Towards Socialism - Notes on the Transitional Phase (Part I)

This article expresses the opinions and ideas of individual comrades and not necessarily those of the ICT as a whole. See Introduction to Discussions on Socialism.

But the historical development of the antagonisms immanent in a given form of production is the only way in which that form of production can be dissolved and a new form established.

K.Marx , Capital, Volume I, Chap. XV p.458 - Lawrence and Wishart 1954

The need for a higher social formation

The manifestation of the current economic crisis that began in the early 1970s and grew worse from 2007 shows - once again - the veracity of some fundamental assumptions of the communist critique of political economy (1):

  1. the capitalist mode of production is intimately contradictory (2), its contradictions explode periodically in the form of crisis, especially as the system tries to delay the onset of the crisis, the more the contradictions that underlie it increase in size and intensity;
  2. the bourgeoisie knows only two ways to overcome its structural crisis: through wars (military and commercial) and by ever more intense exploitation of the labour-force (3);
  3. with each new crisis, then, the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production become gradually wider, deeper and more destructive; ever larger masses of the world's population are reduced to poverty and an ever smaller number of capitalists decide the fate and wealth of the world (4), in the face of a labour productivity increased as never before in human history, millions of human beings are condemned to unemployment, young people are not able to enter the labour market, but the retirement age is raised so as to exploit the elderly longer and not pay their pensions. While goods travel freely from one end of the planet to the other, people die as illegal immigrants in boats, trying to escape from wars. The greater the knowledge of the planet and the discovery of new techniques that work in harmony with nature, the more the environment itself is devastated and destroyed. The world is ever more interconnected, communication facilitated, populations mixed together, but more and more new wars emerge, the fires of nationalism are stoked, racism, religious hatred and individualism triumph, loneliness reigns... We could go on and on .
  4. Despite - potentially - having all the means to do so, the logic of capitalism, its institutions, its representatives, is not able to resolve the contradictions of its own development, is not structurally able to deal with - let alone resolve - the pressing imperatives imposed on the world's population today.

The lack of solutions, however, is dragging (and not too slowly) humanity towards barbarism and annihilation. These imperatives are:

  • the fulfilment of the physical and spiritual needs of every single person on the planet ;
  • the defence and protection of the environment;
  • The development of a system of harmonious relations between men and between humanity and the environment.

Either a new phase of history will open through the overthrow of capitalism - a phase in which we will finally be able to tackle these issues - or humanity will be condemned to barbarism.

Mankind has never existed and does not exist yet [...] humanity, as a collective entity, will begin to exist on the day when man is no longer constrained by the needs of self-preservation to engage in a dog fight with his neighbours (5).

Paradoxically, capitalism now seems at the height of its material and ideological triumph.

A material triumph because, across the planet, the vast majority of the population, almost everything produced and virtually all social relations are now subjected to the logic of profit, and commodified (reduced to a commodity) (6). It is an ideological triumph because the system glorifies itself as the only productive model, supreme and eternal: it appears that there can be no alternative except through changes (reforms) to be implemented completely within the logic of profit and its forms of development.

This ideological triumph is the result of the following steps:

  1. The last attempt to realise its supersession - the Russian Revolution of 1917, which took place under conditions of strong economic backwardness - was defeated by isolation and mystification. The counter-revolution itself, in fact, was passed off as "building socialism." Since that time communism was no longer associated with the liberation from the chains of exploitation, but one of the most bloody and oppressive forms of state capitalism that have ever seen light.
  2. The reference to the concept of "class struggle" and the proletariat - both as an object of capitalist exploitation, or as a subject of the revolutionary process - has been strictly banned (7). Although workers are now more numerous than ever, deeply impoverished and crushed, the bourgeoisie has managed to erase any sense of identity, of belonging to the class of the exploited. There triumphs in its place a sense of homogeneity and, ultimately, an identification with the concepts of nation and citizenship.
  3. The year 1989 was not only the end of false Soviet socialism and with it, in the popular imagination, the end of the need for a social alternative, but also the end of the notion that to achieve a given political objective a political vanguard needs to be organised as a party. The crisis of the bourgeois parties has contributed to the absence, in the popular imagination, of the sense of the necessity of the revolutionary party.
  4. The concatenation of these three negations has enabled the capitalist mode of production to deny in toto: the necessity, possibility and feasibility of an alternative.

