Revolution or War n°11

(Biannual - February 2019)

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Response of the Internationalist Communist Tendency (February 8th 2019)

At the time of finalizing this issue of the journal, we received a response from the ICT following the prior submission of our comments. It seems all the more important to us to publish it without delay – with the agreement of the ICT – as it provides political clarification to clarify which agreements and disagreements exist.


We think your criticism of the article is undermined by preconceptions that compels you to read what is not there, and to misrepresent what is there. Alongside that there’s the usual ICC style that you cannot quite shake off.

We are not interested in the ICC’s errors on the historical course. As we say in the text there are no predetermined cycles, and only the balance of power between the classes decides whether it is one cycle rather than another. One clarification though: their error in announcing that the historical course was going towards revolution was not just in the evaluation of 68 but in thinking that Stalinism, Maoism and petty bourgeois students, which politically dominated the movement then, were ’positive’ because, at the right moment, the struggle would have led on to true proletarian internationalism, by virtue of a path already marked out by the holy spirit. In short the usual idealistic approach.

But let’s get to the point. You accuse us of viewing the future ’world war’ as coming about just through the generalisation of episodes of local war. In the current state of things we have used the term generalisation of local wars as a possible transition to a general war that initially involves the expansion of what already exists, and then move on to a direct and general (world) confrontation. We deliberately used the synonym of world war because this term, widely abused, should be used sparingly because the next war, if it does come about, will be different from the other two in terms of alliances, numbers involved, techniques and methods of war and above all of involvement of the masses. So world war or generalised war here indicates a direct confrontation between imperialist interests. Today however, for the moment, we are still in the first phase. You admonish us by saying that there is a great difference between a series of local wars where imperialisms do not clash directly, and one where the mortal confrontation is direct. Obviously we all know that a world war involves a direct imperialist confrontation and not just a series of proxy wars. It was no accident that we used the adjective ’bizarre’ (which you obviously missed) to support the concept of world war. Bizarre precisely because today the great imperialisms that fuel wars do not collide directly as in the two previous global encounters. Their behaviour is closer to that of the ’cold war’ than to a direct and generalised war. So generalised war can be synonymous with world war, but not confused, obviously, with the episodes of local wars even if the imperialist actors are always the same. But this is a debate for the sake of debate.

Now to the second point. Photo or movie? The article simply says that in the current state of things (the balance of forces between the classes) war is the more likely outcome, but then we added that things can change (it was no accident that the Russian revolution issued from the First World War), and it is on this perspective that we intend to work and not on the first, while you continue to attribute the static view of the photo and not the film, making the first metaphor the only topic on which to intervene polemically, shamefully neglecting the second on which we base our analyses in the article as a whole.

When we say that the most probable solution today, given the current balance of power is war, we do not exclude that a revival of the class struggle, and only it, can overturn the current balance of power and initiate a process of confrontation whose results are never predictable. It is only the class struggle, the proletarian struggle that can bring about, under certain conditions, a change in the balance of power between the classes.

On the third point we believe there is a mystification. We will answer you briefly because we don’t want to repeat what we have said a thousand times in other documents. To take one sentence and distort its meaning is impermissible.

" ’Either the world proletariat will be able to escape the chains of nationalism, the thousand mechanisms of war that imperialism triggers every day, the explosion of one of the many speculative bubbles – perhaps due to the rise in interest rates by the Federal Reserve – will be enough to intensify and generalise the drama of existing wars and make the world a huge cemetery’. This formula seems to us at least clumsy.”  [1]

"Clumsy" is just your interpretation. Here we just want to say that in world capitalism’s current crisis any bursting of the speculative bubble will be enough to aggravate the economic situation, leading to new new wars and their generalisation, opening the way to a third world war (meaning widespread war and no longer just the generalisation of the episodes of war). But if the international proletariat has not shaken off the dead weight of bourgeois ideology, it will inevitably follow “its own’ imperialism. But we do not expect this consciousness of the proletariat to arise spontaneously (the great illusion). All this is explained in the closing part of the article. Only with the presence of a revolutionary and communist class party is it possible that spontaneous movements, which will be expressed more frequently and intensely as the crisis worsens, will become the terrain for intervention by the party itself and expressions of the political maturity of the masses. These are the struggles that, with the guidance of the party, will move onto a political level and dismantle the cornerstones of bourgeois ideology, like nationalism, or like the ’necessary’ wars to export democracy and, like all those siren calls that every bourgeoisie plays on, drags the proletariat behind the chariot of its interests. We do not expect the masses spontaneously to get rid of nationalism, to reject war or racism. We say that this can only happen on the basis of a strong revival of the class struggle guided by the class party. In our history, just as we have always fought against the idealism of the ICC, we have also fought against mechanistic Bordigism, which on these issues represent opposite poles.

If the class moves, albeit confusedly, without political objectives, and continues to remain within the framework of demand struggles, only the political vanguards (the potential party) can offer an anti-capitalistic political perspective.

Lastly, it is pure invention to assert that we view the function of the party as only a clarifying element, just as it is another invention to attribute to us the idea that the revolutionary clash is between the bourgeoisie and the class party. In this case too, our political journals have fought for 70 years against both the idealism which envisages autonomous maturation of class consciousness (see always the ICC) and against the authoritarian (substitutionist) vision of the Bordigists of the party as the infallible prefiguration of socialism, ready to assert its own dictatorship. Our dialectical effort, if you will allow us yet another synthesis is this: the party is the political instrument of the class struggle, holder of a tactic and a strategy, bearer of an anti-capitalist consciousness and of a social alternative that does not arise spontaneously from demand struggles. However, it is in these struggles that the party must intervene to play its role as a political reference point.

In conclusion, we never advocated a static view of the proletariat as if it were a passive subject. We believe that without an autonomous recovery of the class struggle (outside the unions and the self-styled left parties), no party is able to make the revolution, just as no pro-active movement against the bourgeoisie, even if hard and prolonged, can escape bourgeois schemes and the capitalist economic framework, without the presence of the class party leading it towards a victory against the capitalist state.

But these are old discussions, which we have already outlined, but which remain our approach to the question of the party’s role, to class consciousness and to the dialectical approach to the party-class relationship.

In this regard, we offer a passage by Onorato Damen which we consider particularly illuminating:

"The formation and modification of human consciousness, its transformation into will and action, are reflections at the level of social and political life of what is produced in the sub-soil of the economy but between the determining factors and a world determined by the superstructure there is a relationship which in its turn reacts on the base as an indispensable element in completing any historical event. No geometric scheme or arithmetic calculation can encapsulate this relationship between the world which determines and that which is determined. There is no eternally true and valid formula which says that this impulse comes from the subsoil of the economy or that one from what is happening in the superstructure.

In our case an adequate and timely crystallisation of revolutionary consciousness and the will to act does not always correspond to the objective conditions offered by the capitalist crisis. The first post-war crisis (1919) in Germany and Italy tragically showed us a proletariat instinctively brought to understand the need for a struggle for power but which lacked a revolutionary leadership. The history of workers’ struggles is full of examples of favourable situations in which the proletariat missed the bus due to the presence of a Party not up to the task of leadership.

This is the focal point not only for interpreting the dialectic but also for the nature and function of the class party.”

(Onorato Damen [1952] From “Outline of the Disagreement” which was the foreword to the ’Five Letters “. It can be found on p.27 of the English translation of Damen’s book “Bordiga: Beyond the Myth”)

Internationalist Greetings, Internationalist Communist Tendency



[1. Passage from our comments in which we quote an excerpt from the ICT article, note of the IGCL.