Revolution or War n°18

(May 8th 2021)

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Warning to our English speaking readers :
We could not translate several articles of this issue by an English speaking comrade. Thus, there can be some unease to read them and, more important, some political mistakes. In that case, or any doubt or questioning, we refer the comrades and readers to the French version.

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Statement on The International Communist Current’s Platform

The ICC platform [1] was adopted at its first congress in 1976. Since then, it has undergone some "rectifications decided at the 3rd, 7th and 14th Congresses in 1979, 1987 and 2001" (Introduction to the Platform [2]). It should be noted that the version available and on which we base our position does not incorporate the opportunist Decomposition theory introduced in the 1990s. It is only in the Basic Positions [3], synthesising the positions of the platform, that it appears publicly: "Since the First World War, capitalism has been a decadent social system. It has twice plunged humanity into a barbaric cycle of crisis, world war, reconstruction and new crisis. In the 1980s, it entered into the final phase of this decadence, the phase of decomposition."

The 1976 text begins by historically situating the constitution of the ICC on the fact that "after the longest and deepest period of counter-revolution that it has ever known, the proletariat is once again discovering the path of class struggle". And indeed, the late 1960s were marked by the end of the post-war reconstruction and an international workers’ revival, the signal for which was given by the mass strike of May 1968 in France. “Since the 1968 events in France, the workers’ struggles from Italy to Argentina, from Britain to Poland, from Sweden to Egypt, from China to Portugal, from America to India, from Japan to Spain, have become a nightmare for the capitalist class”. The historical rupture was real. The result was the emergence, also international, of a new generation of revolutionaries, some of whom regrouped more or less clearly around the positions of the Communist Left. Among them, many did so on the positions that the ICC ends up synthesising in this programmatic document. In this sense, the platform represented a moment in the historical struggle for the party and, as such, it requires a critical look and balance.

Unfortunately, the influence of the student revolt, the anarchist and petty-bourgeois spirit of the late 1960s, to which we should add the reaction to Stalinism, in particular within the working class, meant that the so-called German-Dutch Communist Left was the councilist bias that allowed a large part of this generation, especially those who were to form or join the ICC, to reappropriate the class positions. As it itself had always recognized, the rupture in organic continuity with the fractions of the Communist Left coming from the Communist International, in the case of the ICC from the Gauche Communiste de France (GCF) and more widely with the so-called Italian Left, could not be overcome by the mere presence of Marc Chirik, a member of the Italian fraction from 1938 onwards, then of the GCF [4]. The ICC’s platform suffered enormously from this, to the point of claiming not only, and rightly so, "the Communist League, the First, Second and Third Internationals" but also currents as opposed as "the German, Dutch, and Italian Left." We will see that ultimately, the spirit of synthesis of the platform left little place, if any, to the Italian left, and a lot to the German-Dutch one. In fact, the synthesis, an illusory quest in the long run, could only be a moment of international regrouping and historical reappropriation which corresponded in part to that particular period and which should have been overcome afterwards. Nothing of that sort happened.

Coherence and achievements of the 1976 platform....

The positions of the ICC platform are undeniably class ones. They correspond to those put forward by the Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT) platform, so that often young or inexperienced comrades do not see any real difference between the two. To date, and despite its inadequacies, which we will come back to later, both the ICC and the ICT platforms still represent the most advanced programmatic achievements. Moreover, the ICC platform has the advantage of a systematic, distinct and clear exposure of the class frontiers. It thus allows any reader and militant to clearly position him/herself for or against, which is essential for this type of document serving as a basis for the adhesion of new members and underlying the unity and action of the communist organisation, of the party.

