The Immediate Programme of the Revolution?

Bordiga We refer to the text written by Amadeo Bordiga in 1953 and published in Sul Filo del Tempo, “The immediate programme of the revolution”

A listing of these demands looks like this:

“De-investment of capital”: means of production are assigned a smaller proportion in relation to consumer goods.

“Increase of production costs” - so that as long as wages, money and the market still exist - more remuneration is exchanged for less labour time.

“Drastic reduction of labour time” - by at least half as unemployment and socially useless and damaging activities will shortly become things of the past.

A reduction in the mass of what is produced through an “under-production plan” which is to say the concentration of production on what is necessary as well as an “authoritarian regulation of consumption” by which the promotion of useless, damaging and luxury consumption goods is combated and activities which propagate a reactionary mentality are violently prohibited.

Rapid “dissolution of the boundaries of the enterprise” whereby decisions on production are not assigned to the workforce, but the new consumption plan determines what is to be produced.

“Rapid abolition of social services” whereby the charity hand-outs characteristic of commodity production are replaced by a social (initial minimum) provision for those incapable of work.

“Construction freeze” on the rings of housing and workplaces around major and small cities in order to spread the population more and more equally throughout the land area of the country. With a ban on unnecessary transportation, limitation of traffic and speed of transportation.

“A decisive struggle against professional specialization” and the social division of labour though the removal of any possibility of making a career or obtaining a title.

Immediate politically determined measures to put the schools, the press, all means of communication and information, as well as the entire spectrum of culture and entertainment under the control of the communist state.

I was very interested in this 'immediate programme' by Bordiga which appeared in a recent article by the ICC and by LTs comments on it in Breath and Light. Particularly because after the series of meetings by the ICC and the CWO on the Russian and Germany revolutions and the formation of the International I had suggested the next topic logically should be the Period of Transition. Members of both organisations rejected this idea probably thinking I was simply meaning to dredge up the old discussions on the state and the argument about what is marxist/non marxist. I am therefore putting up the same contribution on both ICC and CWO forums.

Its this idea of an immediate set of tasks that really takes my interest, primarily because of the discussion on Germany 1918 where nobody, not even the Spartacists, seemed to have an idea of what to do when the old state collapsed and the wc were able to take power. The consequence of this was that the left wing of the social democrats were left in charge and everyone became victim to its right wing.

We are now 100 years on and the world is a very different place. In this period of quiescence by the working class, then should we not be discussing, dare I say it, ‘what is to be done’ in the event of a revolution.

Bordiga’s comments/proposals are relevant but now outdated even where they are right. So what I want to do is not offer a completed programme but maybe to provoke some ideas and discussion about ‘what is to be done’.

What are the practical issues in society that the wc will have to address in the early phase of power?

The general tasks worldwide

Working class organisation worldwide, regionally and locally – assemblies/councils but will commissions be used and if so how to be controlled or managed?

Role of the Party as advisory. Should it increase in size? Should its role be purely advisory? Will it be needed in full communism?

Drawing all of society into working class

Policing the middle and upper classes.

Redressing the environmental damage done by capitalism

Poverty and Famine across the world.

Migration (wont just go stop, in fact could get worse if the wc doesnt pay enough attention to the development of 3rd world)

Work and the age old discussion of labour time vouchers

Specific tasks of management and reorganisation regionally and locally (maybe an artificial distinction as these problems exist worldwide

Debt - at the top of the list as it is a major burden on the wc. Immediately write off all debts, household, business and national.

Housing – Empty houses, (of the wealthy and 2nd home owners), empty offices, armed forces locations, country houses, palaces must be taken over and used for something useful eg homeless, childcare, health care, education. Payments for rent and mortgages should be stopped immediately.

Private property – Industry should be managed by the workers and products provided to support social needs. Financial industries and finance that need expropriating. Family housing and personal possessions shouldn’t be at risk as that would be a fear for many.

Homelessness & Poverty - empty offices, religious buildings can be used temporarily to start providing support in terms of shelter food and clothing. Unused housing could be made ready to be used in medium term.

Harmful and Waste industries – need to be run down quickly and the resources converted to constructive use, probably social welfare resources.

Prisons – release everybody or select inmates for release dependant on crime. All political prisoners to be released? Use the prisons for those who fight back against workers’ power.

Food supply – Agriculture will need regional planning to maintain supply, distribution networks need to be maintained and workers in these industries need to be supported with tools and resources as well as personal subsistence.

