Are Communists “Outside” the Class?

“The conflict is between class and class not party and party, because in the end the dialectical revolutionary force is the class and not the Party. The Party sensitises and strengthens, and gives conscious guidance to revolutionary action. In this sense, the Party is part of the class within the class, not outside the class and distinct from it. The dialectical overturning is realised by the class as a whole, not by the Party in place of the class, but there would be no transition from class in itself to a class for itself in the case of the absence of the nerve centre of preparation and guidance which is the Party.” Onorato Damen

Introductory note

In this article we are focussing on an issue which is fundamental for us – the issue of the relationship between Party and class. We will do this by quoting long passages from two "old" pieces written and produced by Onorato Damen and Mauro Stefanini Jr. These are a text by Damen “Spontaneity and the Role of Personality“ [1], and "Class and Consciousness: From Theory to Political Intervention" by Stefanini, from the 1970s. [2]

Both works, not surprisingly, have as their starting point "What Is To Be Done?" by Lenin. This text is in fact, in many respects, an important theoretical reference point. In it Lenin, following the line of dialectical and historical materialism, clearly emphasises the limits within which the "spontaneous" class struggle is inevitably expressed and indicates the Party's action as an indispensable contribution in order for the class to go beyond simple “purely trade-unionist consciousness” – a term used by Lenin – and develop a revolutionary consciousness.

It must be recognised that "What Is to Be Done?" made a significant contribution on the theoretical question of the relationship that must exist between Communists and the working class. Acknowledging that does not mean, however, accepting this document as myth or model. It was written in 1902, when not even in Russia was there an organised Communist Party. In addition, the language used is affected to a great extent – as O. Damen himself emphasised – by the bitter but correct polemic Lenin was conducting against the "economist" and "populist" current. [3]

So while recognising the value of Lenin's revolutionary text, some political aspects need exploring and clarifying. This is the sense, we have to say, in which the two articles mentioned above operate. We have therefore decided to revisit some passages [4], as the material is very useful for reflections on this issue.

We begin by reporting the observations of O. Damen.

Onorato Damen’s clarifications

"To clarify the distinction between party and class as moments of the same process [emphasis ours, Ed.], we should recall the well-known reference to Kautsky in the thought of Lenin, a reference which, in the epoch of What Is To Be Done? (1902), found its justification in the bitter controversy waged against the economist and spontaneist tendency. Kautsky denied that "socialist consciousness would be the necessary, direct result of the proletarian class struggle” and stated that:

"Socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one from the other, they arise from different premises. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. In fact, contemporary economic science is, like modern technique, a condition of socialist production and the proletariat, however much it may want it, can create neither the one nor the other; science and technology both arise from the contemporary social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat but bourgeois intellectuals, and even contemporary socialism was born in the brain of members of this class and has been communicated by them to those proletarians elevated by their intellectual development, who subsequently introduce it within the class struggle of the proletariat, where conditions permit. Socialist consciousness is therefore an item imported into the class struggle of the proletariat from outside and not something that arises spontaneously." [5]

And Lenin emphasises:

“The history of all countries attests that the working class, by its own forces alone , is only able to elaborate a trade unionist consciousness, namely the conviction of the need to join trade unions, to conduct the struggle against the bosses, to demand from the government this or that law required by workers, and so on.

The doctrine of socialism arose from the philosophical, historical and economic theories, which were elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals. From the point of view of social position, the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels were bourgeois intellectuals. Even in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the labour movement, it arose as a natural and inevitable result of the development of thought among Revolutionary Socialist intellectuals.” [6]

As can be seen the issue was posed in a very stark and one-sided way as befits polemical language but, as always, a polemical truth is only partial and does not exclude, does not deny, indeed poses the need for a more general subsequent truth. We would be making a serious mistake if we reduced the issue to the rigid distinction between those who have not yet developed “consciousness of the goal” and are only able to develop a trade unionist consciousness and those, the intellectuals of the bourgeoisie, through being holders of science and technology are the bearers of socialist consciousness. We would end up falling into a basically dualistic scholastic evaluation, far from a dialectical view of the problem.”