“Any defence of [the so-called socialist countries, ex-USSR, China, etc], no matter how ‘critical’ or ‘conditional’, is a completely counter-revolutionary activity. (…) All political strategies aimed at ‘using’, ‘regenerating’. or ‘reconquering’ trade union type organisations serve only the interests of capitalism [and are] fundamentally non-proletarian. (…) The disastrous results of [“revolutionary parliamentarism”] tactics show that they are profoundly bourgeois. (…) Any political tendency which tries to make the class leave that [class] terrain [through any tactic of frontism, united front, anti-fascist front, etc] is directly serving the interests of the bourgeoisie. (…) Any position of ‘unconditional’ or ‘critical’ support for these [national liberation] struggles is (…) thus totally incompatible with coherent communist activity. (…) Any political position which (...) defends self management is, in fact, objectively participating in the preservation of capitalist relations of production. (…) [The] bourgeois governments and political parties have learned to recuperate and use [the “partial struggles” such as anti-racism, feminism, etc] to good effect in the preservation of the social order. (…) All the so-called ‘revolutionary’ currents [Maoism, Trotskysm, Anarchism] which today places itself in the framework of an identical approach by defending a certain number of positions of the Socialist and Communist Parties, such as ‘anti-fascist alliances’ belong to the same camp: the camp of capital.” These positions are indeed minimal class frontiers that will be an integral part of the political platform of the future world party of the proletariat and indispensable to its political and militant unity.

Moreover, the document aims at a certain methodology and coherence both in the orderly exposition of the different points and in their argumentation. The first, The Theory of The Communist Revolution, defends that “Marxism is the fundamental theoretical acquisition of the proletarian struggle [and] has been from its very inception the only framework from which and within which revolutionary theory can develop”. It reaffirms the principle of class struggle, "Marxism (...) explaining the unfolding of history through the development of the class struggle", and the revolutionary character of the proletariat. The second, The Nature of The Proletarian Revolution [5], defines the communist finality. “The proletarian revolution is to replace relations of production based on scarcity with relations of production based on abundance. This is why it signifies the end of all forms of property, privilege and exploitation.” For that, “it is the first revolution to have a world-wide character; it cannot achieve its aims without generalising itself to all countries.”; “the seizure of political power by the proletariat necessarily precedes the period of transition” between capitalism and communism; “the development of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat is conditioned by the deepening and generalisation of its struggle as an exploited class” and not by the negation of its character as an exploited class. Even if we wouldn’t formulate them all like that today – the formula seizure of political power is too vague for a programmatic document – these points are an integral part of the communist principles and program.

The next point is The Decadence of Capitalism. It is the one that gives its theoretical coherence to the whole platform and provides the unity of its class positions as the then ICC understood and defended them. This is the strength and the weakness of the document, and its limit today. With the end of the 19th century, the historical period of ascendancy of capitalism initiated in the 16th century comes to a close and the outbreak of the 1st imperialist World War definitively signals the entry into its period of decadence. The recognition of a different historical dynamic and a fundamental break for capitalism is a lesson of the workers’ movement, which Lenin was able to define as Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, and which the Communist International considered indispensable and central to include in its own platform: “A new system [the French version says epoch] has been born. Ours is the epoch of the breakdown of capital, its internal disintegration, the epoch of the Communist revolution of the proletariat.” That the ICC explains this historical break from the crisis theory put forward by Rosa Luxemburg, mainly the absence of extra-capitalist markets for further capital accumulation, and that there are other theories and analyses, does not change the fact that its position on the historical decline of capitalism is part of the programmatic framework emerging from the CI and the Communist Left on this point.

… But a Mechanical, Economicist and Non-Marxist Coherence

“In the decadence of capitalism the general tendency towards state capitalism is one of the dominant characteristics of social life… [If it] manifests itself in all countries in the world, it is more rapid and more obvious when and where the effects of decadence make themselves felt in the most brutal manner; historically during periods of open crisis or of war…” The incessant and widespread development of state capitalism throughout the 20th century, and especially from World War II to the present days, corresponds essentially to three priorities for each national capital: to centralize and unify as much as possible all fractions of national capital in view of international competition; “develop the military force necessary for the defence of its interests in the face of growing international conflict”; and social discipline directed above all against the proletariat. It is regrettable that this passage does not make more explicit the link between state capitalism and the needs of the generalized imperialist war. This tends to reduce the phenomenon of state capitalism to its economic dimension only, whereas it is above all a political response against the proletariat and for the needs of imperialist war – itself the only bourgeois response to the economic contradictions and impasse of capitalism in its period of historical decline. We will see that this economicist, vulgar materialist and therefore non-marxist tendency runs across the whole platform. Let us note nevertheless that the platform insists on the fact that, whatever the form of state power, dictatorial or democratic, “the tendency towards state capitalism expresses itself in the increasingly powerful, omnipresent, and systematic control over the whole of social life exerted by the state apparatus”, which should have opened the way to the historical and political understanding of a certain number of class positions of today, in particular those linked to the conditions of proletarian struggle such as the trade union question.