Family – How will the nuclear family change? Initially widespread creches will be need to be provided for all if all men and women are expected to work at least part of the week. Local childcare workers may have a big role in family and educational support and will probably need expansion at least in early phases. In fact family support may be basis of new area of work long term. Again tools resources and personal subsistence is needed.

Education - 2 issues here are resources and subjects will need revision. A programme of indoctrination is not wanted, but initially some subjects can be dropped in favour of a programme of discussion, social review and above all practical social participation. Resources will have to be locally determined initially

Health Care – Again I think this starts with regional planning re social need. Pharmaceutical companies need redirecting into social care research and changing to non-profit structures asap. Health care ikely to need expansion of systems worldwide. Hospitals and doctors need resources and equipment and supply must be maintained.

Childcare and OAP care - Creches will be needed. Services by health visitors and social welfare workers will need to be maintained at least initially to help new systems develops.

State institutions. Some could be useful – scientific research, social services, health, education and will need support and restructuring rather than dismantling

Industrial planning – Im not convinced this can start at a global level. Regional needs vary and planning could be integrated eventually.

Maintaining services that the world needs eg energy, communications. Plan the complete conversion to renewable energies asap

Find ways to redress the degradation of the environment that capitalism has caused. This means changing our diet, returning land to the wild, increasing forestry esp rainforests. I suspect it now too late to allow cities to spread out as per Bordiga’s suggestion. Stop using plastics. We cant allow a system run by the wc to sustain pollution levels.

Plan to stop the increase in world population – perhaps same task as eliminating poverty?

gangs and crime - Would these waste away with the an improved supply of social needs

Drugs – Stopping production of illegal drugs may be easier in a world without money?

Religion – Ive been told religion is a personal matter that cant be eliminated immediately and hence religious buildings cannot just be expropriated. They could however be given responsibilities to perform socially necessary tasks such as food distribution, temporary accommodation

Transportation systems including car traffic. Id say transportation systems will be more of a priority in 3rd world countries.

Discrimination and Prejudice - current issues of racism, sexism, prejudice means this issues will be raised quickly and so a step by step strategy will be needed to compliment social changes being implemented.

Im sure this is not an exhaustive list but one thing that strikes me in writing it, is that worldwide (we’ll have to stop saying internationally) is that priorities will vary significantly and my list is probably euro-centric. Parts of Africa & Asia and South America will have very specific problems relating to their existing living conditions so superstructural projects and food supply to raise the level of social development will be a priority and may well draw resources away from more developed regions.

How can all this be made to happen? The party members will not be specialists but the workers and technicians and academics will have to be tasked with planning and redirection of systems.


There is bound to be some interval of time between the establishment of proletarian power and the order to expropriate the capitalist class, but this could be extremely short, mere days. I am sceptical about schemes which involve running a capitalism with clipped wings, a sort of nice capitalism where we cut our input in terms of labour and increase our income in terms of goods and services. I think any capitalism we run would likely be just as bad or worse than it ever was, and would only be tolerated a short time before either the so-called revolution collapsed or capitalism terminated due to presssure from below.

I think we need to consider a transitional period as one between emergency nascent communist society and mature communism, rather than a prolonged period between capitalism and communism.

My first post stripped out the bullet points as i posted it so i hope it remains readable.

Re Stevein6s post, im not sure what you are getting at? Is it a criticism of what i said or a new point? Im not sure anybody but the SPGB suggests that there can be an instant transformation to sociealism

I think much of this depends on definition. Communism is not a fixed state of affairs, it is a process of becoming. At what point can we say that we have put an end to capitalism? Well, most of us would see capitalism as the entire global system and thus it is only ended when the revolution has spreag globally. But that doesn't mean the revolutionary dictatorship does nothing before that in the liberated territory, waiting for the DOTP to be established everywhere before demolishing capitalism t o the extent possible within a restricted geographical entity. We could immediately expropriate the capitalist class, introduce an emergency system like rationing and also attempt to circulate free goods - like housing, basic food. In this scenario there is no money, no private ownership of the means of production, the state lies in the hands of the working class. I would say this qualifies as nascent communism. For sure there remain thorny questions, how to deal with the external world whose goods we need and presumably we would hope to export some of our product. This would remain a distortion, perhaps we would simply use another currency to measure - such as the dollar or whatever major currency is agreed upon. But given that commodity production is no longer generalised, I would still maintain that we have moved into "emergency communism" and capitalism locally dismantled to the extent possible, very likely in the face of civil war involving foreign intervention, immediately drawing the global proletariat into the storm. This would be a very dynamic situation and creating some sort of coherent plan wthout concrete knowledge is going to come up with little more than a general overview as already described. The key factor in all of this is rapid extension and the freeing up of ever more resources to allow the revolution to survive without levels of deprivation which would lead to a popular rejection. Should this not happen, and the timespan again is determined by the concrete reality, then there is simply no solution. If you think this is utopian, I would say that the working class power running (however mitigated) capitalism is equally problematic.

