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.


What Is Communism?

“Certainly after the experience of the countries in the East, today it’s difficult to talk about communism,” notes our somewhat disconsolate skeptic.

We understand that. To speak of “communism” today is like turning inside out something that had been the object of intense Stalinist propaganda, of abuse by opportunistic social-democratic misrepresentation and bourgeois misconception, all three the work of decades. It means lifting the mask off “socialism in one country,” the total lie of “really existing socialism.” We must restate basic concepts.

Communism did not die with the USSR or elsewhere, if only for the simple reason that economically it was never born. Communism stands for the abolition of wage labor, commodities, money, profit, economic competition, social classes, and finally of the state itself. In the USSR and its derivatives, there existed: wage labor-workers received wages; money-as a means of exchange; profit-industries and cooperatives tried to close with a positive balance sheet; economic competition-there was an internal market and a gradual opening to the world market; distinct social classes; and a well-established state.

If before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the ensuing dramatic consequences our skeptic had looked with Marxist eyes at the two “opposite worlds” of capitalism and non-capitalism, she/he would have noted a fundamental similarity between the workings and outcomes of two systems depicted in propaganda as opposites. In both, the urban concentration continued unabated (there comes to mind in particular the megalopolis of the so-called “Third World,” economically and politically connected to the advanced capitalist West) and the misuse of the surrounding countryside, the wasteful overproduction of missiles and armaments at the expense of the social needs of the majority, the competition for work amongst workers and the alienation and despotism of the factory regime, the periodic domestic crises, the gargantuan needs of the state and the wars of plunder and imperialist control abroad, the galloping trend to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few as opposed to the misery of the majority, the immeasurable growth of the power of the state and the concentration of decision making in the hands of a political, corporate, and military elite exclusively responsive to the needs and voices of the ruling class. Any communism there? Let us not be fools!

What was then the USSR? For us Internationalist Communists, the answer was always very clear. Under Stalin and his successors what passed for communism was in large measure a centrally controlled state capitalism, although in some sectors, largely agricultural, there remained forms of small production, even of a pre-capitalist kind. Thus in the USSR there occurred what happens in every budding bourgeois regime: under state aegis, a state-coerced primitive accumulation lay the basis for the subsequent formation of a large-scale capitalist development. To Lenin and us communists, all this was very clear: after the revolution of 1917, the politically victorious proletariat had to undertake the gigantic historical task of raising the country out of economic backwardness to set the basis for communism. This necessarily entailed a fully developed capitalist economy: growth of large industry, a sufficient network of railroads, large-scale cooperative agriculture, electrification, and so on, while awaiting the outburst of the victorious revolution in the economically developed West (Germany in primis). Those were the conditions for a victorious communism on an international basis.

But revolution never came in the West because the parties there - and from a certain point in time, the very Third International itself - proved unable to align themselves on a verily revolutionary front, and the October Revolution crushed between the absence of Western support and the necessary re-emergence of economic capitalism in Russia turned in on itself. The Stalinist counterrevolution, appropriate expression of the young Russian capitalism, destroyed the compelling initial strategic vision, liquidated Lenin’s party both physically and theoretically, proclaimed as “socialism” what was no more than the “capitalist accumulation” referred to above, and theorized the possibility of “socialism in one country.” Such was the enormous and tragic deception which cost the blood of millions of victims, and up to their necks in this deception one could find (still finds!) convinced Stalinists, democrats, and fascists who extended Stalinism their benediction by calling it communism.

“Then, what happened from 1989 to today?” It happened that the form of capitalism that reigned in the USSR and its satellites reached the point in its development when it could not continue in its old form. State ownership had become an obstacle, particularly under the impetus of the crisis that developed in the ‘70s and reached into the USSR by the end of that decade. It was necessary to give vent to the new forces and energies developed in the “hot house” atmosphere of state protection and free it up to autonomous development outside centralized restraints and shackles. Hence the break with the earlier phases-a “break” common to all bourgeois nations at some point in their history: from centralized state controls to the so-called free market, only to return again to state “dirigisme” or reliance when the socio-economic situation deteriorates. To recall this process in action one need only think of the Keynesian policies of the New Deal and the state controls behind European fascism.


Well, then, what do we really intend by communism? Marx did not discover the characteristics of a communist society. Even before his time communism stood for the “the communion of goods,” the placing of all social riches in common and the rational administration in a society that did not know the market,wage labor, capital and social classes. In addition, a whole era of the human experience had unfolded under a form of “primitive communism,” a stage conditioned and circumscribed by a very low level of development of productive means: work in common on land held in common and the consumption in common of the products of this work such as happened at the beginning of human prehistory before the appearance of classes, the division of labor, and private property.

