystical acceptance of historical materialism, Marx’s Capital, the works of Lenin, etc., we stand by the incontrovertible, living and comprehensive character of Marxist doctrine as an interpretation and critique of the capitalist economy throughout its existence, and in particular as an overall theory of the world and human history. Alongside Marx, Engels and Lenin, the Party believes that in history, nothing happens automatically or independently of human activity: “that is to say, men make their own history, in an environment that conditions them, and on the basis of given actual relationships in which the economic ones are decisive”.

The common thread of this reciprocal action is the history of unceasing struggle between classes with a succession of highs and lows in the objective situation. Breaking this thread means breaking the course of history as living reality. It means denying the continuity of the class struggle, and the inevitability of its political party, as well as denying outright the expectation of proletarian revolution itself.

Thus we must reject all formulations, old and new alike, which are outside this central kernel of Marxism – whether “idealist” interpretations (“ordinovismo”, Stalinism, etc.) or dogmatic determinism (scientific determinism, economism, decadent Bordigism, etc.) – and which end up leading to traditional bourgeois reactionary thought and to the inevitable halt in the development of revolutionary theory.

The Nature and Function of the Party

There is no possibility of working class emancipation, nor of the construction of a new social order, if this does not emerge from the class struggle; just as there can be no class struggle that is not at the same time a political struggle.

The instrument of this struggle is the political class party, which takes it from the level of immediate demands to the revolutionary insurrection which destroys the capitalist State in order to construct the State of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and oversee its management.

The class gives rise to the party as a condition of its existence. From a historical perspective, it is of no particular importance whether the class has scope for greater or smaller actions in its demand struggles, compared to the more specifically political level, which dialectically carries greater weight for the party. What really matters is the continuity of the essential relation between the party and the class; however, strengthening and expanding it depends greatly on favourable objective conditions, at which point the will to create the party becomes both a determined and determining factor.

It would be a gross and dangerous error for the future to believe that the moment the working class creates their party, then they somehow relinquish – totally or even partially – those attributes which make them the gravedigger of capitalism, as if others could act as an alternative and have the same consciousness of the need to struggle against the class enemy and to overthrow it in revolution. At no time and for no reason does the proletariat abandon its combative role. It does not delegate to others its historical mission, and it does not give power away to anyone, not even to its political party.

The reversal of existing “praxis”, which is essentially the explosion of revolutionary will, comes about first and foremost through the accumulation of various factors and impulses from within the working class. These revolutionary dynamics will crystallise as a part of the class, that is its party. By virtue of its ideological preparation, political maturity and unified consciousness, the party will be the most capable of guiding and synchronising this fundamental, complex and multi-faceted movement, turning it into a powerful weapon of struggle and demolition (of the old order).

It is only when it responds to the party, and never simply from impulse, that the class will take advantage of the enormous revolutionary potential concentrated at the particular point in time by the anarchic and contradictory productive process of capitalism.

However, when the links between the party and the class are loosened, broken and thus inoperative, the class ceases to be a unified force; it divides into categories and is inevitably thrust into different forms of class collaboration. For its part, the party, detached from the class, ceases to be the revolutionary party and is destined to disappear from the class political scene or lose itself in parliamentary compromises.

The very nature of the Internationalist Communist Party, as a party of the working class, indicates and delimits its tasks within a framework of class tactics and strategy, in close conformity with its analysis of real economic relations and the technical development of the means of production. The laws that preside over social existence and, within certain limits, the degree to which historical forecast of their future development can be made, are based on this.

The party also rejects the concepts and practices of voluntarist “activism”, justified by an idealist vision of history and class struggle. Equally to be rejected are the concepts and practices of “inactivism”: the kind which, outside any particular struggle, limits itself to waiting for the blind and bewildering economic forces to reach their final explosive point in order to think about (and only then) the need to create the party, with all its ideological preparation, organisation and tactical training. The party is not formed spontaneously, nor is it improvised. Neither can it be dreamed up in the space of one morning (assuming it is afforded such a space) with the necessary subjective and objective capacity to be able to make use of the decisive moment that revolution offers.

The activity of the party cannot and must not limit itself to the conservation of the purity of its theoretic principles and organisational network, nor to the realisation of immediate and measurable success at all costs. The party is at once a product and a factor of the class struggle.

The tasks of the party may be summarised thus:

a) Propaganda for its principles and continuous elaboration of their development;

b) Active participation in all working class struggles for immediate demands;

c) Leadership of the insurrection for a revolutionary assault on power;

d) By the active direction of its class party the proletariat exercises, through its dictatorship, the management of power and constructs a socialist economy.

In situations where direct struggle for the conquest of power is not yet possible, the party must jointly develop the first two tasks in tandem; its absence from the struggles of the proletariat, even partial and immediate ones, is inconceivable.