Related, but I am not advocating it.

what does instant mean? A couple of weeks? I cannot see anything in Marx talking about a society that is neither capitalist nor socialist. All he talks about is lower phase communism. All he talks about is a “political transition period” and of “a period of revolutionary transformation” between capitalism and socialism. There is no hybrid society as far as I can see. Create proletarian power, take over the means of production and sink or swim, the whole thing decided by international extension.

And I suggest proletarian power in one country administering capitalism or some sort of hybrid chimera would last about as long as attempted socialism in one country. There are no sustainable "in one country" solutions.

I agree with Stevein here. I think the programme you outline (which is better than Bordiga's!) is not very ambitious and in some ways framed wrongly. You seem to think that the Party will have to "task" the workers but the workers (via their class wide bodies) will task themselves. The Party fights for the communist programme but as a minority cannot implement it. Its fundamental task is the spread of world revolution. In the first 6 months of the Russian revolution there was a great flowering of local initiative (coops, communes, factory committees and soviets) as well as a great deal of social experimentation which did not wait on anyone to say what should be done. At the same time there were leading Bolsheviks who criticised the role that too many Party members had adopted in the soviets of administering things when their role was to expand ideas of revolution. In the condtions of the time (economic collapse bordering on famine, a lack of qualified people inside the class etc) these voices become increasingly unheard as the state is rebuilt on a basis which was antithetical to the spirit of the revolution. We do not know what condition the working class will begin the task of overthrowing capitalism but it is unlikely to be economically propitious - maintaining supply chains might have to be the priority but the communists have to argue from day one for the abolition of the commodity economy (ergo money etc).

Thanks for the responses. They were quite what i was expecting in that i wasnt thinking of what to do in individual countries before the wc has taken global power. I agree that the main task for the international/party in that situation is the spreading of the world revolution. I also agree with you that it is not the task of the minority to implement things and am encouraged that you think so (not that i thought you thought anything else). The workers councils must take control and must have the final say but isnt the role of the party with its political perspective to advise and to make proposals? As you say at the end, arguing for the abolition of the money economy etc is important and it was this task that i was generally addressing. I fully expect that as workers work together to build a new society there will be a flourishing of ideas and actions what the party will have to follow and support and these will go well beyond what a party can suggest at the start of the process. I think however that in the early days, arguing for an 'immediate programme' could be constructive as a way of presenting ideas that accord with the workers demands to change whatever capitalism is at the time. I agree with your criticism of bolsheviks taking the role of administering things themselves and have no doubt the future rev will present similar problems (ie should individual militants accept roles in the councils?). Its also true though isnt it that they were arguing for proposals for social change such as creches, womens equality, rules against homophobia, changing family structure, stopping rent payments

I am a little surprised at what you just wrote in so much as you state "Thanks for the responses. They were quite what I was expecting" Just in case, you did not make a typo there did you? However as someone who has had to confront my own ignorance and hopefully achieve some clarity even if it is all a work in progress, I would hasten to say that I have struggled with this very topic for a long while. In reality, all these aspects of the communist process form a single process and refining a perspective in one area often has consequences elsewhere.

For a while I thought that state capitalism was part of the process to communist society, a tool that a proletarian power could employ. And after all this was at least at one point a Bolshevik perspective (likely only after the initial hopes of a rapid extension were dashed and the nightmare of what to do in an isolated, largely peasant, decimated Russia had to be confronted). I eventually rejected that idea and came more or less to the perspective I think is correct - there are no prolonged capitalist or isolated roads which we can take.

I do think that the earliest perspectives of Marx and Engels on the matter were not always correct or at least only correct for a certain epoch and this possibly gave rise to later problems of some "marxists" . Take for example recipes like;

(i) Limitation of private property through progressive taxation, heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.) forced loans, etc.(ii) Gradual expropriation of landowners, industrialists, railroad magnates and shipowners, partly through competition by state industry, partly directly through compensation in the form of bonds.

And to be fair they themselves subsequently recognised that some of the earlier formulations were no longer especially valid.

However, I do think Engels was correct to insist on what is really the determining factor -"Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?

No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others. Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany."

