(Biannual - February 2017)
Statement on the ICT text "The Role and Structure of the Revolutionary Organisation" (1978)
The Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT) has published in English on its website a text on The Role and Structure of the Revolutionary Organisation that the Partito Comunista Internazionalista-Battaglia Comunista had presented at the 2nd Conference of the groups of the Communist Left in 1978. The presentation of the Communist Workers Organization, the ICT affiliate in Great Britain, says that this publication is “part of a discussion (...) inside the Internationalist Communist Tendency” and that it hopes it “will ... [renew] debate on the various issues facing the formation of a truly international and internationalist class party”. For our part, and in relation to our internal debates on the question of class consciousness (see in this issue the 2nd part of a contribution on this subject), we have decided to participate in the debate of the ICT through a formal statement on this text. Even though some formulations may seem outdated since they address questions of that time, this text provides a programmatic basis on which the groups and the militants today claiming the Communist Left should pronounce. For our part, we adopt the points of the two first parts that we publish here. The last part, The Class and the Party, will be published in the next issue of this journal. Besides the lack of space in this issue, this part is the one which raises more questions since it deals with the “internationalist factory groups” put forward by the PCint at that time. Thus we’ll come back to this in the next journal.
So as to include as many comrades as possible in our reflections and in the debate opened up by the ICT, we join our comments (result of our internal discussion) after each point of the text. They are in square brackets and in italics. Certainly, this way has the disadvantage of not being exhaustive. But it has the merit of clearly pointing out the agreements and the levels of understanding of the questions as well as favouring critical reflection and discussion. We thus invite the greatest number of groups, circles, militants, sympathizers, to participate in this debate based on the ICT text and so be an active factor of the “regroupment” around the ICT, as pole of political reference, so that we can develop as much as possible the political basis for the future Party.
A last word in regards to the French publication: we have not fully taken on board the French translation realized at that time by the International Communist Current for the 1978 Conference. As any translation of a political text, the political understanding and positions determine also the quality of the translation whatever is the honesty and will of the translator. The original translation, no doubt it was a good one, is nevertheless weakened by the approach still clearly marked by councilism which affected this organisation for one part and, for the other, by its then ignorance of the history of the PCint in Italy since 1943.
The Role and Structure of the Revolutionary Organisation (Partito Comunista Internazionalista - Battaglia Comunista -, 1978)
We hold to the acquisitions of revolutionary theory elaborated by Marx in The German Ideology, confirmed by the practical and theoretical work of Lenin, reaffirmed by the first two Congresses of the Third International and in the formation of the Communist Party of Italy. They were defended by the Italian Left inside the Committee of Entente, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s according to which:
[We share this introduction because it underlines the theoretical and programmatic continuity of the working class movement and, in particular, of its political organisations, or party, since the Communist League until today. It is a fundamental point which distinguishes the Communist Left from various political currents and groups which present themselves as revolutionary. It is not a formal question, a “fetishism” of organisation, but a willingness to reclaim the method which must underlie the thinking and the action of communists. We can call it the “party method”.]
1 – Since history is the history of class struggle, it is the proletariat which will accomplish the decisive step that will take humanity from the realm of necessity to the world of freedom.
[This first point reaffirms two of the main principles of Marxism – the struggle of the classes as motor of history and the proletariat as exploited and revolutionary class. Obviously, unreservedly, we make it our own.]
2 – The proletariat cannot gradually conquer a position of strength within capitalist society; the continued existence of the capitalist mode of production does not gradually diminish the power of the bourgeoisie, as was the case where previous rising classes were confronting earlier exploiting classes. On the contrary, the power of capital over society tends to become absolute and to exert itself on the deepest layers of civil society.
[Still based both on historical experience – here the Paris Commune – as well as on Marxist theory and the Communist Program, this point reaffirms the revolutionary character of the proletariat and rejects any “progressive” or “reformist” conception of the process leading to socialism through reforms or acquired positions such as the bourgeois Left in general, the Socialist parties, and above all the leftism of the Stalinist, Trotskyist and Anarchist varieties, defends under one form or another. The tendency towards the absolute domination of capital confirms the requirement for confronting the capitalist state and for active revolutionary rupture.]
3 – From the very existence of a class forced into a position of decisive antagonism against other classes concretely “emerges the consciousness of the need for a fundamental revolution, communist consciousness”. [K. Marx, The German Ideology].