But this has only happened in the world of ideas, the ideological superstructure. In the world of material social relations and the productive structure, the grounds for the alternative, today, are more alive than ever.

This is the only world possible! The only motor of progress is private property, business, the accumulation of wealth! Without the motivation of profit any activity would no longer have reason to exist! Merit is rewarded financially! Production is for profit or it does not happen! Etc. etc…


One of the most deadly aspects of the current culture is the belief that it is the only culture, instead it's simply the worst (8).


The rise of the knowledge that existing social institutions are irrational and unjust, that reason has become a nonsense, well-being a bad thing, is just a sign of the fact that in the methods of production and forms of exchange there have inadvertently occurred changes for which that social order suitable for earlier economic conditions is no longer appropriate. Alongside that at the same time the means to overcome the problems that have been revealed must also exist, more or less developed, in the same changed relations of production. Such means do not need, say, to be invented by the brain, but need to be discovered by the brain in the facts of existing production (9).

A powerful race to accumulation is the prime feature that most clearly distinguishes capitalism from the social formations of the past. Over the last two hundred years a completely extraordinary development of the productive forces has taken place. Looking at the average standard of living in the West of the early 1800’s we find they are more akin to those of primitive man that the present day.

Productivity has increased enormously; the means of production have become colossal forces of social production. These can now be put in place only by the coordinated work of great collectives of men and women (10). The microprocessor revolution has also made possible the break-up of these collectives so that hundreds of smaller units - even at a distance of thousands of kilometres - are able to cooperate to a "same end product," even without individual workers having any awareness of it. An example:

Think of the banal act of taking a coffee at the coffee machine during a break in working time: Who filled it? From where did every single item available come? From where do the ingredients contained in each product come? Who produced them? Who transported them? Who produced the means to produce them and to transport them? And the machine, who assembled it? Who produced each piece that it contains? And who mined the required materials? Who transported them? And then, who has worked to provide all these people with the goods they need to eat, sleep, live? And more ... Already with only the act of taking a simple coffee, every day we come into contact with the millions and millions of individuals whose work - unknowingly collective and coordinated - makes all things possible.

The means of production and the production itself are essentially social factors and, by now, completely international. We can imagine proletarian humanity as a single social giant with millions, billions of tentacles the individual production centres in the world operate so as to deploy a virtually limitless range of finished products, and indeed it is the international social character of production, which makes possible, as never before, such a variety of products.

Still, the first contradiction: in this intimately collective production, coordinated locally and globally, is an essentially private mode of appropriation of the products. What is produced by joint effort, although fragmented, by huge arrays of salaried workers, becomes the sole property of the owner of the company. The same product can then be consumed by the workers themselves only privately, according to what their individual salary allows. In the act of appropriation and consumption there remains no trace of the giant collective that produces everything and makes everything possible, there are only private, alienated lives.

The separation between the means of production concentrated in the hands of the capitalists which, to operate them, buy the paid labour force of the masses of the exploited population, and the producers, reduced to possession of no more than their own labour-power, is deeper entrenched by time. Second: the contradiction between social production and capitalist appropriation appears as the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (11).

The product of this huge collective effort is finally put on the market in the form of goods. Each individual capitalist cares only for his own interest, in contrast with others. Every worker sells his labour power to the highest bidder (if found). The goods ebb and flow according to the sole criterion: "the pursuit of maximum profit." The product dominates the producer, it is the logic of profit that decides where to direct it, if it is beneficial to produce or, perhaps, it is better to destroy it: the worker is dominated by the whims of the market. Third contradiction: if in the individual factory, like all work activities that belong to the same proprietor, production is organised and coordinated, outside, in the market, there is anarchy. Production as a whole is anarchic. Each unit is isolated and at the mercy of a market that it cannot control or understand. Although the worker was originally the architect of the whole process now, at the end of the process, the worker is completely enslaved.

... And their solution ...

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society, which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, spiritually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges (12).

Socialism is that economic and social system that comes about due to the strength of the clash between the material forces set in motion by the outbreak of the contradictions of capitalism, contradictions which have become unsustainable. It is not a "perfect society" born from the mind of a philosopher, and therefore unattainable, but the product of very deep social and economic wounds, lacerations that - through the pangs of revolution - need to be reconstructed on a higher level, that of socialism, in fact.

