Monday, 08 March 2021

WHAT DISTINGUISHES OUR PARTY: The political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin, to the foundation of the Communist Party of Italy (Livorno, 1921); the struggle of the Communist Left against the degeneration of the Communist International, against the theory of „socialism in one country“, against the Stalinist counter-revolution; the rejection of the Popular Fronts and the Resistance Blocs; the difficult task of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and organization in close interrelationship with the working class, against all personal and electoral politics.

Three Texts from the Sixties

Black anger makes the crumbling pillars of bourgeois and democratic “civilization” tremble (1965)

Before international conformity buried the “regrettable” incident under a thick blanket of silence, once the racket of the “black rebellion” in California was over, when the “enlightened” bourgeoisie was anxiously trying to uncover the “mysterious” causes of the hitch in the “peaceful and regular” operation of the democratic mechanism down there, some observers on either side of the Atlantic consoled themselves by recalling that, after all, violent collective outbreaks by “coloureds” are nothing new in America and that, for example, one just as serious – but without consequences - had happened in Detroit in 1943.

But for those who have followed the facts not with cold objectivity but with passion and hope, there has been something profoundly new in this red-hot episode of anger, which comes not only vaguely from the people but from the proletariat. It is something that makes us cry out: The black rebellion has been suppressed: long live the black rebellion!  The new element – in the history of the fights for emancipation of salaried and underpaid black workers, not of course in the history of the class struggle in general – is the almost inevitable coincidence of the pompous and rhetorical presidential declaration of political and civil rights, and the outbreak of an anonymous, collective, subversive, “uncivil” fury by the beneficiaries of the “magnanimous” gesture; of the umpteenth attempt to win over the martyred slave with a miserable carrot costing nothing, and the instinctive, immediate refusal of the slave to have himself blindfolded and bend his back again.

Rough and uneducated – not by their leaders, the great majority of whom are more Gandhian than Gandhi; not by US-style “communism” which, as l’Unità hastened to point out, refuses and condemns the violence – but informed by the harsh practical lesson of social life, the black people of California, without any theoretical knowledge and without needing to express it at length in language but declaring it with their arms and their action, have shouted the pure and simple truth for the whole world to hear, and that is that civil and political equality is nothing as long as economic inequality rules and that this cannot be escaped through laws, decrees, sermons and preaching, but by using force to overturn the bases of a class society.  And this is the brutal rip in the fabric of legal fiction and democratic hypocrisy, which has disconcerted and could not fail to disconcert the bourgeoisie; and this is what has filled us Marxists with enthusiasm and could not fail to do so; this is what must give the weary proletarians food for thought, falsely coddled as they are in the metropolises of a capitalism historically born with a white skin.

When North America, having already set out along the tracks of full capitalism, launched a crusade for the emancipation of the slaves in the South, it did not do so for humanitarian reasons or out of respect for the eternal principles of ’89, but because it was necessary to split up the lineages of a pre-capitalist patriarchal economy and “free” its labour force so that it could offer itself as a huge resource for the greedy monster of Capital. Already before the war of secession, the North was encouraging the escape of slaves from the southern plantations, all too attracted by the dream of a labour force that would place itself on the market at the lowest of prices and which, as well as this direct advantage, would ensure that of containing the already salaried workforce, or at least keep it from increasing.  During and after that war, the process accelerated rapidly and became generalized.

This was a step that was historically necessary to overcome the limits of a highly backward economy; and Marxism acclaimed it, though not because unaware that, when freed from the South, black labour would find a mechanism of exploitation ready and waiting in the North, some aspects of which were even more ferocious. Free the “good nigger” would be, in the words of the Capital, to take his hide to market and have it tanned: free from the chains of southern slavery but also from the protective shield of an economy and a society founded on personal and human relations, rather than  impersonal and inhuman ones; free – i.e alone, i.e. naked, i.e. helpless.

And in fact, the slave who escaped to the North realized he was no less inferior than before; because he was paid less; because he had no professional qualifications; because he was isolated in new ghettos as a soldier in the industrial reserve army and as a potential threat to the connective tissue of the régime of private property and appropriation; because he was segregated and discriminated against as the one who must feel not a person but a beast of labour and as such sell himself to the first offer, asking no more and no better.