Marxism freed communism from the limitations of utopianism and presented it as an outcome unrelated to the realm of wishes or dreams-the schemes of a Fourier, Saint Simon or Robert Owen-but as a necessary stage, a conquest leading to the actual achievement of real society. Capitalism drives the division of labor to the nth degree and separates the worker from any ownership of the means of production (machines and equipment) and from the means of subsistence (food, housing). Having entered this productive process without reserves-think of the enormous numbers of pauperized Africans, Asians and Latin Americans in the areas which are being drawn into the capitalist vortex-the worker must pass into the market to buy his means of subsistence. He must now sell his labor power to the capitalist who has amassed the means of production, and who may appear in the form of an individual, an anonymous society, or the state. With the finished products of labor in his possession, the owner is entitled to keep the lion’s share of the wealth created by those workers, riches that are legally dispossessed from the workers’ ownership. Moreover, the workers can feed their families only to the degree that their labor is useful to capital, and here one might recall the authentic social sores that accompany the process: under-age labor, exploited immigrant labor, and prostitution.

This social rapport can sink the masses into an ever greater misery. But by greatly increasing the productivity of labor and tying all the sectors of production into a vast concentration raised to a worldwide scale, the means were created -but only the means- to satisfy human needs through the central and international administration of the riches produced. One does not have to “construct” socialism as if it were a Lego toy, but to correspond the (today private) mode of appropriation of wealth to the social (collective, communal) character of its production.

Most important above all, while utopians sought to introduce communism by preaching its goodness in tales of wonderment and appealing to the better side of governments or enlightened entrepreneurs, Marxism demonstrated that capitalism itself produces its own gravediggers. It creates the modern proletariat, a class that capital tends to concentrate, unify, and compel to struggle, if it is to survive. It is the only class that in the history of class formations has no underling class that it might exploit in turn. Liberating itself, this class, the step-creature of capital, liberates all of humanity. It is endowed with the power to assure the birth, painful and traumatic as it may be, of the new society.

To arrive there, the struggle of the modern working class conducted under the guide of the communist party in possession of a doctrine and a worldwide strategy must push itself to the total conquest of political power. The proletariat must impose its own class dictatorship for as long as is necessary to crush with terror any opposition by the dispossessed classes, while concentrating in its own hands control of production and exchange and thereby breaking the old productive relations and abolishing the inertia and attitudes of centuries.

Naturally, the communist transformation of society will occur only after the international power of the working class will have consolidated itself through a decisive victory in the great imperialist fortresses, the actual centers of the world economy and the true gendarmes of the planet. And equally true, time will be needed for a new human generation to arise from the wreckage of the old society now born in the conditions of communism.

This is the goal of the movement that calls itself communism, and it does not base itself on notions of “one of many opinions,” or a “cultural project,” or an “ethical intent.” What is involved is not some philistine banality having to do with “more social justice,” or a “better quality of life, or a “more equitable distribution of wealth”-all rhetorical expressions that leave matters where they are since they do not touch the fundamental nature of capitalism. What is involved is the historical transition from one productive system to another, as happened in the step from slavery to feudalism and from feudalism to capitalism. With this additive: with the abolition of class division, communism will allow humanity to escape at last from the pre-history of exploitation, oppression, and destruction.

In the society that will emerge from this transformation-a transformation that, we repeat, is radical, total, and not a yellowing photocopy of what came before-any form of dictatorship, any form of state power, will be of no value, since the economic basis underlying differentiation of social classes will be gone. But while the revolutionary crisis, the seizure of power, and the proletarian dictatorship are clear-cut, dramatic events, the socio-economic changes will of necessity take more time, if one is to deal with the a whole number of particular situations, e.g., the disparity in the stages of economic developments. Hence in lower communism, largely referred to as socialism, social constraints will remain in place and are best illustrated by the rule: “To each according to his/her work.” The false “really existing socialism” of the past pretended to have achieved this goal by relying on...wage labor that was in actuality an exchange of goods (commodities) for goods (commodities). Lower communism (socialism) foresees the introduction of a work chit, a script that entitles one to articles of consumption in proportion to one’s contribution, with a deduction to provide for the general social needs of society. The script is not money and, unlike money, cannot circulate and cannot be saved or accumulated.

Only with the achievement of production in abundance will social constraints disappear and society enter into a full communism, illustrated by the precept: “From each according to his/her capacity, to each according to need.” No longer subject to the blind economic laws attendant on the anarchy of the market humanity will have done not only with economic crises, genocidal wars, ethnic and national wars; emancipated from the oppression of producing for profit, competing for resources and markets, and producing for the sake of production, humanity will be able to organize production worldwide in a conscious manner following a rational plan that will regulate the rapports now turned harmonious amongst production, consumption and population, where today there is rampant disequilibrium due to the distended growth of capitalism.

Mankind will have time to dedicate itself effectively to solving the problem of agriculture and food production, and again look to areas that have been scanted by capitalism for the simple reason that the margins of profit are limited. To succeed, the “advanced countries” whose industries and know-how were constructed out of the blood and sweat of generations on all continents will undoubtedly lend themselves to a gratuitous modernization of the agriculture of the “less developed,” something unthinkable under capitalism. This will help mightily in closing the abyss opened by imperialism between races and nationalities and will favor the free formation of an international union, the crucible from which there will emerge a united humanity.