At a certain point the contradictions mentioned above become unsustainable. Like a sick organism, capitalism, in an attempt to survive the forces which it has evoked and developed, starts to destroy its parts. Thus begins a period of deep and dramatic crisis, a potentially revolutionary phase which the outbreak of the economic and social contradictions can cause significant mass movements and instability. This is a frightening historic moment but at the same time, a rare and precious one. It is here that there can open up, thanks to the powerful thrust of the moving masses , the possibility of bringing an historical solution to the contradictions at the origin of the process, and then to affirm , for the first time, the unity of interest that binds all humanity.

But the outcome is not assured. Such a period of upheaval can overcome the contradictions that are generated in three different ways: either by reproducing on an enlarged scale the same contradictions that it (13) or resolving them in a new social formation, or even with the "common ruin of the contending classes".

In order for a new social organisation to establish itself – i.e. so that the contradictions of capitalism can be resolved - it is necessary that the social impact caused by the crisis evolve into political upheaval: the power to decide the fate of society (political power) passes from the current ruling class (the bourgeoisie) to the social class that until then is plunged into conditions of exploitation and subjugation (the proletariat, the class of modern wage labourers). To resolve the contradictions built into their System the bourgeoisie must be dispossessed of political power, this has to be transferred to the proletariat. The Communist Party is the political instrument necessary to make that transition.

The Communists … point out an bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, which are independent of all nationality, … in various stages of development which the struggle between the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole. The immediate aim of the formation of the proletariat into a class, the overthrow of bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat (14).

Socialism is the transitional society to communism

Under communism, associated humanity collectively distributes the products of labour, using them for the satisfaction of social needs. As the means of production are common property, social classes no longer exist; there is thus no coercive state power. Thanks to increased production potential - and the establishment of a harmonious relationship between production, people and nature - work is no longer an obligation: rather it becomes a need. The goods produced are no longer circulated on the basis of their exchange value (the law of value), in a Communist society each offers what s/he can and receives what s/he needs.

Obviously, these new relationships will not come about overnight; rather they will be created by human beings who grow up in a different society, with different values and points of view. Human beings who will feel it is the most natural thing in the world to identify their individual interest with the collective.

Socialist society – having disarmed the bourgeoisie - instead takes over the rubble left by capitalism and the bitter struggle against it. The men and women who live in this transitional society are still sons and daughters of capitalism: besides the devastation and the endless mass of other problems (first of all that the environment), they have - at least partly - inherited its logic, the ideological baggage. Their children, on the contrary, will be children of a free society and will grow and become adults in it.

The purpose of a society in transition is precisely to "ferry" humanity from the shore of capitalist barbarism to the other side, that of communist civilization.

The phase that we call "socialism" begins, then, after the conquest of political power by the proletariat and ends with the final extinction of the State of the revolutionary proletariat (the council system). The extinction of the state is the political and organisational expression of overcoming the law of value. In communism there will in fact be no need to manage men, only things.(15) Let us proceed.

The council system

Be it democratic or totalitarian, bourgeois power systematically excludes the workers from exercising it.

The complete exclusion of the workers from exercising political power grows from the original separation of the workers from the fruits of their labour and means of production. The production of commodities results in the anarchy of the market, the domination of commodities over humans, profits over individuals. Under these conditions, the human race is basically unable to control the unfolding of the overall production process, it is therefore at the mercy of the market (or "markets" as it is fashionable to say nowadays). When the cyclical crises occur, the last card left to the bourgeoisie to deal with the phenomenon is that of militarisation of competition. The clash between different capitals, which normally occurs in the market, takes the form of war. The widespread destruction has the great merit - for capitalism - creating conditions so that rebuilding can start.

The really innovative factor is that, as a dramatic event, however, the crisis can be transformed into an opportunity for change for the exploited.

The enormous development of the productive forces created by capitalism, not only makes possible the overthrow of capitalism itself, but also creates the historic opportunity to resolve the contradictions that characterise its existence.

The crisis, in its most acute phase, opens the doors - for a short period of time – for a chance for a different resolution from that provided by the ruling classes: in this moment of difficulty and weakness the ruling class can be brought down, political power may unexpectedly pass into the hands of the exploited. The political revolution opens new scenarios: the historic separation between the producers and political power is reconfigured.

The opening up of new possibilities through this event is invaluable.