The Proletarian Struggle under Decadent Capitalism is characterized by the fact that the struggle for reforms has become a hopeless utopia.” In formulating it so, the document reduces the new conditions of proletarian struggle to the single economic dimension, and even to its simple expression or reforms or impossibility of reforms. It thus neglects and ignores the historical and political dimensions, namely the exercise by the state apparatus of “increasingly powerful, omnipresent, and systematic control over the whole of social life”, even though underlined in the previous point. It is fundamentally this concentration of the forces of capital around the state and against the proletariat, in particular against any expression of permanent struggle such as its mass organisations, that defines the new conditions of proletarian struggle, including the secondary, but nevertheless real, phenomenon of the growing impossibility of lasting reforms. “The mass strike [as] a universal form of the proletarian class struggle resulting from the present stage of capitalist development and class relations” was identified by Rosa Luxemburg in Mass Strike, Party and Trade Unions (1906) [6], by Trotsky in his book 1905, and others. Lenin and the Bolshevik party demonstrated with brilliance, oh how much!, their mastery of the phenomenon and the dynamics of the mass strike between February and October 1917 and the indispensable and crucial role of political leadership that the party can and must exercise during it to lead the proletariat to its insurrection and the exercise of its class dictatorship.

The unions have become inoperative because “as capitalism entered its decadent phase it was no longer able to accord reforms and improvements in living conditions to the working class.” Once again, the mechanical and economicist explanation of or reforms or impossibility of reforms comes back to base the view, which we share, that the unions have become “true defenders of capitalism, agencies of the bourgeois state within the working class (…) by the relentless tendency within decadence for the state to absorb all the structures of social life.” As a result, and insofar as the passage of the trade unions into the bourgeois camp would have been mechanically fatal from an economic point of view alone, and not the result of a class confrontation conditioned by the passage into the new historical period, the struggle that the communist minorities waged from 1918 until, roughly speaking, World War II in the trade unions is neglected and rejected [7]. The ICC should have questioned the reasons of principle and method which based the trade union intervention and activity of its ancestor, the Gauche Communiste de France, still in 1945. [8] On the other hand, we must salute the ability of the historical ICC to clearly understand that the unions have become full-fledged organs of the bourgeois state and, in the 1980s at least, to draw all the implications from this for its intervention in real class struggles, i.e. struggles in which the unions and the bourgeois political forces of the left are present and active. Far from expecting a pure struggle liberated from the unions by the grace of the Holy Spirit, it then fully understood that the communist vanguard groups and the party had to be at the forefront of the political struggle against union and leftist traps and sabotage and for the political leadership of workers’ struggles. For its part, the ICC of today has turned its back on this fundamental position for at least two decades and prefers to devote itself to the fetish of self-organisation and assemblyism, in the name of the genuine assemblies free of trade unions, to mask its defeatism. “The profoundly proletarian character of the movement [of the 2006 students in France] is also demonstrated in the forms of struggle adopted, notably the sovereign general assemblies which express a real life that has nothing to do with the caricatures of general assemblies so often called by the unions[“in the workplaces”, adds the original French version]. [9] In other words, real life is not class struggle, here the confrontation with the unions, the real assemblies are not those of political confrontation between bourgeois and proletarian forces. A refrain well known to the petty bourgeois, real life according to the ICC of today is the one where class struggle has disappeared.