It is important to emphasise this initial clarification from Damen. It is true indeed that “dialectical and historical materialism” as the Marxist critique of political economy are theoretical tools thanks to the activity of “intellectuals” of bourgeois extraction. This does not mean, however, that today only the “intellectuals” of middle-class background can make use of this method of analysis, in order to then develop a revolutionary consciousness in a phase of profound bourgeois ideological domination. The communist vanguard must in fact be formed by the proletariat, but also by the bourgeois abandoning the interests of their class of origin, putting themselves at the service of the proletarian revolution. It must be said that the Bolshevik Party before 1917 grew with militants of proletarian extraction and this applies to all communist parties formed in that historical period. The conclusion remains true that revolutionary consciousness is not achieved simply under the pressure of the demand struggles of the class, dictated by the material conditions experienced, but thanks to the acquisition of a revolutionary analytical tool, to be precise Marxism. [7] Let us return to the text of Damen, in particular to the passage where the focus is placed on the historical genesis of revolutionary theory, which did not arise as an automatic result of the class struggle but, of course, is intertwined with it.

"[...] Socialism and the class struggle, although arising from different premises, however, are the result of the interweaving of two necessary moments of a single process, that of class development.

And more clearly science and technology arise from the social process, it is true, but there would be no social process if it were not for human forces and if they, in turn, did not adhere intimately in their action to the process itself and, under the thrust of different interests, did not give rise to situations of conflict and struggle. It is in this environment that was born, and has developed, a sense of differentiation between the various social groups which would go on to crystallise in class antagonisms. [...]

In a word, alongside the nexus of things is intertwined the nexus of human events. Socialism is not born from the discovery of a formula, even a superb one, it is not the result of laboratory investigations, it is not only science but also a new way to address the problem of life, a new vision of the world born of the development of modern capitalism and gradually matured under the goad of its own contradictions.

If socialism is the goal toward which the dialectic of the economic organisation of capitalism itself tends, it is also the goal to which men have turned in their irrepressible expectation of equality and freedom.

[...] Even if we considered the contribution of Marx and Engels as the work of scholars from the bourgeoisie, we would have posed a problem of extreme banality if we failed to historically situate their exposure, and destructive criticism, of the capitalist system under consideration. And to historically situate it means to feel the critical work of these teachers not only in terms of science, but as that of men who participated as protagonists in the historical process, where they considered as their own the cause of that class in whose fate potentially exists the future destiny of all mankind.

They are the men who conducted the harshest polemic against conservative conformity and saw in the historical development of capitalism, the raison d'être of the historical development of the proletariat. They are the systemisers of class doctrine, the theorists of revolutionary subversion as a natural outcome of the continuously elevated struggle between the two fundamental classes of modern history. The writer of Capital is also the writer of the Communist Manifesto and the Address of the First Workers' International. They are inseparable: it is ultimately a matter of defectors from the bourgeoisie who have ceased to think and act according to the canons of bourgeois culture but who think and act in the same way as those who are subject to alienated labour, with a perspective for the construction of a socialist society in which work is no longer a burden to humanity but the free expression of individual personality.

In this respect, and the problem does not support a different hypothesis, Marx, Engels and Lenin , and eventually with them and after them an army of thinkers, politicians and intellectuals connected with Marxism, all had the task of “introducing within the proletariat the consciousness of its situation and mission” but the formative elements of this matrix have their historical consciousness in the working class, they are reflected from time to time in the brain of some men, as in a laboratory scientific systemisation , to return them to the class to help it and make this "consciousness of purpose " ever more clear and distinct.

So let's look at Stefanini’s text, from which the passages that compose the following paragraphs in our work will be taken.

The Controversy over "What is to be Done?"