With the seizure of political power by the proletariat and the rise of socialism (proletarian revolution) for the first time in history, the social class which directs society is the same class that produces. Thus the precondition is put into place for the resolution of other fundamental contradictions. Let's see.

Through the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the producers take possession of the exercise of political power. The workers’ councils take power. At this point there opens a more or less lengthy phase, but a phase which is definitely new, difficult , intense and, in turn, contradictory.

In this new phase the producers, by means of a series of authoritarian measures shall progressively abolish private ownership of the means of production, which are socialised, thus subjecting them to the control of the associated workers (16). Through the gradual socialization of the productive apparatus the separation between workers and the fruit of their labour is also overturned. The production of goods tends to disappear. The workers, through their association, have at their disposal more and more products of their labour which they can then use to meet the collective needs.

With the growing emergence of socialist production relations, the market gradually loses its reason to exist: both production and distribution begin to be guided by a plan that comes from the computation of real needs, collectively defined. Human beings can collectively decide what and how much to produce, how to use the products. The destruction of the products of labour has become nonsense. Conscious control over the production process is realised. Planning also allows the prevention of shortages of goods due to famine and natural disasters. Crises, at least as we have known them up to now, are over.


Before we continue, let’s summarise schematically what are the characteristics of the system of councils which form the new revolutionary proletarian power (17):

  1. Councils are organised on a territorial basis, they exclude from participation those belonging to the exploiting classes, those who avail themselves of the exploitation of labour, who enjoy properties that earn profit and / or income of any kind, cannot participate, as are excluded the representatives of the former bourgeois state apparatus;
  2. the councils centralise in higher level assemblies from the territorial to the international level; they form an Executive Committee which implements the necessary centralisation;
  3. members of the executive organs are elected by universal suffrage, bound to a mandate from the base and revocable at any time, they receive the same remuneration of a worker employed in another field, and at the same time express legislative and executive functions related to the mandate entrusted to them by the base;
  4. the councils elect "commissions" responsible for verifying the application of what is decided.

In the revolutionary councils, the party's ability to win a lively and decisive influence within the class, combined with the greatest stimulus to zealous class participation, are the only two possible antidotes against degeneration. In contrast, the identification between the party and the executive power of the proletariat, or the exclusion of its members from the same, would be a clear indication that degeneration is in progress.

The revolutionary party is characterised in this contradictory phase by holding the rudder fixed upon the final objectives of communism. In the transition phase, although this time with the proletariat as the ruling class, the class struggle is not yet over and the party continues to be the political instrument. The party has the precise duty to intervene where the councils fail to develop a policy of advancing towards the general objectives of communism or they only partially succeed in this.

It is its task to ensure the free association of workers and their full participation in the council system. At the same time the party will have to fight so as to go beyond categorical aspects, sector related demands and all that corporate baggage that comes from the workers having lived so long under capitalist schemes. Schemes which, in some ways, will still persist in the transitional phase.

The tasks that face the councils in the post- revolutionary phase are of two types: political and administrative.

The political tasks relate to the battle to counter the ideological, political and economic influence of the bourgeoisie. Until the international capitalist economy is definitely extinct - and therefore the bourgeoisie disappears - the proletariat has need of the political function of the State to support the international extension of the revolution and to exercise the dictatorship of the class, i.e. to prevent the situation being taken in the direction of a restoration of bourgeois power. Every political struggle is the struggle of certain social groups against other groups in society. The political struggle of the proletariat is the class struggle against the bourgeoisie. The proletariat needs to wage a political battle to conquer political power, extending the Revolution and punishing reactionary instances of the bourgeois class: therefore its political tool is still needed, the Internationalist Communist Party. As class antagonisms decrease - all of humanity equally becoming workers - the political function, materialised by the repressive role of the state, shall be extinguished: The "administration of people" gives way to the "administration of things."

The administrative tasks of the Proletarian State (council system) are:

  1. to record the real needs of the population and , based on these, plan production ;
  2. to coordinate the production process and make sure that it corresponds to the satisfaction of identified needs;
  3. to ensure access to goods produced to each individual worker and to all those who are not capable of working;
  4. to ensure, through "commissions" , that the system functions effectively

Socialisation: the abolition of private property

Under capitalism, the firm is private as are the products and the profits made, but except, of course, when things go wrong and losses are socialised. This means that each enterprise goes its own way and, even in the case of monopolies, their purpose is solely to ensure the interests of the capital held by the majority shareholders. We have already seen how this is one of the factors behind the anarchy of the market and the cyclical crises.

