The “Istituto Onorato Damen” - A Small Clarification

From Battaglia Comunista 9 - 2009

An association taking the name “Istituto Onorato Damen” was formed on 30 April of this year. The association was formed by comrades who for several years were the Catanzaro section of the Internationalist Communist Party. These comrades were formally expelled from the organisation on 10 May at the AGM (1) but largely because the, by now, ex-section of Catanzaro had already left the ranks of the PCInt and therefore of the International Bureau to form the above-mentioned association. We decided not to comment on the birth of this institute in order to avoid useless polemics. We have since learned that this association has produced a document (“Punto e capo...”) which has been sent to, among others, our readers and sympathisers as a result of the fact that they still hold our subscription list. In this document they attribute positions to us which are absolutely no part of our political heritage, positions which we condemn and fight against. We are therefore obliged in front of our readers and sympathisers to make a small clarification.

If we really wanted to make a full judgement on the political behaviour of these comrades we would need an entire magazine. There are so many of their actions that we could point to but the risk would be to lose ourselves in a trivial polemic. We have therefore decided to consider only those aspects which allow us to underline how politically mistaken and unjust was the method these comrades adopted first to criticise and then to leave the Internationalist Communist Party.

We come to the point. In their document (“Punto e capo...”) they maintain that our organisation has recently been oriented towards movementist, situationist and anarcho-syndicalist positions. The document is dated 30 July 2009 but the theory of some presumed political deviation was first put forward by one of these comrades in October 2007 during a meeting of the Executive Committee (CE) (2). The discussion in the CE ended with this comrade being given the task of preparing a document for our comrades as the starting point for education work on the party/class issue. This comrade never produced the document in question. Going a little further back to the CE meeting of April 2007 the same comrade took on the task, in collaboration with the rest of the Catanzaro section, of preparing a document which could be used to start a course of clarification for party members on the theme of class consciousness and intervention. Even this document was never produced. At the AGM in April 2008 why did the comrades not even then pose the question of a political deviation? And again in December 2008 in a letter to the CE the Catanzaro section proposed the calling of an AGM with the agenda being the approval of a document which clearly expressed our conception of the party/class relationship and the question of intervention. For the third time the same Catanzaro comrade took it upon himself to draft this document, to send it to the CE, and all the militants for the AGM. This document never arrived because incredibly these comrades had decided not to attend the AGM (which they had previously called for). The General Assembly of Militants was duly held on 9-10 May. (3) The first day was given over entirely to discussing the questions raised by the Catanzaro comrades who, as we have already said had already decided not to take part.

They had theorised the presence of a political deviation or drift, and had had plenty of opportunity to seriously confront this question. You cannot put forward such a serious criticism and then end up refusing to participate in the AGM (which is our equivalent of a Congress).

To put forward the idea that there is a political deviation and then not to turn up at the congress called to discuss it cannot be taken seriously. They claim to have settled the issue by email. They claim that the replies they got to their email comments from other comrades were brief and superficial. Hells bells! We are talking here of a presumed political deviation in the Internationalist Communist Party a discussion so serious and important that could not be discussed at the congress (or rather AGM)! These comrades instead indulged in entirely destructive behaviour which has stuck two fingers up to the principle of democratic centralism. It is behaviour which is light years away from the political traditions of the communist left and the Internationalist Communist Party in particular.

This is one of the two aspects which we want to inform everyone about. The other is the lack of a basis for their accusations of a movementist drift. (4) Despite the absence of these comrades the AGM took on the political questions they were posing. It was also decided to produce a document just for internal circulation to record the contents of the meeting. We have decided to make this account (“A propos the latest painful events”) public in order to clarify - in front of our readers and sympathisers - the political questions raised by our ex-comrades. As we have already said the accusation of a deviation has no foundation and without a shadow of a doubt there was plenty of space in the AGM for these comrades to clarify (or at least try to!) the question if they had been willing to.

These comrades have now formed an association unfortunately taking the name of Onorato Damen. The birth was announced in a “Communication” in which we read

Such an institute has as its end the study, research and dissemination of the principles of scientific socialism ... consolidated over time by the international communist left against Stalinism and all forms of opportunism.

An opportunism which these comrades condemn in words, but seem to aspire to, in practice. The “communication” was in fact sent to, among others, all the epigones of Bordigism, the ICC and it splitters, ex Lotta Comunista etc or rather to whole areas of the political spectrum which these comrades have always, quite rightly, strongly criticised. And they also sent this communication to our central address; even though we are according, to their way of seeing things, movementist, situationist etc. In the communiqué we read

This task of research, elaboration and dissemination distinguishes the institute as essentially a place of discussion which will be open to contributions from all who identify the same need, who show a certain sensitivity to these themes and towards the historic perspective which constitutes the final goal of the struggle for liberation, of freedom for the entire proletariat.

Open to contributions from all who identify the same need (which need?), who show a certain sensitivity (which means?) towards these topics. The thing - at least so far - seems to be vague, say little and is therefore opportunist. What would be the political platform of this association?

As they say themselves the institute is essentially a discussion place and their communication gives it the semblance of a study circle or publishing house. It is a type of organisation which has little interest for revolutionaries like us. We are not interested in seeing ourselves just as a discussion circle as we are certain that a communist organisation can only develop through its intervention in the class and in real struggles.

The firm basis for proletarian strategy is the need for the class party as the instrument of revolutionary struggle.

Onorato Damen, Battaglia Comunista 1950

We will continue our work of forming and rooting within the working class communist cadres in order to build a political organisation of the proletariat. We will always maintain, with whatever forces have, that intervention in the working class - in the struggles in which they express themselves - is central to our political work. It no accident that we want to end this article by drawing attention to this issue and it is no accident either that we follow the words of Onorato Damen

We have to reassemble the forces of revolution, however small in number, however partially destroyed, damaged, faltering, inside the workers' struggle; to regroup them in militant political activity, and not just in writing texts on a typewriter, which is only a personal and always very debatable activity, in both its intentions as well as its outcomes.

Onorato Damen, Battaglia Comunista 11, 1958

(1) AGM stands for General Assembly of Militants in which all the members of the PCInt take part. It acts as a Central Committee and it elects the central organ of the organisation (the Executive Committee or CE)

(2) The comrade in question of the ex -section of Catanzaro was part of the CE of the party, In fact it has been this comrade who played the leading role in these absurd events.

(3) The AGM also elected the new CE as happens every two years.

(4) Just referring to our recent writings it should be enough just to read, in particular, the article “The G20 Meltdown Protest” (BC May 2009) and the pamphlet “Youthful spontaneity and the revolutionary party” to see just how far we are from movementism.