Abstentionism – Electoralism – Participationism

From the Congress of Livorno to now, the Party has never adopted abstentionism towards electoral campaigns as a principle, as it never accepted, nor will it accept today, systematic and thoughtless participationism. In accordance with its class tradition, the party will decide whether or not to participate on a case by case basis, in accordance with the political interests of the revolutionary struggle, and on the condition that it may be possible to mobilise a fraction, however modest, of conscious proletarians around this intervention.

Whatever the tactic of the Party (regarding participation in a single electoral campaign with written and spoken propaganda, putting up candidates, intervening in public meetings) this has not only to be inspired by its programmatic principles themselves but also with the clear declaration that electoral consultations never allow the exploited class to adequately express their needs and interests, and even less, allow them to gain political control.

In local elections the Party cannot be diverted, by consideration of immediate interests, from its general aim of separating the responsibilities and the approach of the proletarian forces from all the other sides of the struggle, in full coherence with its historical and general demands.

Relations Between the Party and the Masses

To avoid turning into a philosophy club, removed from the movement and the path of the class struggle, the party must resolve the problem of its relationship with the masses in accordance with Marxist principles.

One aspect of this problem is what some call the union question, which includes: opinion on the current unions, relations between the party and the unions, workers’ agitations and the position of the party with regard to this, and factory groups.

The party categorically affirms that in the current phase of the totalitarian domination of imperialism, the unions are an indispensable tool of this domination, to the extent that they even pursue goals that correspond to the bourgeoisie’s aims for its own preservation and war. Therefore, the party rejects the false perspective that these organisations could, in the future, fulfil a proletarian function so that the party would have to do an about turn and adopt a position of winning positions within their leadership. Contrary to the position which asserts that the unions in their current form have a proletarian character simply because they are made up exclusively of workers – and recognising equally the accuracy of this assertion – we affirm that:

1. Workers’ adhesion to the union is not voluntary but obligatory;

2. The unions are no longer the expression of specifically proletarian interests since they have aligned their politics with that of the competing imperialisms.

Under different circumstances, when the working class, guided by its class party, mobilises to launch an all-out attack on the State, it will come up against the harmful role of the present unions. This is confirmed by the experience of the German and Italian proletariats which, in 1919-20, had tried to bypass the reactionary barriers of the unions in order to create new mass organisations.

However, the party, in strict accordance with the historical positions of the Italian Left, does not support leaving the unions, that is, it does not peddle empty slogans, either to found new unions, or for the organised workers to abandon the current unions. This last slogan will only be appropriate when the next general crisis in the capitalist structure gives rise to a mass revolutionary movement.

Having stated that in the current situation of great downturn of the workers’ movement the majority of workers are in the main unions, despite their counter-revolutionary nature, the party believes that its militants must remain in the unions as long as they are not expelled for their activities. It believes that its militants should participate, in the general interest of the proletariat, in all internal manifestations of union life, criticising and denouncing the politics of the union leaders, in order to achieve some clarification and orientation amongst unionised workers.

The party considers that the workplace – factories, businesses, offices etc. – is where it is possible to develop criticism, political denunciation and revolutionary orientation towards the workers most effectively. It is there that the internationalist factory groups are the kernel of activity among the masses and they must be particularly aided by the party in order to be capable of intervening in situations whenever it may be necessary to defend and affirm the politics of the party.

The arms race and the evolution of the situation towards the third world war will determine a series of movements that Stalinism will attempt to steer towards the objectives of Russian imperialism, just as it did before and as it continues to do today.

One of the tasks of the party and its factory groups is to be ready to intervene in every movement to clarify and guide them, and, if conditions and the balance of forces permit, even take up their political leadership.

In close relation with what has been said above and with the aim of remaining in permanent contact with the working class, the party does not underestimate the importance of being present, again balance of forces permitting, at elections of representative organs of the unions and factories. Therefore, the party will decide to intervene in workers’ demonstrations on the basis of the possibility or impossibility of presenting, in particular in elections to internal factory commissions, a standalone list of the party and explaining it politically in an appropriate motion.

In cases where internationalist militants are elected to internal commissions, they must defend the workers’ interests in these organisms, in accordance with the politics of the party. They must leave them if they find it impossible to defend these politics.

International Situation

Strengthened by the success of the Second World War, capitalist domination has crushed and scattered revolutionary political forces and pushed to the fore imperialist forces which are contending for world supremacy. Thus the climate is favourable for opportunist parties, in the service of one or other imperialism.

The task of regrouping the scattered revolutionary kernels does not depend on the initiative of this party or any other political group.

We must take into account the fact that the disappearance of the Third International, the defeat of the revolutionary opposition, its split into fractions and its dispersion, shattered the unity of revolutionary forces, cutting the thread of theoretical elaboration and delaying the possibility of any new international regroupment.