Under socialism the reverse happens: private ownership of the means of production is abolished. Society as a whole, by means of the councils, comes into possession of the means of production and exercising conscious control of them.

Socialisation has nothing to do with nationalisation. Nationalisations are a tool of the normal life of capital through which the bourgeois state administers an economic sector in order to maximise profit (or minimise losses). Socialisation is the active control on the part of associated workers of gradually increasing sectors of the economy, to subdue them to the needs of society. Nationalisation is realised by the bourgeois state for capitalist interests, it is often associated with the worst coercion against the working class, if not the preparation of a war economy. Socialisation is realised by the power of the councils in order to meet the collective needs. "To socialise" means "to put under the control of the council system" thus beginning to break the relationship between capital and labour, nothing more.

Starting from the assets already placed under the direct control of the bourgeois state, passing progressively to large - sized businesses, to large estates, eventually the totality of production, distribution and services, the whole economic structure gradually passes into the hands of the councils of the producers. The sole political power of the councils could not last long without a basis in a large area of socialised economy that, without bourgeois control, private property and the profit motive, gradually extinguishes the role of capital and wage labour .

In Russia, in 1917, this transition did not happen.

While political power was in the hands of the proletariat from the beginning, the relations of production remained practically entirely capitalist. Even if the workers initially practiced workers' control, the companies remained in the hands of their owners. With the start of the five-year plans (1928), the means of production, still in capitalist terms, passed into the hands of the State (except for only a few sectors, especially in agriculture). The state of backwardness of the country, combined with the ravages of war, did not allow for different solutions. The proletarian political power held out for a few years waiting for revolution in the West to come through to its aid. This did not happen. The proletarian power was suffocated. The most tragic thing was that this choking was called "building socialism." A tragedy and insult.

The progressive socialisation of the means of production (never initiated in Russia) is the process that structurally characterizes the historical phase of transition.

Socialism brings into being first and foremost a new mode of production: producing becomes a natural function of society, a function aimed at simple meeting the multiple needs that distinguish the species and every individual. It is only through production, first socialist, then communist, that humanity finally finds itself.

If today the submission of humans to the needs of commodities (18) prevails, socialism solves the alienation of man by affirming secure human control over things, their production and circulation, confirming the subjugation of the productive process to human needs and necessities. The way to ensure this is the association of producers, whose principal policy is to overthrow the ruling class and establish proletarian power, then administrative, to consciously regulate production and distribution of wealth. The capitalist contradiction between collective production and private appropriation finds its solution in socialism, through the collective control of the production processes and socialised ownership of its products. The alienated man of "capitalist civilisation" is recast as the fulfilled, multilateral man of communism. Work goes back to being nothing more than the expression of his humanity.

Contradictions in the socialisation process

All this cannot be done in one shot, neither in one area nor - even less so- at the international level there will necessarily be a period in which the socialised economy will collide with the private sector and this will take place at two levels, in a national and international context.

Once the bourgeois state is overthrown, the new council system, with the strength that comes from the historical expression of a mass social movement resulting from the tensions in the depths of society, begins socialising. But this unfolds under conditions - although not foreseeable at present – which are probably dramatic, characterised by poverty, war, pollution, devastation etc.

First to be socialised is the old state apparatus with the functions it controls (education, health, transport, infrastructure...), socialisation tends to extend to all the means of production, starting with the most important ones. The banks themselves are merged and placed under the control of the power of the councils. In all these areas immediately begins rationalisation according to a plan of priority: all the functions that were also essential under capitalism, but useless in socialism, are suppressed. The best solutions to increase productivity while reducing the consumption of labour time are found, there is a general effort to ensure the most efficient possible use of facilities, their administration is centralised. Properties are socialized and, based on needs, a house is guaranteed to suit everyone’s requirements.

Despite this, a considerable part of the economy continues, from the beginning, to be in the hands of employers both large and small, which continue to remain owners of their business and make a profit.

The first rule of socialism is "whoever does not work shall not eat": this phrase is a condemnation under capitalism; with socialism it expresses the liberation of labour. All are called to participate in social development, unemployment can only be voluntary: those who, although able to do so, do not participate in the socially necessary labour are not entitled to obtain supplies from the public warehouses.