Today, a century after this presumed “emancipation”, he finds himself granted “full” civil rights at the same time as his average income proves alarmingly lower than that of his white fellow citizen, his salary is half that of his lighter-skinned brother, his companion’s pay is one third of the salary of a “non-coloured” companion; at the same time as the golden business metropolises shut him into ghettos full of horrifying poverty, disease and vice, hiding him there behind invisible walls of prejudice, customs and police regulations; at the same time as the unemployment that bourgeois hypocrisy calls “technology” (meaning this is “inevitable”, the price that must be paid for progress, of which present society is not guilty) culls most of its victims from amongst the ranks of his brothers of the same race, because these are the ranks of the simple labourer and of the sub-proletarians assigned to the foulest and most exhausting jobs; at the same time as, whilst equal to his white fellow soldier in the eyes of death, he is rendered profoundly unequal before the policeman, the judge, the taxman, the factory owner, the Union man and the owner of the hovel he lives in. It is also true – and absurd to the bigots – that the blaze of this rebellion has spread in California where the average black salary is higher than in the East; but it is right there in the territory of the capitalist boom and of false proletarian “well-being”, that the inequality of treatment between people with different-coloured skins is strongest; it is right there that the ghetto, already closed along the Atlantic coast, is hastily being secured before the arrogant ostentation of luxury, lavishness and the dolce vita of the ruling class – which is white!  It is against the hypocrisy of an egalitarianism put down on paper in Jesuit fashion but denied in practice by a society riddled by deep class rifts, that black anger has exploded so potently, not unlike the explosion of anger by the white proletarians attracted to the new industrial centres of advanced capitalism and piled up there, crowded into the slums, confined in the cardboard shacks of this most Christian bourgeois society, and “free” within them to sell its labour, so as…so as not to die of hunger; as the sacred fury of the exploited and – and as though this were not enough, derided - underclasses will always explode!

 “Premeditated rebellion and disrespect for the law, the rights of fellow citizens and the maintenance of law and order!” exclaimed the cardinal of Holy Mother Church McIntyre, as though the new slave-without-shackles had any reason to respect a law that keeps his back and his knee bent, or had ever known – himself the “fellow citizen” of the whites – that he possessed any “rights” or had ever been able to see anything but disorder elevated to the status of a principle, in this society based on the three-point slogan of freedom, equality and brotherly love.

 “Rights are not won by violence,” shouted Johnson.  A lie.  Black people remember, even if only because they have heard about it, that a long war was the price white people paid for the rights they had been denied by the English metropolis; they know that a longer war brought both white and black people, temporarily united, a flimsy “emancipation” that still today remains inconsistent and remote; they see and hear every day how chauvinist rhetoric celebrates the extermination of the red-skinned people contrasting the march of the founding fathers towards new lands and “rights”, and the crude brutality of the pioneers of the West “redeemed” by the cult of the Bible and Alcohol; what was this, if not violence?  Obscurely, they have realized that there is no deadlock in American history, as in all countries, that has not been broken by force; that there is no right that is not the result of a clash, often a bloody one and always violent, between the forces of the past and those of the future.  What have a hundred years of waiting for the magnanimous concessions of the white people brought, apart from the little that an occasional outbreak of anger has been able to wrench, even using fear alone, from the mean and cowardly hand of the boss?  And what was the reply of Governor Brown, defender of the rights the white people felt were threatened by the “revolt”, if not the democratic violence of the machine guns, truncheons, tanks and siege?

And what is this, if not the experience of the oppressed classes under any sky, whatever the colour of their skin and of whatever “racial” origin?  The black rebel, whether pure proletarian or sub-proletarian, who shouted in Los Angeles, “Our war is here, not in Vietnam,” was formulating a concept no different to that of those who “stormed the heavens” in the Paris Commune and Petrograd, the destroyers of the myths of order, the national interest, the wars of civilization and the proclaimers of a civilization that was finally supposed to be human.

The bourgeoisie should not console itself by thinking: “a far-off episode that doesn’t affect us – here the matter of race is not an issue.”  The issue of race is a social matter, in an increasingly clearer form today.  The unemployed or under-employed in our lacerated South should no longer have to resort to the outlet of emigration; they should no longer have to rush to let themselves be flayed alive across the sacred borders (or let themselves be killed in tragedies that are not caused by fatalities, the sudden whims of the atmosphere or perhaps by the evil eye, but by Capital’s thirst for profit and anxiety to save on the cost of materials, accommodation, means of transport, safety equipment, in order to ensure a higher margin of unpaid labour and perhaps profit from the reconstruction that follows the inevitable, anything but unpredictable and always hypocritically lamented disasters); allow the slums of our manufacturing cities and moral capitals (!!) to overflow, more than they already are, with unemployed outcasts without food or reserves, and you will have an “Italic” racism, already visible now in the lamentations of the North over the “barbarians” and “uncivil” southern terroni (mud-eaters).