“As the capitalist system entered its decadent phase, parliament ceased to be an instrument for reforms. As the Communist International said at its Second Congress”. The Platform refers to the Theses on The Communist Party and Parliamentarism adopted in 1920, according to which “at present, parliament, for communists, can in no way become the arena for the struggle for reforms, for the amelioration of the position of the working class, as was the case at certain times in the previous period.” But the theses do not limit the question to the impossibility of reform in decadence, far from it. “The attitude of the Communist International towards parliamentarism is determined, not by a new doctrine, but by the change in the role of parliament itself. In the previous epoch parliament performed to a certain degree a historically progressive task as a tool of developing capitalism. Under the present conditions of unbridled imperialism, however, parliament has been transformed into a tool for lies, deception, violence and enervating chatter. In the face of imperialist devastation, plundering, rape, banditry and destruction, parliamentary reforms, robbed of any system, permanence and method, lose any practical significance for the toiling masses.” [10] As we can see, the International encompasses it in a much broader vision and understanding that is at the forefront political, i.e. at the level of the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat under the conditions defined by the imperialist phase of capital..

“If in the nineteenth century revolutionaries gave their support to certain national liberation movements, (…) they supported such movements because in the ascendant phase of capitalism the nation represented the most appropriate framework for the development of capitalism, and the establishment of new nation states, by eliminating the constricting vestiges of pre-capitalist social relations, represented a step forward in the development of the productive forces on a world scale and thus in the maturation of the material conditions for socialism. As capitalism entered its period of decline, the nation together with capitalist relations of production as a whole, became too narrow for the development of the productive forces.” Once again, the ICC platform considerably reduces the scope of the question to its simple "economic" dimension, even if the development of the productive forces is historically decisive. If Marx and Engels were led to support certain national demands and struggles, it was above all and essentially for political historical questions, to promote as best the conditions of the proletarian class struggle, “to the country’s historical progress towards economic and political revolution.” [11] The reasons put forward by Marx and Engels for supporting the independence of Ireland and Poland have little to do with the development of the productive forces in these specific countries. “It is consequently the most important object of the International Working Men’s Association to hasten the social revolution in England. The sole means of hastening it is to make Ireland independent.” [12] The same was true for the national struggle in Poland, which “is situated in the centre of the continent, and the maintenance of its partition is the very tie which binds the Holy Alliance [then the armed wing of the European counter-revolution uniting Austria and Prussia around Tsarist Russia] together again and again. (…) So long as Poland is partitioned and subjugated, therefore, neither a strong socialist party can develop in the country itself.” [13]

We have underlined the coherence of the ICC platform provided by the distinction between ascendancy and decadence, here essentially reduced to or reforms or impossibility of reforms. The resulting unity and clarity in exposing the class frontiers is the strength of the document. The mechanical and economicist approach and understanding is its weakness. It is typical of the vulgar materialism proper to councilism, which develops a fatalistic and mechanical vision of history to the detriment of its dynamic – Marxist – vision, which places class struggle at the centre and as the motor of history.

“According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure — political forms of the class struggle and its results (...) juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants (…) also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. " [14]

It should be underlined that the point on The Counter-Revolutionary Character of The "Workers’ Parties", modified – and enriched in our opinion – in 1987 after the ICC’s struggle against centrism vis-à-vis councilism of the previous years, differs from this councilist approach. It does not explain the passage into the bourgeois camp of the Socialist and Stalinist Communist Parties by the impossibility for mass parties of the proletariat to exist because of the impossibility of reform in the decadence of capitalism, but from the class struggle itself, the very processes of opportunistic degeneration that the 2nd and 3rd Internationals went through, followed by their death as Internationals with the First World War for the 2nd and the adoption of Socialism in a Single Country for the 3rd, and ended by the final integration of the national parties, SP and CP, "into (often important) cogs in the bourgeois state apparatus in their respective countries.”

The Organization of Revolutionaries and The ICC’s Congenital Weaknesses of Councilist Kind

The evident mechanical and economicist approach of the ICC’s platform – the openly councilist character of the platform’s final points, especially on The Organisation of Revolutionaries – will come as no surprise. We will not linger on The First Great Revolutionary Wave of the World Proletariat, which has the advantage of defending – too timidly for our taste – the proletarian character of the October 17 Revolution in Russia and the constitution of the Communist International as the world party of the proletariat. We could debate some specific points put forward, many of which relate to the historical debate, still "open" in our opinion, on the period of transition between capitalism and communism. The Dictatorship of The Proletariat reaffirms the need for “the total destruction of the apparatus of the bourgeois state” and the proletariat’s use of “its own revolutionary class violence”. But it completely ignores the role of the party – the word party is not even used once in this point! – as much in the workers’ insurrection – itself ignored – as in the exercise of the dictatorship itself. Yet, the very experience of October 1917 and of the 1917-1923 international revolutionary wave definitively validated the position of principle displayed by Marx and Engels: without a party, neither victorious insurrection nor dictatorship of the proletariat are possible.