The whole working population, properly registered at the offices of the local council will be required to contribute a mandatory number of man-hours per day, to be provided in the socialised areas. These will include the reclamation of lands scarred by pollution, maintenance and improvement of existing facilities, assistance etc. In exchange for these hours worked will be paid a labour-voucher that will ensure access to consumption.

The labour voucher certifies the individual’s participation in the socially necessary labour. It allows access to both public services (health, care, education, transportation, housing...) , and to the products available in public warehouses (malls, with their structure and networks, could well adapt to this new function). Access to goods and services is of course guaranteed for those unable to work. We will return to the discussion regarding the labour voucher later.

For the time being there still remains all the entire economic structure which cannot be immediately socialised due to, for example:

  1. dependency on foreign raw materials and supplies that the socialist state - being also , most likely, under the embargo of the capitalist states - cannot obtain, while the private company may be supplied;
  2. enterprises for which the proletarian state is still unable to provide the necessary technology, while the private sector may be able to do so;
  3. activities that require resources too large to be initiated or maintained, resources that the revolutionary state cannot guarantee and the private sector perhaps can ... etc.

We are here dealing with hypotheses that will obviously be verified in the revolutionary process as it unfolds according to internal developments and international conditions.

Throughout the non-socialised economic area, despite the ongoing revolutionary process, there continue to exist capitalist categories: commodities, markets, money, prices, wages, and capital. The same categories, however, in the areas already socialised, have disappeared. For clarity: Socialism is the structuring of a new mode of production in which the categories of capitalism no longer apply. There, the contradiction remains, here, the solution has begun.

The proletarian state, in order to procure what the enterprise requires and does not have, necessarily has to trade with the area which is not socialised , still subject to capitalist logic. The exchanges are likely to be of two kinds: cash for goods, goods and services for goods.

By placing banks under its control and merging them into a single central bank, the council system tends to get a threefold result:

  1. control over the issue of currency ;
  2. own and control all of the accounts of the national companies – due to this accountancy they hold copies from the banks that lend them money and mediate their transactions;
  3. hold the instrument through which to secure and control the issuance of labour-vouchers.

Of course, these aspects depend on the development of internal and international factors, while the socialisation and the unification of the banks in the territories passed to socialism is an inevitable necessity.

The council system regulates exchange with the part of the economy which is not socialised by issuing money or by exchanging the services it controls and the products it requires produced by the socialised productive sectors.

The council system, so as to protect the health and welfare of workers, starting with those who still sell their labour power in the private sphere, produces a series of regulations regarding the conditions of sale and purchase of labour-power and working conditions in general, concerning safety, timetables, conditions, minimum wages, workers' control and so on.

Obviously, the persistence of capitalist economic categories and the bourgeoisie as a social class within the territory controlled by the proletarian state is for the moment, an inevitable destabilising factor. This factor, however, will not fail to have its repercussions on political life.

In order to counteract these influences, the first rule of the council system is the exclusion of those who live by exploitation from the right to participate in political life. It should be emphasised here that it is precisely because of the ongoing class struggle even after the revolution, that the Communist Party, far from taking over the State, continues its political battle in order to denounce cases of compromise and setbacks which might put into question the entire revolution. At the same time the only real antidote against every danger of returning to the past is the greatest stimulus to workers' participation in public life, their direct leading role through the extension and support of their widespread association, in all possible forms from committees of workers' control to associations of technical-scientific interest, as well as cultural and artistic associations and beyond.


Moscow, March 1919:

Our task is to generalise the experience of the revolutionary working class [...] join forces with all the truly revolutionary parties of the world proletariat and thereby facilitate and hasten the victory of the communist revolution throughout the world (19).

The revolution of 1917 was defeated. This defeat took the name of "building socialism in one country", in reality it was the "construction of state capitalism." The cream of the most conscious proletariat, the most consistent communists, were exterminated. The proletariat returned to being a mere "nationalised" object of the exploitation of the ruling class. Up to now, no more revolutions have occurred.

The reason for the defeat of the Russian Revolution was one and only one: its international isolation. The revolution is a living flame: either it spreads and triumphs, or it is stifled and perishes; it knows no middle ground, its rule is, "us or them."

Because of modern global interconnection, the dissemination of the trade network and an intercontinental market, the mutual dependence of countries on raw materials, technology, knowledge, labour-power, owned elsewhere , the revolution (which has always been an international fact) needs to be more international than ever.