It is the social structure in which we are condemned to live today that brings to life these infamies; it will disappear under the ruins of it.  This is what the forgetful, dozing in the illusory sleep of well-being and drugged by the opium of democracy and reform, are warned of and reminded of by the “black rebellion” of California – not remote, not exotic, but present amongst us; immature and defeated but the messenger of victory!

(il programma comunista, n.10, 1965)


Glory to the black proletarian rebellion (1967)

However the heroic rebellion of America’s black proletarians is destined to unfold […], it marks a watershed in the history of exploited “coloured” people, which, whilst filling revolutionaries with enthusiasm, must act as a vigorous wake-up call, a healthy lash of the whip, to all those slaves of capital, first and foremost white ones, in countries all over the world.

Amidst the cries of indignation from right-thinking people – not least the “progressive” members of the bourgeoisie, who were happy to applaud the innocuous and pacific “marches” for peace or for “civil rights” and who are now screaming about the “unlawfulness” and “horrors” of an open rebellion that tends to overstep every boundary – , it speaks a language that, despite themselves, the same dismayed organs of the exploited class are obliged to take note of and pass on,

This is no longer the silent and more or less imploring request for formal “rights”, for juridic “equality”: this is an explosion of anger from those who have learned from long experience, that laws and rights are the tools of the class that rules and exploits, not the weapons of the exploited class; that “equality” is a mockery faced with the reality of economic and social inequality, unemployment, starvation wages, the frantic pace of work that all workers are subject to but first and foremost black workers; that faced with all this, prayers and petitions count for nothing, just as they failed to count when faced with the whips of the slave-drivers in the times when people with dark skins were not “free” to sell their labour to any boss.

This is no longer the occasional student outburst in a “patriarchal” and “backward” university town in the American south:  it is a blaze of anger from proletarians crowded into the biggest, modern industrial city in the north (Detroit in fact – ed.), the pride of the American automobile industry.

It is no longer an isolated episode: this is a wildfire spreading not only from one city to another but, far more importantly, from black proletarians to white proletarians who stand alongside them. It is a page in the class war, proud as it is violent, bold as it is implacable.  It is the warning sign of what is to come on the day when proletarians, independently of the colour of their skin, rise up not with prayer but with force, to break their chains in the golden citadels of “capitalist progress”.

The bourgeoisie immediately cried scandal, against the horror of the looting, the fires, the shooting.  But is this the scandal or is it not, instead, the martyrdom to which black wage earners taking refuge in the civilized north have been subjected for a century now, condemning them to wages that are lower by half than those of white workers and leaving them to the mercy of recurrent unemployment?  Is this the horror, or is it the ghetto in which holy, white, Christian society imprisons its “freed” slaves in the great industrial metropolises?  And is the rebellion of the black proletarians “irresponsible” violence, whilst the violence of the white bosses who have them in a stranglehold is supposed to be “legitimate”?  For us, this anonymous violence is as sacred as that of the Roman slaves, the French Sansculottes, or the Russian workers and mugiks.

Let the Luther-King- or Bob-Kennedy-style “progressive” thinkers cry that this is how the fruits of the patient work of reform are destroyed.  The black proletarians CAN NO LONGER have patience, even if they wanted to: a hundred years of reform have failed to give them an iota of what – and it was already very little – a real war, the civil war between North and South managed to secure precisely one century previously, not by means of speeches or petitions but by speaking the language of weapons.  Those victories, so important at the time, have demonstrated over a long period of suffering how inadequate they were, at the same time proving that democracy is a mere chimera for the exploited:  they cannot be carried any further – cancelled out by greater victories – unless a new and different turn is taken, of class (and the proletarian class’s), civil war.

This is the language the black proletarians are speaking to their rulers.  But they are also speaking it to their proletarian “non-coloured” brothers, so that they remember there is only one enemy and that freedom from it can only come by breaking the yoke that weighs on the shoulders of all the exploited; so that they recover the awareness that black proletarians will not be truly free until, joining with them, the proletarians of every other race gain their freedom, too, tearing the tools of his dictatorial power from the greedy hands of a boss who is the same for them all and is protected today by the paratrooopers unleashed to arrest, wound and kill, in the name of property and Capital, those who bear the terrible guilt of not wanting to die of hunger!