"[...] Plekhanov in “The Working Class and Social Democratic intellectuals” [8] seems to straighten out some “excesses” of Lenin’s "What is to be Done?" (WITBD?). Among the criticised passages [of WITBD? Ed] would be one according to which "In Russia the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the labour movement, it arose as a natural and inevitable result of thought amongst revolutionary socialist intellectuals." [9]

To this, Plekhanov says, “the spontaneous growth of the labour movement exerted on it [the revolutionary movement, Ed] a very strong influence just when the old populist theory began to disintegrate under the pressure of new demands of life that it had not predicted. In the revolutionary journalism of the late seventies one can find some very instructive examples of the fact that the unexpected appearance on our historical scene of the proletariat with all the factors that are peculiar to it embarrassed the populist authors and thus came the time for the great revision of the populist program." [10]

And later: "Marx and Engels recognised in the proletariat the main revolutionary force of our time, a force whose historic mission is to replace the capitalist mode of production with the socialist. But that they might recognise this force in this proletariat required two conditions: first of all the antagonism of classes and the rapid 'spontaneous growth of the labour movement', secondly, on their own part, i.e. on the part of those who were called to put socialism on a scientific basis, a careful examination of these phenomena."

In the clash between quotes Plekhanov seems to come out victorious: Lenin went too far. If the crux of “WITBD?” is to be found in that same sentence by Lenin and targeted by his rival, those who refuse Leninism and the essential concepts about the Leninist party “in toto” would be right: these concepts were based in fact on a wrong methodological premise. But it is not. The key to reading “WITBD?” cannot at all be the comfortable version which Plekhanov provided and - as we shall see – so did Martynov and the Mensheviks and so forth.

And it was Plekhanov himself who said this to Martynov during the Second Congress of the RSDLP (July-August 1903) where the very ideas of “WITBD?” were the centre of discussion. Here is his statement:

"Lenin has not written a treatise on the philosophy of history, but rather a polemic against economists who said we have to wait and see what will come from the working class itself, without the help of the 'revolutionary bacillus'. The latter were forbidden to say any word to the workers regarding the ‘revolutionary bacillus', in other words, regarding a theoretical consciousness. But if one deletes the bacillus, there remains only an unconscious mass, into which consciousness must be inserted from the outside, if one wants to be fair to Lenin and had carefully read his book, one would have seen that he says just that. So speaking about the union struggle [the fight for demands, Ed], he develops the same idea that the broad socialist consciousness can be inserted only from beyond the limits of the immediate struggle for the improvement of the conditions of sale of the labour-power." [11]

So Plekhanov in 1903 provides us with the best response to his anti-Lenin writings in 1904.

But it is interesting to trace the subsequent contortions of Plekhanov that help us to better understand the essence of the problem. He writes, precisely in 1904 [12], a false polemic with Lenin: “Instinctive Socialism should, according to Kautsky, lead to social revolution” and continues, quoting the German where it explains the basis of his work Die Soziale Revolution:

“I wanted to know what consequences arise necessarily in the political domain of the proletariat due to its class interests and the needs of production, quite apart from the theoretical base on which it was deemed the proletariat would stand during its victory. I then deleted any hypothesis on the influence of socialist ideas on the proletariat ["listen hard, listen!” Is a phrase of Plekhanov aimed at Leninists, Editor's note]. At the beginning of my research I am asked the question: what use will the proletariat have to make of its own power? Not what is desired according to a particular theory or to a certain state of mind, but what should it undertake motivated by its class interests and the strength of economic necessity.” [13]

The full quote made by Plekhanov himself shows two things:

(a) Kautsky examined in his book (highly esteemed by Lenin himself) “The Social Revolution” the necessary economic and political measures which gave the revolution a communist character that alone makes it a “social revolution”. In this sense, the abstraction that Kautsky makes of the Party and the conditions of class consciousness, is not only perfectly legitimate but scientifically necessary, as it is necessary to abstract from the particular experimental conditions (specifically changed several times in the laboratory) to arrive at the scientifically correct definition of any law (for example thermodynamics). The equation for the state of gas (PV = RnT), Fermi teaches us, applies regardless of whether any real gas obeys the equation exactly. One calls a substance that obeys the equation exactly a perfect or ideal gas. The laws of thermodynamics tell us what are the ideal conditions for the gas which would verify the exact equation. But in order to continue in the exposition of the principles of this discipline it is necessary to abstract from concrete reality test cases to be able to state laws that allow us to get back to them with the wealth of knowledge necessary to make progress in the same production technique (thermal machines, calculations regarding height/air temperature, physical solutions, etc.) [...]

Whenever one resorts to convoluted politics to escape strict Marxist positions, the scientific character that sets them apart is forgotten. Plekhanov is simply shooting himself in the foot.

In fact :

( b) Plekhanov’s quotation of Kautsky does not prove what he wanted to prove. Kautsky insists that necessity drives the proletariat who, willingly or otherwise, will have to deal with what arises from economic necessity. But even abstracting from the real conditions of consciousness, he leaves open the question for a moment how “instinctive socialism, must lead to social revolution”. That's exactly what Lenin answers in "WITBD?" which Plekhanov accepted at the Second Congress of the RSDLP as we have already seen.

In "WITBD?" is the clear answer to the problem we can formulate thus: given that the theoretical consciousness of socialism is the product of theorising outside of the daily dynamics of the class from which it actually emerges as a problem or political issue, how is the link between the one and the other made?

At the Second Congress of the RSDLP (20-3-1902/4-8-1903) 14 months after the release of the book in session nine, Martynov said: "Comrade Karskij said that my conception of the relationship of the working class and socialist ideology boils down to the argument that the working class alone comes to develop the theory of scientific socialism. I never said anything like that. I only found that the various layers of the proletariat have independently developed forms of economic and political class struggle and have transformed the ideas of bourgeois socialism into communist ideas.”

That, among other things, is exactly why Karskij had reprimanded him. This particularly smells of opportunism from a mile away, since “various layers of the proletariat” somehow come to communism, however ... even the “ideologues” are dealt with. He says: "The function of the ideologues consisted in having synthesised these elements of the class struggle, in having given a theoretical foundation to this struggle. This work was realised, not by workers, but by Marx and Engels and consisted in the transformation of past philosophical and scientific theories into the theory of scientific socialism."

Therefore, proceeding with the proper method of systematic abstractions:

1. ...there are no external ideologues. In this case, do the “layers” of the proletariat still transform the ideas of bourgeois socialism into communist ideas? From the second part of the quote one would say not.

2. ...the form changes but the problem remains the same. Without a “theoretical foundation” for the class struggle, is the transformation of bourgeois ideas into communist ones by workers in struggle still possible? Martynov still says no. In conclusion Martynov, like Plekhanov, skirts around the issue without getting to its root, much less the solution.

For Lenin, when he was about to write “WITBD?”, the dialectical relationship that binds the “life” of the class with its political doctrine was clear. His error was to have possibly taken this for granted and that he had only set about a work ... “entirely devoted to the critique of the tailist wing of social democracy at the time, pointing out and refuting the errors of this particular wing.” [14]”

First Conclusions

"The implicit premises are fully in line with the above mentioned intervention at the II Congress by Plekhanov and with the teachings of Kautsky in “Social Revolution” in addition to the traditional purely Marxist approaches to the problem. They are as follows.