A revolution which broke out in a limited geographic area would have as its first task its rapid expansion, under penalty of isolation and defeat. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a matter of days, but it could not hold out for many years.

Only by spreading the revolution internationally can the dual and vital goal be achieved: to break the international isolation which the bourgeoisie will try to impose upon it and secure the conditions for socialisation to move forward with greater force, both in the originating country and wherever it spreads.

Having established that socialism - to survive at the political level and develop at a structural level - needs to be immediately part of a process that spreads internationally, there derive at least three equally interesting and important assumptions:

  1. Where the proletariat came to seize power in limited areas of the planet, its task would be to start as soon as possible - and wherever possible - the socialisation of the means of production and distribution. This is to ensure that the capitalist economic categories start to be dismantled, thus guaranteeing the first steps in the right direction, but also, and especially, to immediately establish relations with the socialist countries that will follow the first on the road of revolution. The greater the strength and determination with which socialisation can advance, the stronger and more solid the material basis on which subsequent countries will be able to insert themselves in the process of propagation of the new organisation of production and with ever more strength will the socialist economy be able to replace the bourgeois, in every country.
  2. The globalisation of capitalist economic life is not, in itself, a guarantee of the greater ease and rapidity of the spread of socialist revolution. But the more productive areas will be removed from the market and placed within the socialist orbit, the more international capitalism will be "cornered". Paradoxically, if the proletarian political power were to spread at an international level without (as in Russia ) being able to affect the practical organisation of production, then capitalism would maintain its structural base solidly and, within a short time, would have no difficulty in generating new forms of capitalism, even more aberrant than those established under Stalin.
  3. Since, of necessity, revolution is an international reality, then the political instrument for its realisation will be, necessarily, international. It is imperative that the internationalist vanguard of the proletariat constitutes itself to the greatest extent possible into a "World Party of the Proletariat" This is a necessary, although not sufficient condition, for the crisis of capitalism to evolve into a proletarian revolution. In the aftermath of the revolution, the party will have the dual duty to ensure that the revolution does not become compromised on the national level and to put in place all possible efforts to ensure that it will spread internationally.

To be continued in the next issue


(1) The Critique of Political Economy (a survey of the contradictory laws of the capitalist mode of production in its unfolding) , historical materialism ( the study of the relationships between the structure of production and the legal, political, philosophical etc. superstructure.) and the theory of the Party ( the nature and function of the political instrument of emancipation from capitalist exploitation of the proletariat ), are the three major areas into which the communist world outlook is divided.

(2) "Modern bourgeois society … has conjured up, as if by magic, such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who, is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world he has called up by his spells." Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848. Edition project Manutius, , pg. 14.

(3) "How does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by the forced annihilation of a mass of productive forces, on the other by conquering new markets and the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. How, in brief? By provoking ever more generalised and violent crisis and reducing the necessary means to prevent them. "Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, cit., p. 15.

(4) See Economic inequality

(5) Nicholas Barbato, 1894 cit. in History of the Communist Left , published by Communist Programme, vol. 1, p. 24.

(6) "The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an “immense accumulation of commodities" and the single commodity appears as its elementary form." Marx, Capital, Book I , ed. Riuniti , 1993 p.67.

(7) "The bourgeoisie has not only forged the weapons that kill it [the crisis], it has also produced men who wield these weapons : the modern working class, the proletariat . "Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, cit, p.15.

(8) Silvano Agosti, Il discorso tipico dello schiavo, 2008,

(9) Engels Anti-Duhring 1878,

(10) We use the terms man, men, masters, middle class, workers, producers, etc. . to indicate the set of human beings belonging to a particular category, irrespective of the fact that their gender is female or male. Language itself is the instrument and the result of the system of oppression. The proletarian revolution, realising the end of all exploitation of man by man, will end at the same time, the subjugation of women, will not fail to also produce, in its development, a more suitable terminology.

(11) F. Engels, Anti-Dühring, op. cit.

(12) Marx , Critique of the Gotha Programme, in Selected Works, Progress Publishers , 1973, pg. 960.

(13) See how the First World War set the conditions for WWII, and how WWII set the conditions for the current crisis.

(14) Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848. Edition Project Manutius,, pg. 18.

(15) On the character of the political power of the proletariat see the quoted The State, the Soviets, the Revolution.