Today all the lay and ecclesiastical defenders of law and order are ranked against the rebellious black proletarians.  It’s only natural:  the former have something – a lot – to lose; the latter have only their chains to lose.  It is therefore to them that the support of revolutionary communists in all countries goes, proud to fight against the mutual enemy of all the exploited, to the undying battle cry of: “Proletarians of the world (from every country and every race), unite!


(il programma comunista, n.14, 1967) 


The need for revolutionary theory and the class party in America (1967)



The social character of the “black revolt”

The great theoretical significance of the glorious days of Newark and Detroit consists first and foremost in the fact that they are a splendid confirmation of Marxist forecasts regarding the inevitability of the catastrophe against which bourgeois ideologists and a whole range of opportunists claim that capitalism can protect itself, thanks to “special” resources.  At one fell swoop, the “black rebellion” (let us use this term for the moment) swept away – in a blaze of fire and steel – the fables endorsed by petit-bourgeois intellectuals, as to the invincible march towards well-being and the peaceful elimination of political and social contrasts.  Instead, it brought back into the limelight the Marxist argument, that the loudly acclaimed capitalist prosperity has feet of clay, and – far more importantly – giving further confirmation to the old Marxist axiom just right there where the suggestions of reformist and pacific propaganda are most widespread, and the possibility of material and moral corruption greater; right there where there is most “prosperity”. Right there, proletarians have reminded their brothers throughout the world that “they have nothing to lose but their chains”.

Because this is the other important aspect of the “events” of Newark and Detroit (not the only ones, as could, and can still, be seen, but for now the most striking), it is a question of proletarians, wage-earners rebelling on the scene of one of the biggest industrial hubs, not only in the United States but in the world, and both the drive and direction of their uprising are the same as the blaze of rage from the Mexican or chicano daily-workers in the fertile valleys of California in recent years (and periodically every year) or the manual workers from a variety of backgrounds – white ones, too – in the corporative prisons of the east, by which the bloody history of American capitalism has been punctuated both in far-off and recent times. In other articles we speak of the scarce but undeniable messages of solidarity from the white workers to their black-skinned brothers: these alone demonstrate the class roots (and only for the label, race roots) of the great earthquake that has struck the golden citadels of His Majesty the Yankee Capital.  Black labour is certainly the worst paid but this is true to a similar degree for the Puerto Rican labourers absorbed by industries in the East, the wage-earning Mexican or chicano farmworkers hired on a seasonal basis in the agricultural industries of the West or for the old-time Americans who struggle to get by, for example in the depressed areas of the Appalachian mountains.  Black proletarians, mostly with no qualifications, are most exposed to unemployment (in Harlem 9% of black people are unemployed as against the 4% of the national average; amongst young people under the age of twenty the percentage rises to around 25% - [1967 data – ed.]. But so are the Puerto Ricans and, to a certain extent all the young “whites” excluded by mechanization from the many chances of employment in industry.  The blacks certainly live in dreadful neighbourhoods but in these same areas immigrants of diverse origins and very different races crowd together, obliged to sell their labour to the insatiable capitalist monster.

Capitalism originates from a territorial base that is more or less homogeneous in terms of language and customs – the “national” labour market – but in its overriding expansion, it cannot do without a source of low-cost labour and if the “pockets” of internal depression are insufficient, outside national borders: anywhere in the international reserve army desperately offering it (the world power) its labour.  Here they are, the super-exploited, who suffer, as such, independently of their “nationality” or their skin (even though their collocation as “foreigners” or “coloureds” acts as a convenient excuse for sacrificing them or exploiting them even more) and who, for this very reason, are destined by reason of an apparent paradox, to become the avant-garde in the class struggles of their adopted country.  Engels saw in the Irish – crowded into what today’s hypocrisy would call “racial ghettos” and were instead simply monstrous working class neighbourhoods – the spearhead, the element of greatest unrest in the instinctive movement of proletarian rebellion in England: the most resplendent episodes of violent uprising in the United States have foreign names and surnames; in both cases the actors in the social drama embodied the pure proletariat, those without reserves who in fact “have nothing to lose except their chains”, the authentic wage-earner who feels on his skin the lies of the “new frontiers”, the frontiers that capitalism crosses to source labour where it costs the least.  It would be the same to talk of “racial conflict” with respect to… the martyrs of Chicago in the far-off, yet so nearby 1886, or the formidable wobblies (I.W.W.) of more recent years, mostly German, Irish, Italian and Spanish immigrants!