The objective existence of the class and its struggle against the capitalists provide on the one hand the objective prerequisites for the scientific elaboration of communist doctrine and its programme, on the other hand we have the concrete cultural terrain of the class instinct of the proletariat itself which can extend to an indistinct desire for the subversion of society. On the basis of existence (Plekhanov’s “life”) of the proletarian, communist thinking develops in the form of critical instruments, political and organisational principles for the implementation of the programme. Marx indeed developed the fundamental thesis on the dictatorship of the proletariat on the basis of the experience of the Parisian proletariat, but that argument would not be such without a Marx, the protagonist of doctrinal elaboration. Lenin himself began (and left unfinished) a thesis on the Soviet form of power (the power of councils) on the basis of the Russian experience of 1905 and even more in the storm of February 1917. But what would be the result of the successive struggles without Lenin's April Theses and without the immediate work of the Bolshevik Party based on them?

The "external factor" to the class, which we will review in depth later, is thus a product of the spontaneous motion of the class in the sense that it provides the raw material of experience and data that it elaborates into a doctrine – a programme so as to return it in this form to the real proletarian movement. The need for an “external factor” is given by the same historical context dominated by the collision, the clash, between classes, since there is no social reality that cannot find its political expression.”

The Party as an Instrument

Based on the conclusions above, Stefanini, in polemics with the ICC, highlights some aspects concerning the functions of the class party. Below is a summary of these observations.

  • The party is the political instrument of class struggle. It is not simply an accelerator, a catalyst, of the process of the uptake of revolutionary consciousness by the working class. If we were to reduce the role of the Party to that of a simple accelerator we would be saying that consciousness is already all within the class itself and it only remains to accelerate its growth.
  • If we were to say that the party is only a catalyst, we would be arguing that it is not essential. According to this erroneous assertion in fact we would come to affirm that without a Party the class can, however, to transform society in a socialist sense, the Party, at most, simply reduces the timescale of this process.

The Instruments of the Class

“The proletariat does not fail at times of rising class struggle to create the appropriate tools to this end. Indeed it is the workers themselves who “give themselves an instrument” when they organise in the strike committee, co-ordinations of struggle, resistance centres, etc. The actual movement of the class, the workers’ concrete relations to the situations which they live, is configured materially in the proletariat special organisations, each of which has clearly defined purposes and definite limits. [...]

In the conduct of the strike, it is a common practice, though not always the case, that workers create appropriate tools such as committees of struggle. These are exhausted with the completion of the struggle, and disappear with it, or are reabsorbed by the normal trade union organisations.

The Russian proletariat, in 1905, at the height of its struggle against the tsarist autocracy and against the capitalists that bound it to the appalling conditions of poverty, made history in the first formation of the Soviets. Trotsky describes it thus: "The Council of Workers' Deputies was established to respond to an objective requirement aroused by the situation at the time: it was necessary to have an organisation equipped with indisputable authority , free from any tradition, immediately bringing together the dispersed and unconnected multitudes; this organisation was to be the point of convergence of all revolutionary currents within the proletariat and had to be capable of initiative and control automatically - the key element was to be able to set it up in 24 hours.” [15]

So the class has provided, and will provide, the suitable organs to fight first for the proletarian assault and then the exercise of power. [16]

But on the basis of that body created by the class, the Bolshevik Party drew up the line that it rapidly refined, week by week, between February and April of 1917, culminating in the Theses of Lenin, to secure victory in October.

1905 was the historic laboratory in which the class demonstrated evidence of its experience and its revolutionary tension. The Bolshevik party was the conscious creation and the active moment of the link between instinct and consciousness, between the thrust from below and the historic programme of communism.

The External Element

“Undoubtedly, the Bolshevik party was already in existence. 1905 was not its origin. Equally undoubtedly since 1905 it has created new theoretical, political and organizational elements. How to combine the two facts? [... ] Once again it comes to going back to the essential point of the Communist doctrine [...] according to which there is a profound difference between “class instinct” and “class consciousness.”