(16) We use the terms proletarians, producers, workers, modern workers, as synonyms.

(17) See The State, the Soviets, the Revolution, op. cit.

(18 ) See the fetishistic character of commodities: "The mystery of the commodity-form consists therefore simply in the fact that in such a form, like a mirror, the image of the social characteristics of their own work returns to men, making them look like objective characteristics of the products of their work, as natural social properties of those things, and so also is reflected the image of the social relationship between producers and their overall work, making it look like a social relation between objects existing independent of their manufacturers." Marx, Capital, Book 1, Riuniti Publishers, 1993, pg.106.

(19) Manifesto of the Communist International to the proletarians of the whole world, March 1919, in The Assault on Heaven, Ed. Giovane Talpa, 2005, p. 68. The concept is repeated in all the texts of the period dealing with the fate of the revolution. The concept was clear: either the revolution expands internationally, or the bourgeois counter-revolution will triumph.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Whilst I will not attempt any sort of detailed comment on the lengthy text, readers interested in the subject 'transitional' may find items on the website wsws relevant and of interest. Before any leaps to references to the CWO's book on Trotsky, Trotskyism, Trotskyists, it is of note that the SEP now rejects any linking to bourgeois democracy and now presents a range of articles well worthwhile to the working class. Its latest article on the situation in Greece of 31 Dec 2014 seems likely to also be of interest to readers of ICT/CWO subjects.


Thnaks for your contribution and a happy new year in 2015.

The only problem with the word "transitional" is that we use it differently to Trotskyists. We only to describe the phase or phases in the process of the abandonment of capitalist norms AFTER a revolution to establish a society based on need. SEP still use the Trotskyist idea of a "transitional programme" with "transitional demands" BEFORE the revolution because they think workers won't come to some anti-capitalist consciousness without them. Their idea is that we make demands that capitalism cannot meet and when it fails this makes the workers realise the need for socialism. But the demands that capitalism cannot meet are part of the everyday class struggle. We don't need to insert any. Such demands arise naturally. What we need to insert is the programamtic notion that when the demands are only partially or not met then the only alternative is the socialist or communist mode of production, Those of us who alreday recognise this have the duty to keep participating inthe struggles of the class but as always pointing out the "line of march". No amount of Trotskyist tricks can short circuit this process.

Whilst making this comment we should say that all the documents we have published on the transitional period are not complete or unanimous positions but part of a discussion in the whole ICT which we don't intend to short circuit. As we look at the issue (which as an ICT we have not done - BC and the CWO did so back in the 1970s) we discover all kinds of nuances and contradictions on such things as the nature of the political structure or the abolition of the law of value which we had not fully appreciated before so the discussion is very much an open one. Given the nature of the topic it can only be thus. We want to give a vision of communism without falling into the trap of speculation but that is not always easy. We plan to put all the documents we have already published plus new ones already prepared in a single place on the site in 2015.


Thnaks for your contribution and a happy new year in 2015.

The only problem with the word "transitional" is that we use it differently to Trotskyists. We only to describe the phase or phases in the process of the abandonment of capitalist norms AFTER a revolution to establish a society based on need. SEP still use the Trotskyist idea of a "transitional programme" with "transitional demands" BEFORE the revolution because they think workers won't come to some anti-capitalist consciousness without them. Their idea is that we make demands that capitalism cannot meet and when it fails this makes the workers realise the need for socialism. But the demands that capitalism cannot meet are part of the everyday class struggle. We don't need to insert any. Such demands arise naturally. What we need to insert is the programamtic notion that when the demands are only partially or not met then the only alternative is the socialist or communist mode of production, Those of us who alreday recognise this have the duty to keep participating inthe struggles of the class but as always pointing out the "line of march". No amount of Trotskyist tricks can short circuit this process.

Whilst making this comment we should say that all the documents we have published on the transitional period are not complete or unanimous positions but part of a discussion in the whole ICT which we don't intend to short circuit. As we look at the issue (which as an ICT we have not done - BC and the CWO did so back in the 1970s) we discover all kinds of nuances and contradictions on such things as the nature of the political structure or the abolition of the law of value which we had not fully appreciated before so the discussion is very much an open one. Given the nature of the topic it can only be thus. We want to give a vision of communism without falling into the trap of speculation but that is not always easy. We plan to put all the documents we have already published plus new ones already prepared in a single place on the site in 2015.


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