In the current situation with the perspective of psychological and material preparation for war intensifying every day, the objective possibilities for regroupment must be rediscovered among the national and international groups that have openly and definitively broken with Stalinism, democracy and war. The proletariat is still absent from political struggle, and as a result, real class struggle, at least visible class struggle, has disappeared. However, the party does not accept that the lack of workers’ activity will necessarily last, thus defining a tactic of “doing nothing”. On the contrary, it accepts Lenin’s theory of the possibility of sudden turns, which are always latent in an economy whose internal contradictions increase little by little as capitalism rushes to war. The party would be ignoring its tasks if it did not take into account the fact that the European proletariat, though politically immobilised, corrupted by Stalinism and terrorised by counter-revolutionary pressure, has at its disposal a wealth of experience of class struggle that the British and American proletarians absolutely do not have; experiences that may remain dulled, compromised and latent, but that are nonetheless ready to revive and become crucial in the period when the proletarian movement is revitalised. Likewise, we reject as defeatist the theory that there is no place for the party in the historic period where the counter-revolution reigns uncontested.

The party affirms that even in the period of victory of the counter-revolution, which is certainly true of today, when monopolies, financial capital and militarism dominate, the choice for revolutionaries is never between “what we must not do” and “what it is only possible to do”. The choice is not between paradoxical and metaphysical formulations which inexorably lead to opportunism, but the harsh everyday necessity of supporting theory in the real world of antagonistic interests and class struggles from which theory is derived and of which it represents the historic justification. The action of the class party is always regulated not by “fear” of action and the “risk” that this comprises, but by the concern and “will” to do what objective conditions allow on a given level, with known difficulties against a determined adversary which cannot be chosen but only fought.

Facing Imperialism

Whatever the assessment of the Russian economy (whether or not pre-capitalist elements predominate, whether the capacity for domination and the extent of domination are due to elements of modern capitalism which had reached a monopoly within the framework of the State, however big or small), the Party affirms that the policy of the present Russian State reflects the fundamental interests of its economic structure. Thus, its foreign policy of imperialist expansion and preparation for war is the necessary outcome of the violent and typically capitalist thrust of its economy as it moves to conquer and control new centres of raw materials or consumption, indispensable to its development and to the demands of its strategic line-up.

The Russian regime, after the first socialist achievements, has undergone a gradual but decisive degeneration. Privilege and exploitation of wage labour once more dominate the economy; previously influential classes have revived their influence in society; bourgeois forms and norms have reappeared in the legal system. On the domestic political front the Bolshevik tradition of the October Revolution and Leninism has been overwhelmed and dispersed and has lost control of party and state. Internationally, Russian state power is no longer the ally of the exploited classes fighting the civil war for revolution in every country, but one of the colossal military powers in the modern imperialist set up. It participates in the bourgeois game of alliances and wars in the historic service, no longer of the working class, but of nationalism and imperialism, or rather of a foreign policy, dictated by the interests of a privileged national ruling strata, not by the needs of the world working class.

In no case whatsoever does the Party consider Soviet Russia a country that has not yet realised its bourgeois revolution and which should therefore be given solidarity and international support, theoretical or practical, in order to push the Russian economy beyond feudalism and beyond capitalism.

State capitalism is no less than a form of capitalism and does not fundamentally differ from any other form of capitalism, whether in terms of its internal contradictions or even the superficial ways in which it is organised from the sites of production to its internal and international markets, including the most advanced, most concentrated and most monopolistic: that of the USA. Differences in stages of development neither imply nor justifiy setting up a hierarchy of responsibility or threat, whereby the various centres of capitalism must be eliminated in the order established by this hierarchy: firstly Centre Number One, the USA, then the other capitalist states.

The revolution has never adapted itself, and will certainly never adapt to laws of any geometric or sentimental order, but rather will seek to strike where capitalism is most vulnerable.

Thus the Party rejects the theory that the proletarian revolution must first “clear away” the capitalist centre of the USA as a dangerous diversion. It reaffirms that during phases of crisis and high social tension, every victorious revolution inevitably carries within it the potential for expansion. This is the concrete basis for the extension of the revolutionary front. It is why the theory of socialism in one country is false, since it is also the theory that indirectly justifies the degeneration of the Russian State based on the backward state of its economy.

It would be infantile to anticipate a simultaneous collapse of the whole capitalist order, or a rapid succession of collapses in countries on this or that continent. But it would be equally infantile to suppose that a victorious revolution in a single country could and must last indefinitely, resting not on the active and inspiring solidarity of the international revolution but on the development and exploitation of its own national resources of human and economic materials. The conditions for consolidating a victorious revolution remain solely in its strategic influence; that is, how far the domestic conquests of the revolution shift the premises for attacking and violently destroying the wider enemy front.

Only on this path can the revolution be consolidated, by opening the era of socialist society. Otherwise it will fall like the Paris Commune of 1871.

Internationalist Communist Party (1952)
Monday, March 16, 2020

Revolutionary Perspectives

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