One is born and develops within the workers' struggles as part of the proletariat’s own heritage as it is brought into being by the antagonism of material interests and feeds the growing economic, social and political contradictions arising from the same antagonism; in summary, therefore, the relations between workers and capitalists are sufficient to lead to a certain generalisation of workers' struggles and a certain intensity of the clashes. The other, consciousness, is born from the scientific examination of class contradictions, increases with the increase of knowledge of the contradictions, lives and feeds on the examination and processing of the data emanating from the historical experiences of the class. Now, although possible, the transition from class instinct to class consciousness is not automatic, nor is additional radicalisation of the clashes or the plurality of negative experiences sufficient in this regard [...].

The major episode of class struggle in Italy serves to prove this: the occupation of the factories in 1920. From Mirafiori telegrams were sent to the union and the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) calling for the launch of revolutionary action, the instinct of the class was largely oriented towards the revolution, and many other factors were present (weapons and plans for arming workers were in place, the petty bourgeoisie was uncertain, and on the verge of siding with the proletariat if its initiative proceeded, the armed forces of the bourgeoisie were sufficiently disorientated). What was missing, however, and it could not arise from the factories, was the force that could speedily transform the revolutionary material into organisational and military policies for the victory of the proletariat. There were people and forces in the PSI able to take on this role. But they were not yet ready, they were not yet an “external element” neither to the class nor the ... PSI. The "abstentionist" fraction, the majority of those that converged at Livorno in the PCd'I., had not had time to do that work in the class that would have led to the convergence of the instinct of the class and the scientific consciousness of its political exponents on a revolutionary terrain.

Consciousness is therefore exactly an “element imported into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow it” (Kautsky quoted by Lenin) [...]"

Mauro Stefanini concludes this paragraph, in his own words, examining an aspect already dealt with by Onorato Damen: the historical genesis of revolutionary theory.

“Are the dominant ideas the ideas of the ruling class or not? Is it true or not true that the “controllers of the means of material production thereby at the same time control the means of intellectual production” and that the proletariat is rather an exploited class and therefore ideologically dominated? If so, then it is also true that “contemporary socialism was born in the brain of these layers (bourgeois intellectuals ) and was communicated by them to the proletarians elevated by their intellectual development, who later introduced it in the class struggle of the proletariat” (still Kautsky and Lenin). This is a given, regardless of the fact that the language used herein is hardly dialectical.”

Let us, therefore, turn to the second part of the dialectical relationship."

The Dialectical Relationship

“The “intellectuals”, the “theoreticians” of the class do not work on the basis of fantasy or on the basis of abstract principles unconnected with the reality of the proletariat. We say that “the intellectuals remains the intellectuals as always, that is, tied to their socio-economic matrix if they do not insert themselves into the class, if they do not become a formative element bringing a contribution to the class. The intellectual becomes the intellectual worker who has to work in and for the class.” [17]

Another way to illustrate the same concept: consciousness is a reflection on the terrain of ideas of the bourgeois - proletarian antagonism so it is the subjective element that allows the overcoming of the contradiction by the revolutionary destruction of capitalism. The real clash of interests between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the practical experience of the class is the “sine qua non” of consciousness and each step of its progression.

"When theory, philosophy, morality etc. come into conflict with the existing relations, this can only happen due to the fact that existing social relations have come into contradiction with the existing productive forces." Marx

It is not the task of the revolutionary organisation, the Party, to elaborate doctrines outside of the real movement of the class and its actual historical experiences. It is therefore only by living within the class phenomenon that the party can draw-up the lines of its political action.

We therefore reject the argument that the identity between the proletariat and socialism lies in the fact that the theory is a mechanical product of the class [...] the argument that consciousness might be a pure product of the spirit of exalted characters should also be rejected.

Here is the false problem: does socialist consciousness comes from the class or from those who know how to “reflect the laws of history”? It is a false problem because it is not posed in dialectical terms, that is in a way that really allows social and historical reality to be understood. The solution is in fact outside of the alternative terms in which it is formulated, and includes them both. Socialist consciousness is the scientific reflection on the experiences of the class and the problems that arise from this; conducted by those who are equipped for this discussion and identify themselves politically with the class. This identification is the dialectical relationship between theoretical consciousness of socialism and the material existence of the proletariat and its movement. [...]”