The last point, the longest of the whole platform, on The Organisation of Revolutionaries, clearly reveals the contradiction which has inhabited the ICC since its beginnings between its approach and its congenital councilist weaknesses and its desire to reappropriate the lessons of the workers’ movement, particularly of the Communist Left. Admittedly, the party is mentioned as such, formally, abstractly, in fact reluctantly: “The organisation of revolutionaries whose most advanced form is the party (…). One can then speak of the party to describe the organisation of the communist vanguard. (…) the proletarian revolution confers the same world-wide and centralised character on the party of the working class…” But nowhere is the role and function of the party as vanguard and political leadership of the proletariat evoked.

The ICC rightly defends that “though the class and the organisation of its vanguard are two distinct things, they are not separate, external or opposed to one another as is claimed by the ‘Leninist’ tendencies on the one hand and by the workerist-councilist tendencies on the other.” In doing so, the ICC distinguishes itself from the Bordigist current, which was the only expression of the Italian Left for the post-1968 younger generations of revolutionaries (the Damenist current, Battaglia comunista, was then almost unknown outside Italy), and from the councilist current, which was in fashion in the anti-Stalinist, anarchist and student atmosphere of that time, and which saw the emergence of a number of groups claiming councilism and the German-Dutch Left. Many passages of this point are right in themselves, but they are contradicted by others of an openly councilist nature and content. For example:

“The self-organisation of workers’ struggles and the exercise of power by the class itself is not just one of the roads to communism which can be weighed against others: it is the only road. (…) The organisation of revolutionaries (whose most advanced form is the party) is the necessary organ with which the class equips itself to become conscious of its historic future and to politically orient the struggle for this future.” It is councilism to substitute the workers’ councils as organs of the proletarian insurrection and of the exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat by the self-organisation of struggles and the exercise of power – needless to say that every leftist, especially anarchist, even a little bit radical, recognizes him/herself enthusiastically in this anarchistic verbiage, which is more than confused from the Marxist and class points of view. It is councilism to reduce the role of the party to the sole dimension of becoming conscious and orientating for the future instead of the historical dimension, broader, and concrete, more immediate, of political leadership both towards this future and in the daily struggles of the revolutionary class.

This reduction of the role of the party to a mere adviser or guide of the class [15] is based on the central thesis of economism and councilism, which is unfortunately present in the platform. “Class consciousness develops along a tortuous path through the struggle of the class, its successes and defeats.” This economist position is the same one that Lenin rightly fought against in What is to be done and that the ICC in turn had to fight within its own ranks in the 1980s. “By presenting consciousness as a determined and never a determining factor in the class struggle; by considering that the ’one and only crucible of class consciousness is the massive, open struggle’, [this thesis] leaves no place for revolutionary organizations (…). The only major difference between this vision [centrist towards councilism] and councilism is that the latter takes the approach to its logical conclusion by explicitly rejecting the necessity for communist organization whereas our comrades did not go as far as this.” [16] It was following this internal debate that the ICC adopted a Resolution in January 1984 specifying, among other things, that “the condition for coming to consciousness by the class is given by the historic existence of a class capable of apprehending its future, not by its contingent, immediate struggles.” In doing so, it was in contradiction with this point of the ICC platform, which nevertheless has never been rectified.

A Platform Today Outdated and Unsuited to The Current Period

It is therefore the entire ICC platform that is traversed by a councilist approach. The dynamics and enthusiasm provoked by the massive proletarian struggles of the post-1968 years, at least until the mid-1980s, remained sufficiently lively for tendencies – never materialized, nor personalized, except for a few exceptions which were themselves hesitant and inconsistent – seeking to free themselves from the councilist origins and fetters to emerge and even prevail on occasion, at least formally. Mainly during the 1980s, there were advances and a struggle to which every militant can today refer to in the International Review of this organisation. Just as one can refer to its experiences of practical intervention in the massive proletarian struggles of the 1970s and 1980s, which, for its part, the IGCL claims and which it takes up on its own account.