Lastly, even wishing to consider only black people – as “citizens” and not as “proletarians” – and shut their wave of rebellion up in a bottle, with a cork bearing the words “racial issue”, what would that wave of rebellion demonstrate (third point), if not that even on the general terrain of the famous “rights” and famous “integration”, the dynamics of social forces have physically placed the victims of the worst “injustices” up against problems that invest general relations, neither local nor particular, between society – the whole of society – and the state – the entire edifice of oppression and defence of the ruling class – showing them that the issue is political and to do with brute force, admitting nothing but the alternative between violence suffered and violence exercised? Does this mean that the Detroit “negroes” were explicitly aware of it? No. And so? Conscience follows and does not precede action and this is the real and material effect of forces, of a rip going on in the apparently strong material of an intrinsically precarious society. The government can appoint all the “commissions of enquiry” that it likes): history has placed the issue on a quite different terrain.

The historical limits of the uprising

Our enthusiasm on the one side, our solidarity on the other, would nonetheless remain inferior to our task as a party, if we closed our eyes to the historical limits – as well as to the deficiencies, errors and risks of involution occurring under the dual attack of bourgeois state repression and opportunist poison – of an uprising emerging powerfully from the bowels of the bourgeois production mechanism.

This is no “academic” problem, but one of those real needs for battle that drove our great Masters to draw lessons from the most shining examples of proletarian struggle – lessons that they passed on to successive generations, not only in terms of their light but also and foremost of their shadows.  Shortcomings and mistakes are inevitable in a battle in which one of the basic ingredients is its spontaneous nature; and the spontaneous nature of the American uprising can only be mistaken by those who give credit to the lies of the Central Intelligence Agency about the decisive part played in it by the usual “agitators” or, worse, by common criminals, pillagers and… pyromaniacs; thus only by those who have chosen to play the part of lackeys to the establishment. As to the historical limits, in order to understand them, they must be seen against the background of the whole of the workers’ movement, American and worldwide.

The light and shadow of events in Newark and Detroit cannot be judged by considering them as random episodes in any country at random.  On the contrary, they must be seen in the global significance they have, occurring at the very heart of the world’s pillar of imperialism, the USA, at the centre of its bloodthirsty system, the automobile industry, and in the immense value they could assume, indeed may already have assumed, for this very reason, for the worldwide revival of the proletariat.  This is where their present limits come into the limelight.

We have already mentioned the declarations of solidarity – not merely formal – for the “coloured” proletarians from the “non-coloured” ones.  They are undeniable, all the more so since they come from bourgeois quarters. There is no news, however, as to how, where, when this solidarity was expressed:  we do not know, for instance, if it was only manifest in the gesture of the “snipers” taking up rifles and shooting from the rooftops, or in other, wider-ranging forms of support, especially when the local armed forces received massive reinforcements from the paratroopers urgently called into action by the White House or when lines of tanks machine-gunned the streets; whether the “partial” paralysis of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler was due to “forced” absences or to the voluntary absence of the whole of the labour force; whether unified strike action and unified action committees arose and, in this case, how long they survived and what their slogans were. This silence (since it really is silence and not due to our own lack of information) is no accident: all opportunism in every country took care to relegate the American rebellion to the category of “particular” problems and situations and shut it into a political ghetto of isolation from the outside world, first and foremost the “outside” world of other countries and the different ‘coloured’ proletariat.  This silence (all the more significant since the same bourgeois sources blame the halt in production for three quarters of the monetary damage caused by the struggle and speak of one billion dollars going up in smoke in just a few days, the same sum the Italian government was loaned by the USA for “national reconstruction”) is the other face of what we might call “active” silence by the United States’ white “workers” associations and those outside the States: the silence of an organized political force that should pose the matter, on a general scale and as a principled cornerstone, as a unique battle, not divided by lines of colour, and, on a higher plane, recognizing the value of the instinctive solidarity of ordinary proletarians. Not one voice was raised in the camp of the ‘non coloureds’ (and it could only have been the voice of a class party) to cry: This battle belongs to all of us, our enemy is the same, there is a single will to attack it with the same violence that you, our black-skinned brothers, have exercised with bared faces, just as our fathers did so many times over a century of history!  If, then, there has been instinctive solidarity from the white proletariat, whatever form it assumed, what has been lacking is a corresponding political force.  But such a political force could not be there, where – not from today – the class party, the Marxist doctrine and program are missing: their active vehicle at the heart of world imperialism, where they are destined to act as the hinge in world communist strategy.  This is the tragic dilemma.  This is why we have entitled our article: “The need for revolutionary theory and the class party in America”.  Which is the same as saying throughout the world.


(il programma comunista, nos.15 & 16, 1967)


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