The Resulting Political Problems

“Let us therefore return to the thread that binds the class to its Party. If consciousness is presented in its most complete form as a body of theory and the programme for communism, how is the concrete connection between these and the class whose existence gave rise to them expressed? [...]

The class fights its demand struggles, clashes with capital to varying degrees, with its laws, its compatibility, maturing in those fights its generic anti-capitalist orientation, its class instinct. This happens if and when other obstacles do not hamper the growth of the said struggles. Under these simple conditions, however, it is relatively easy for capital to divert the masses toward partial solutions or objectives of fake “renewal.” To do this it uses certain of its forces, ones better able to perform those mystifying functions. Alongside their action to stifle and lead through the use of an appropriate demagoguery towards a reformist goal (albeit chimerical) is entrusted the task of dispersing the first wave after which the State follows through with directly repressive initiatives. This is what has always occurred in the absence of a revolutionary party adequately prepared for the task and rooted in the class (Italy 1920-22, Germany in 1919 and after 1923, Spain in 1936, China in 1927, etc.). This is what will still happen if revolutionaries are unable to organise in time: the clandestine forces of capital are already deployed inside the class, even when the latter is taking a severe beating with little response.

The resumption of the struggle then is certainly accompanied by falling confidence in the forces of traditional social democracy - which is made possible since those forces directly access the arena of power, as the real material agents of anti-labour attacks – this does not necessarily coincide with the orientation of the class in the organically revolutionary sense, that is, towards the political and doctrinal platform for communism. But this special orientation does not come from heaven, but from the reinsertion of revolutionary science within struggles by the Party that elaborates and proposes it.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Translated from Prometeo 9 Fifth Series (June 2013)

[1] Contained in the book “Gramsci between Marxism and Idealism," ed. Prometheus.

[2] Stefanini wrote this article in polemics with the International Communist Current during the years of the "International Conferences”.

[3] A guide for reading “What is to be Done?” (WITBD) can be found in Prometheus number 6, sixth series.

[4] The notes contained in the source texts are marked as such, and the others are editorial. The italics are editorial.

[5] Lenin in "WITBD?" quotes this passage from Kautsky, a passage shared by Lenin.

[6] Lenin's “WITBD?” [Ed.].

[7] It also has to be said that, in general, the term "intellectual" today can be misleading; it does not lend itself very well to identifying a militant communist, beyond their social origin.

[8] It appeared in two parts in numbers 70 and 71 of Iskra in 1904. Now in "What Is To Be Done? and the writings of Akimov, Axelrod, Plekhanov. Trotsky and others" - Einaudi - 1971 - p. 360 et seq. [Ed.].

[9] ibid p. 39 [Ed.].

[10] ibid p. 363 [Ed.].

[11] ibid p. 376 [Ed.].

[12] Article quoted in Iskra 70-71 [Ed.]

[13] The mention of Plekhanov is taken from an article by Kautsky in “Die Neue Zeit" XXII. Volume 1 number 19 p. 591. The emphasis is Kautsky’s [Ed.].

[14] Addition by Lenin to an article by Vorovskij appearing in number 11 of Vpered March 1905 - "What Is To Be Done?" Einaudi p. 389 [Ed.].

[15] Trotsky - 1905 - Paris, 1923 - p. 94 [Ed.].

[16] For completeness, it is noted that councils will be able to act in a revolutionary way only through the intervention within them of the political class vanguard, the Party, as highlighted by Stefanini referring to the role of the Bolshevik party.

[17] Prometeo 28-29 p. 49 [Ed.].

Monday, October 6, 2014


Prometeo - Ricerche e battaglie della rivoluzione socialista. Rivista semestrale (giugno e dicembre) fondata nel 1946.