[The proletarian revolution requires consciousness and specifically communist consciousness. It is also important to point out that the text bases itself on Karl Marx’s work The German Ideology in which he certainly most profoundly elaborates on class consciousness. As such, it is a theoretical work of the highest importance for the communist movement.]
4 – It is during periods of crisis, when the bourgeoisie is no longer able to control the explosion of the contradictions inherent in its mode of production and its social relations, that the possibility of a revolutionary overthrow of bourgeois power is put on the historical agenda.
[We globally agree. But it seems to us that the formulation remains a bit vague. In effect, it is not said when, or in which conditions (except in a “period of crisis”), the ruling class is no longer capable of controlling the explosion of capitalism’s contradictions. It is clearer in Lenin’s words because he focuses on the notion of class struggle when he says in Left Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder that “it is only when the “lower classes” do not want to live in the old way and the “upper classes” cannot carry on in the old way that the revolution can triumph”. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the revolution is not possible at just any moment and that it matters that the objective and subjective historical conditions be present for it to take place successfully]
5- This revolution “is necessary … not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew” (Marx). And “both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution”. (idem)
[Once more the PCint rightly bases itself on The German Ideology. The process which drives the proletariat to the revolution is a process during which it is the proletarian class as a whole which, through its struggle against capitalism leading to the destruction of the latter, “by a practical movement” acquires the communist consciousness “on a mass scale”.]
6 – During the period leading up to it, and during the revolutionary process itself, communist consciousness is found amongst a minority of individuals from the working class and other classes, but it derives from the very existence of the proletariat, from the objective nature of class antagonisms, and continually refers back to it. It draws from this objective situation its strength and its materialist nature, and is thus the patrimony of the whole class.
[When K. Marx speaks of “the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness”, he distinguishes two dimensions of the communist consciousness: its depth – the communist program – and its extension within the great proletarian masses. As long as this “production on mass scale” is not achieved, the communist consciousness is “borne” by a more or less important minority of revolutionaries. However, the class consciousness is not external to the class since it comes from its very existence. This point provides the basis for understanding the question of the party. The party is inherent to the class precisely because the consciousness of the class is heterogeneous. Thus a part within its ranks is more conscious and that is why it has a particular importance and responsibility. This fundamental position is based on the materialist understanding of the relations of capitalist production and in particular on the fact that capitalist competition also tends to generate competition between the proletarians as labour force.]
7 – As the expression of the historic movement and programme of the proletariat, communist consciousness cannot be defined as ‘ideology’ in the Marxist sense; on the contrary, it is the most complete instrument for grasping social and economic reality as a whole, since its aim is to change this very reality. Whereas bourgeois revolutionary consciousness was directed against the external aspects of aristocratic rule and was based on the necessity to substitute one exploiting class (the bourgeoisie) for another, communist consciousness is directed against the very class nature of present-day society and all previous societies: its goal is the elimination of class divisions. It is not the last theory in the proper sense of the word, but it is certainly the last revolutionary theory. The proof of this is the fact that the ideologies which have broken away from revolutionary Marxism in the so-called ‘socialist’ countries (which for communists are a form of state capitalism fully integrated into the class enemy’s international line-up) have no road to take except the traditional one of classical bourgeois ideology – even though they don’t even do this very well.
[We share this point except the last sentence. It is more correct and precise to speak of abandonment and betrayal of Marxism by the Stalinist Communist Parties. The verb “break away” could allow an understanding that their “reflections” had developed from Marxism, as if it was in continuity with it. This is precisely what the present Left and Leftist parties claim and what the communists must denounce and fight against. Certainly, as the text goes back to 1978, it might be a formulation that the ICT (and the PCint) would not adopt as such today.]
8 – The relationship which links the class to its communist consciousness is the same one which links the class to the future exercise of its dictatorship: it resides in the objective social and economic contradictions, in the very dynamic of history. It will not be present in the minds and psychology of all proletarians until the time when they are ready to make their own history.
[The first sentence is very important because it is built on a “dialectical and materialist” understanding of the historical future as material factor of the present and because it expresses the comprehension of the link between the final revolutionary perspective and the development of the class consciousness. Also important is the second part which distinguishes again the communist consciousness and its propagation within the class as a whole.]
9 – It is necessary to definitively reject and fight against the theory – alien to Marxism and typical of petty bourgeois idealism – which maintains that communist consciousness can grow and become generalised outside of the revolutionary process itself. It is based on the idealist principle of the superiority of ideas, and can only deceive potential revolutionaries with an impossible vision of reality, drawing them away from their unavoidable duty as communists and obstructing their work.