Now I still think there is an element of ambiguity here - I doubt simultaneous necessarily means the same day, week, month, but rather that the longer the isolation, the mounting probability of failure, regardless of all other factors.

I think what Lenin said was born of these factors - a nation where a powerful proletarian remained numerically dwarfed relative to the ocean of peasant producers, and the failure of the revolution to extend so its problems could not be mitigated by the most developed nation who in a more desirable scenario would have already taken the revolutionary path.

3rd Congress of the Communist International in June 1921: "The development of capitalism, controlled and regulated by the proletarian state i.e. ’state’ capitalism in this sense of the term), is advantageous and necessary in an extremely devastated and backward small-peasant country (within certain limits, of course), inasmuch as it is capable of hastening the immediate revival of peasant farming."

So, I doubt that there is a case for "The development of capitalism, controlled and regulated by the proletarian state " in any possible future "simultaneous" revolution. It seemed to be a grasping of straws in a hostile situation which eventually proved impossible to resolve.

I am not certain all I wrote is completely compatible with the CWO perspective, hopefully that will soon be answered.

PS There is an article here which claims Lenin said this at the First Congress, but gives the date as 1921. Likely a simple error... it is under the segment Controversy over the NEP.

Yes another typo, they seem to come more often with age. 'They were not quite what I was expecting' is what i meant and it appears you were expecting that!!

For the rest, do you think i was saying socialism in one country is possible? Did i make another typo?

I did not read your post as advocating socialism in one country. Hopefully we can continue to shed light on the matter, which ranks as fundamental. Equally hopefully, you will not baulk at my reference to the anarchist author here to illustrate my point. I am not abandoning Marxism!

In my mind the dictatorship of the proletariat is as Errico Malatesta sets out ..."But perhaps the truth is simply this: our pro-Bolshevik friends take the expression “dictatorship of the proletariat” to mean simply the revolutionary action of the workers in taking possession of the land and the instruments of labour, and trying to build a society and organize a way of life in which there will be no place for a class that exploits and oppresses the producers."

He goes on to say;

Thus construed, the “dictatorship of the proletariat” would be the effective power of all workers trying to bring down capitalist society and would thus turn into Anarchy as soon as resistance from reactionaries would have ceased and no one can any longer seek to compel the masses by violence to obey and work for him. In which case, the discrepancy between us would be nothing more than a question of semantics.

Now here I think we would be faced with an ambiguity. What he calls Anarchy we could share, the classless, stateless society. I think seen as such, we Marxists resolve the anarchist puzzle, we unerstand, as far as we can prior to the actual victorious revolution, the requirements for establishing such a society. We might refine that further, and again set out a demarcation between the Marxist approach to that fortunate society and others who would claim to have the key to that society- we wish to establish a global human community, not a patchwork of autonomous local domains which would be no basis for running the extremely powerful productive forces which we already have, will have and which already come up against the social relations of capitalism.

Malatesta goes on to say;

Dictatorship of the proletariat would signify the dictatorship of everybody, which is to say, it would be a dictatorship no longer, just as government by everybody is no longer a government in the authoritarian, historical and practical sense of the word.

Well, if he means that once classes have disappeared, once opposition has been quashed or waned away, there is no basis for oppression, then there would gradually emerge a situation where the only major issue would be the organisation of production and distribution. There would simply be no basis for a state power understood as a machine for the defence of one class against another, a machine for the active extirpation of the former capitalist class. If in fact he refers to the class wide organisation operating immediately before and after an insurrection, I doubt we can accept his wording, though it is possible that due to the numerical insignificance of the capitalist class, there would be no practical need to introduce a restriction in the participation of what will likely be territorial organs of power which give rise to higher bodies purely through the use of instantly recallable delegates.

And Malatesta went on to write;

But the real supporters of “dictatorship of the proletariat” do not take that line, as they are making quite plain in Russia. Of course, the proletariat has a hand in this, just as the people has a part to play in democratic regimes, that is to say, to conceal the reality of things. In reality, what we have is the dictatorship of one party, or rather, of one party’s leaders: a genuine dictatorship, with its decrees, its penal sanctions, its henchmen and, above all, its armed forces which are at present also deployed in the defense of the revolution against its external enemies, but which will tomorrow be used to impose the dictators’ will upon the workers, to apply a brake on revolution, to consolidate the new interests in the process of emerging and protect a new privileged class against the masses.

...a condemnation which to a certain extent describes what actually transpired in Russia as a result of a failed revolutionary process which did not see the "simultaneous" revolutionary outbreak but instead created a nightmare scenario from which there was no positive outcome possible.