Unfortunately, the partidist or anti-councilist tendencies, or dynamics, which were expressed, won only ephemeral and superficial victories. They did not know how to fight the battle to the end. The maintenance of the openly councilist positions of the platform and the inability to reappropriate the theoretical and programmatic heritage of the Italian Left as a whole, were the main expressions of this powerlessness. As a result, the failure to overcome this contradiction, councilism-partidism, led to... – we do not resist it and the connoisseurs will appreciate – the ICC’s rotting on its feet from the 1990s onwards, opening its phase of political decomposition, of which the organisational crisis of 1995 and 2001 were its most extreme expressions and aggravating factors.

Nonetheless, the 1976 ICC Platform allowed the gathering of multiple forces and militants around the world, on all continents, who recognized its positions in the 1970s and 1980s. As such, it represents an experience whose contributions and lessons should not be underestimated by the younger generations. Today, it is outdated, if only because the present historical situation demands the abandonment of this councilist legacy and the fullest possible reappropriation of the main theoretical and political contributions of the Communist Left of Italy [17]. In this sense, the centrist towards councilism platform of the ICC belongs to the past, to a moment and a possibility that history has closed definitively, probably with the exhaustion of the all-powerful Stalinist and anti-Stalinist ideologies that were prevailing until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the death of the USSR.

The IGCL, February 2021



[4. The participation in the French group Révolution internationale of another GCF member, Mousso (Robert Salama), was partial and ephemeral due to his isolation in French Guiana and his death in 1979.

[5. The French version uses The Conditions of The Communist Revolution.

[7. This explains the difficulties that the ICC may have had in the 1970s in freeing itself from the infantile anti-unionist vision of the German Left, the KAPD, of the years 1919-1920 and its consequences for intervention in workers’ struggles, such as the vain expectation of "pure" struggles, arising spontaneously and free from the influence and sabotage of the unions.

[8. “We also have to fight the tendencies which, starting from the existence of an extremely strong trade union bureaucracy, forming a reactionary layer with homogeneous interests opposed to the class interests of the proletariat and the proletarian revolution, claim that the trade union organizations are outdated as instruments of anti-capitalist struggle. The communist trade union fraction is formed by all the militants of the communist organization belonging to the same trade union.”
(Internationalisme #1, Resolution on The Union Question, 1945, on the ex-Internal Fraction of the ICC’s website :

[9. ICC, Theses on The Spring 2006 Student’s Movement in France, International Review #125,

[10. Theses on The Communist Parties and Parliamentarism, 1920, 2nd Congress of the International Communist, our emphasis,

[11. Engels, letter to Gerson Trier, December 18th 1899,

[12. Marx, letter to Meyer and Vogt, April 9th 1870, We invite the reader to read Marx’s argument in this letter, which never refers to the need for the development of the productive forces in Ireland, but to the link between “the downfall of the English aristocracy in Ireland [implying] as a necessary consequence its downfall in England [and, doing so, the creation of] the preliminary condition for the proletarian revolution in England”, if only because the division and hostility between English and Irish proletarians could then be overcome.

[13. Engels, letter to Kautsky, February 7th 1882,

[14. Engels, letter to J. Bloch, September 21-22, 1890,

[15. The paradox of a passage from a mechanical materialist approach to idealism is only apparent. The inconsistent councilist who does not go so far as to deny absolutely the necessity of political organisation is forced to reduce its role only “to spread insight and knowledge, to study, discuss and formulate social ideas, and by their propaganda to enlighten the minds of the masses” (Anton Pannekoek, Cinq thèses sur la lutte de classe, 1947, in Pannekoek et les conseils ouvriers, EDI Paris, 1969, translated by us).

[16.Centrist Slidings Towards Councilism, International Review #42, 1985,

[17. Even if the other lefts, the German-Dutch in particular, cannot be ignored, it is not so much because of their theoretical and political contributions – they are rare and partial – but because of the struggle that the pro-party – to use Lenin’s expression – Communist Left had to wage against them and the resulting lessons.