[Here the text is precisely based on what K. Marx develops in particular in The German Ideology. The text rejects idealism – as approach and method of understanding. It underlines its danger, in particular the one which ignores the practical revolutionary fight led by the international proletariat as class especially in its political dimension, that is in its permanent confrontation with the political forces of the capitalist class in the “workers’ milieu” such as the unions and the Left and Leftist parties].
10 – This fundamentally anti-Marxist thesis was adopted by the council communist movement, which, beginning from an erroneous evaluation of the process of revolution and counter-revolution in Russia, arrived at positions alien and opposed to those of the communist movement.
[Along with the previous one, this point clearly rejects the “Apoliticism” and “Economism” fought by Lenin at that time. Today it is Anarchism as well as the X2017-01-28T16:59:00XSame as above
“councilist” current which comes from the “communist movement of the councils” of the 1930s, which are the bearers of this same apoliticism that must be combated. In particular, this current denounces the experience of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Party as bourgeois experiences. Thus it is led to reject the fundamental theoretical and political lessons of the Russian and European revolutionary experience of the years 1917-1923, such as the relation of the proletariat towards the capitalist state, the state arising from the working class insurrection, that is the one of the period of transition between capitalism and communism, and on the exercise of its class dictatorship; as well on the role of political leadership of the party in the revolutionary process, the working class insurrection, and the confrontation with the state.]
11 – A position close to that of the council communist movement, and which also has to be rejected, recognises that only the revolutionary process makes it possible for communist consciousness to become generalised, but which reduces this to a “consciousness of the need for revolution”, thereby renouncing the organised struggle against the highly organised forces of the bourgeoisie; although the defenders of this position talk about the revolution, they are actually working for the preservation of capitalism and for the hegemony of one of the two imperialist blocs.
[Some parts of this current, political groups or circles, don’t label themselves as “Councilists”, indeed they claim “all the Communist Lefts”, sometimes even the Communist Left of Italy and they still get to the point where they “talk about the revolution” and the party. By reducing consciousness to simply the awareness of the need for the revolution, they reduce the role of the Communists to mere propaganda for the “idea of the revolution since it is necessary”. Thus, they ignore the concrete political dimension of each daily fight of the proletarian struggle – whatever is its extent and depth – in which, by definition, as the most “conscious” elements because they “bear” the Communist Program, the communist groups and the party have a constant and crucial role to play. The result is that they postpone until “tomorrow”, until the revolution, the setting up of the party and so theorize a passive and often hostile attitude towards the concrete process which leads to the foundation of the party. This vision opposes the spontaneous dimension of the class fight to its political dimension without seeing the dynamic (dialectical) link between both. In this sense, and even if the PCint text responds to the 1978 imperialist situation, the lesson of the “negative” character of Councilism of any kind for the proletarian struggle is more than ever actual.]
12 – Similarly we have to reject the position that communist consciousness, the entire inheritance of principles, theses, and positions pointing towards communist revolution, is something given once and for all, and doesn’t change from one historic phase of the movement to another. Those who gravitate around this position forget that communist consciousness is something directly attached to the class and to the experiences it objectively goes through in its subordination to capital. They therefore forget that theses and positions have to alter with changes in the real situation in which the class lives. The main problem is to recognise the characteristics of the class struggle through all these changes, and to draw the necessary lessons from it. Naturally all the variations in the capitalist mode of production cannot, despite the bourgeois theories of the national communist parties, alter the basic substance of class society, or the fact that the proletariat is, and remains, the class which is economically exploited and socially and politically dominated.
[This point is as important too because it rejects the vision of the invariance of the Communist Program such as it had been developed by the so-called “Bordigist” current which came from the PCint after the 1952 split and which converts the program and the positions into dogma rather than a method of action. It underlines much about the changes which can occur in the class. The program can and must enrich itself with the historical experiences – whether they are (temporary) successes or defeats – and the movement of the revolutionary class.]
The Organisation of Revolutionaries: The Party
1 – In the entire period leading up to the revolution, and even during the initial phase of the revolution itself, communist consciousness is possessed by a minority, i.e. only a minority possesses and acts on the basis of this consciousness. This is a real and concrete fact which is beyond discussion. This minority has the duty of forging the tools necessary for the class to develop, in the moments of crisis in the capitalist mode of production, this “practical movement”, the revolution – the only way that mass communist consciousness matures within the class itself. In the fullest sense the organisation of the revolutionary minority is the party.
[We agree with this point which is very important. It is the result of the consequent application of Point 6 of the first part. In particular, and even if the PCint does not adopt our formulation, it introduces the distinction between the two dimensions of the class consciousness: the communist consciousness borne by “a minority” and “the mass communist consciousness”, that is between the class consciousness (the Communist Program) and its extension more or less enlarged within the class as a whole, within its masses, according to the moments and the development of the struggle between the classes. This distinction is essential to enable the founding and the understanding of the existence, the need, and the real role of the party as organ of political leadership of the class.]
2 – The party has the permanent task of giving back to the class the entire legacy of theses, principles, and expressions of the struggle for communism, as that communist consciousness which has come about through the experiences which the working class itself has lived through.
[We see very well the close link between the party and the class as well as the main and fundamental task of the former. The party can do nothing without the experience of the class. It draws its positions from it. But the class is powerlessness if the party does not act, or rather does not struggle, to “give back”, “to send back”, to the class its theoretical heritage of political principles and positions.]
3 – The party is therefore the medium through which the relationship between the class and its consciousness has been expressed throughout the entire history of capitalism’s existence, just as it will be during the period of transition from capitalism to communism.
[We agree with this point on the link between the party, the class and its consciousness since we know that the party is a part of the class. As well, we agree with – and want to insist on – the fact that this relation between the class and its consciousness does not rise up only during revolutionary periods but also, and constantly, all along “the entire history of capitalism’s existence”, and thus along the proletariat’s history, as labour force which is both exploited and revolutionary; and including during the period of transition from capitalism to communism as long as the classes are not totally suppressed, that is as long as the whole of humanity has not been integrated into the proletariat which will announce at its turn its disappearance as a class.]
4 – The seizure of power by the working class, and thus the beginning of the revolution for the whole of society, is only possible during the crises of capitalism and when the class recognises, in the principles and programme of revolutionaries, its own historic interests; when, during the assault on the bourgeois state, it rallies around the party and its programme.
[We agree even though at least two points should be specified: the seizure of power is only possible after a period of double power has existed between the bourgeois state and the workers’ councils as organs of the insurrection and the dictatorship of the proletariat to come – this is a positive lesson of the 1917 Russian Revolution and a negative lesson of the 1918-1919 German Revolution; although it is fundamental that the class gathers around the party and its program for the seizure of power, this does not mean that it already adopts the whole program as such. We should not conclude from this point that the party has only to reveal its program and the day the proletariat accepts it, it would automatically be the revolution. For the proletariat to adopt its program and gather around the material force the party represents, it matters that the communists – already grouped in a party or not – be actively involved in the entire process of developing consciousness.]
5 – The ups and downs of the party-organisation faithfully reflect the ups and downs of the life of the class. It almost disappears during periods of profound reflux when the bourgeoisie reigns supreme on the economic and political level. But just as the objective antagonism between the classes can never disappear, so communist consciousness which is nourished by this antagonism can never disappear either. It may though be reduced to the point where the organisation of revolutionaries seems to have disappeared. This is particularly the case when the defeat of the class leads to fear and disillusionment in the ranks of revolutionaries themselves, and thus to confusion and aberration on the level of communist consciousness. This was confirmed in Italy in the period around 1948, when the definitive victory of Stalinism – which had disarmed the class and led it to re-forge its own chains – provoked division in the ranks of the unified organisation, the Internationalist Communist Party, which had arisen in 1943 as a response to a potential reawakening of the class from the profound depression of Stalinism.
[We are particularly in agreement with the fact that the class consciousness can never disappear even though its extension within the masses is extremely reduced or present only in a small minority. Furthermore, the “downs” of the class are not so much due to the domination at the economic and political levels – which will continue as long as the mode of capitalist production (in the case of the former) and the capitalist state power (in the case of the latter) are not destroyed – but above all because of the massive bourgeois ideological domination. Finally, this point raises the question of the maintenance of the existence of the PCint as “Party” as such after “the definitive victory of Stalinism”. We have not dealt with this question, just mentioned it during our internal discussions. It can seem to be today a secondary question in regards to the existence of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista since 1943 until today, all the more since the ICT clearly claims not to be the party. As such, we are not sure this question represents a genuine political stake today, still less a disagreement of principle.]
6 – The existence of several organisations claiming the title of the party in no way undermines the continuity of the party and the necessity for militants to defend it. This was the task of the comrades of the left fraction in France and Belgium vis-a-vis the party founded at Livorno in 1921 throughout the period in which the Third International and the Soviet power had not yet, in their estimation, completed their cycle of degeneration. This was completed with the Soviet Union’s participation in the war in Spain as an agent of the counter-revolution, and in one of the blocs in the world imperialist war. The defence of revolutionary continuity was then crystallised in the new Internationalist Communist Party, which reunited in its theses and programme the whole corpus of experience and elaboration from the previous period. The fact that this party was later divided into two trunks and that one of them gave rise to groups and currents that were often openly counter-revolutionary (we are thinking of Invariance) has not led to the total disappearance or betrayal of the bases of the 1943 programme.
[We agree with this point and in particular with the first sentence. As well, we share and consider “the defence of revolutionary continuity” as a fundamental point of method and struggle. For the so-called “Italian” Communist Left, this continuity goes from the Congress of the foundation of the PC d’Italia in 1921 until the foundation of the PCint in 1943, through the Committee of Intesa (1925) which was announcing the struggle of fraction, the “Italian” fraction in France and Belgium in the 1930s around the journal Bilan, and during the war. Here it is important to recall that, when the constitution of the Party in Italy had been announced, the Italian fraction abroad agreed with the constitution of the Party. We believe that the setting up of the Party in 1943 was dictated, justified and thus necessary given the circumstances which were then prevailing in Italy because of the movement of the working class there on the one hand and the expectation of working class responses in Europe on the other, some expressions of which had already appeared, particularly in Germany, just like they had occurred in 1917-1919. The fact that this schema was not repeated does not invalidate the constitution of the party even if, in the following years, the “formal” party lost its raison d’être because of the proletarian retreat.]
7 – Although we cannot exclude the possibility of a revolutionary upheaval in one country under the guidance of a ‘national’ party at a time when the world party of the proletariat has not yet been formed, past historical experience and the growing supra-national concentration of imperialism teaches us that revolutionaries must seek to forge the international party on the basis of the theoretical and programmatic platform expressed by the communist consciousness of revolutionaries for half a century. The supra-nationality of capital, i.e. the identical class interests of the bourgeoisie in all countries, is matched by the supra-nationality of proletarian interests. A revolution that is victorious in one country will not survive for long if it does not have the active solidarity of the world proletariat, not only on the defensive level, but also through revolutionary assault on the whole capitalist system. The world party of the revolution is essential for the execution of this vital strategic plan; and, because it is so concerned with the generalised attack on capital it will subordinate to this plan the tactics of its section in the country where the revolution first breaks out.
[To subordinate the “national” (or territorial) tactical political orientations to the requirements of the international extension of the revolution is a question of principle which only the Italian Left, amongst all the oppositions to the degeneration of the Communist International, defended and bore in a practical and consequent way against the Russian party and the International in process of Stalinisation. We have one reservation on this point when it contemplates the possibility of a “national” party which should be discussed and clarified.]
8 – This is the perspective the party will have for its international work. The supra-nationality of proletarian interests and of the party’s strategy will be reflected in the centralised organisation of the party. The party is the indispensible tool of the proletarian revolution, because only the party can incorporate into a programmatic political platform the ongoing developments coming out of the objective situation of the class, developments which would otherwise remain extremely incoherent and easy prey to sectarianism and corporatism – both expressions of bourgeois ideology – even before being hit by the repression of the bourgeois state. It is essential that the party is solidly regrouped around its central positions, that it is organised on the principle of centralism and not of federalism. Just as the class transmits to the party the multiple and sometimes contradictory experience which the party has to elaborate in a unifying programme and then return to the class, so within the party itself experiences of militant activity and strategic and tactical positions can go from the periphery to the centre and back to the periphery.
[The question of the internationally centralized organisation and functioning of the party is not just an “organisational” question: one of the lessons passed on by the “Italian Left” is precisely that this centralization is based on the political unity and homogeneity “around its central positions”. This requires the constant development of an internal political life running through the whole party. For our part, we consider that this mode of centralized functioning at the international level has to be already developed in the life and the development of the present communist groups. These ones can’t consider themselves as local or national expressions but directly as expressions of the international proletariat whatever are their geographical limits. It is not simply a question of “organisational functioning” but a question of method of action and thinking indispensable for the daily application of the principle of proletarian internationalism.]