No longer menaced by the external and unfriendly power of capital, now master of its own destiny, the communist society will be able on the one hand to master and apply to human use the formidable new forces found in nature (not turn them into a menace to human survival, as has capitalism with the splitting and fusion of the atom), and on the other put to rest fear, obscurantism, and religiosity.

Rationalizing production will put to an end the contemporary ravaging of nature and the division between city and country through a gradual and more equitable distribution of economic activity across the entire terrestrial surface, that will also begin to end, thanks to these two changes, the menace of pollution. An end will be put to the waste and rape of natural resources: humanity will no longer be in harness to labor for profit, but for the satisfaction of human need. With the end of capital and the wage system, and therefore the end of man’s exploitation of man, not only the dramatic alternative of submitting to brutish labor or of growing unemployed will be crushed. Under communism, all will participate in social labor to the degree of the ability of each, which presupposes a different labor force indexed by age, with the exclusion of children and the disabled. Thanks to the application of the most modern techniques lifted and liberated from the control of monopoly and private property, society will be in a position to eliminate all perilous and useless activities from the manufacture of armaments to the training of police and the use of double accounting, thus radically shortening the hours of work to the baseline of need. Given the state of technology, perhaps a two-hour day would suffice on a worldwide scale.

To the degree that the proletarian dictatorship emphasizes these measures at the center of its program, there will be the elimination of an antithesis between school and production, and an end will be put to the chatter that passes today for the non plus ultra of culture. Domestic work from cleaning to infant training and raising will be socialized, thus freeing women forever from a millenarian slavery and a social inferiority of which they have been victims.

These revolutionary changes of the conditions of work and life will do much to remove the antagonism between the sexes and between the generations, so contentious a point under capitalism. At the same time, they will completely transform the rapport between collective life and “privacy,” (the latter existing today only to be ever abused or to degenerate into a solitudinous and miserable loneliness). Even the relationship between play and work and the very conditions of the environment would undergo massive change. Generations born free from the yoke of capitalism would be able to devote themselves to other important matters having at hand the means to deal with them. The drastic reduction of work time especially would not only free mankind from the labor and the maladies resulting from the frenetic quest for profits, for all the producers would be free now to plunge into intellectual areas; the natural sciences, the complex aspects of social life, literature and the arts-all would reacquire that collective dimension characteristic of those activities at the beginning of the prehistory of man. At last, the material conditions will have been set to overcome finally the divarcation between physical and intellectual labor, earlier so essential to the formation of social classes. No longer will men and women be condemned to brutish and repetitive labor: on the contrary, they would be freed from reliance on an exclusive “specialization,” “craft,” “career,” or vocation so highly lauded in bourgeois thought. Each of society’s members will face the need for some undertaking in the most diverse areas of social activity, obligatory but necessary.

With the disappearance of the division of labor, the administration of things, already reduced and simplified by the disappearance of capitalism’s market and exchange values, can be divided amongst all members of society. Administrative machinery, the foundation of the modern state, will have lost significance. In such a society, in the absence of the struggle of all against all, individualism will have vanished. Gone will be the basis for the opposition of the individual to society or society against the individual. In a society of the human species, participation in the collective effort will emerge as the underlying basis of vital need, and the free development of each “the condition for the free development of all.”

Whole generations have fought for this future, with millions of anonymous proletarians having given their blood in a struggle that has spread already to all continents. This is communism!

“No, it is utopia!” exclaims our irritated disbeliever. Stop! Utopia is an ideal society imagined without taking into account the material conditions from which it might arise, and without tracing the path of development that these very conditions suggest. It’s trying for the moon with a pedaled airship. Historically speaking, every problem may be raised in a real manner only when the possibilities and conditions for a solution exist. The possibility and the objective conditions for communism already exist within capitalist societies themselves: the high level-even too high!-of production, the globalization of the economic system, and the presence on a world level of a class without reserves. One must work to create the subjective condition for the change: the party that will guide the revolutionary process. But be the conditions objective or subjective, they are already obvious to communists, and we do not mean something inexplicable or an article of faith!

On the other hand, are our views utopian when we indicate the objective and the means to reach them: formation of the revolutionary party, its implantation amongst the masses on a worldwide scale, the continued growth of economic and social contradictions, the reawakening of the class struggle, the outbreak of the revolution led by the party, the seizure of power, the installment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the forcible intervention in the economy to introduce a radically different economic order? Or aren’t truly utopian those who leave unchanged the present system of capital, the market, profits, merchandise, competition, and bewitch themselves with talk of “sustainable economic development” or “equitable and responsible business”; who appeal to the conscience of “men of good will” to end the ever more frequent and bloody wars, donate balm to ease the suffering created by the incessant dramas of want and illness in the far reaches of the planet, and propose the incremental development of underdeveloped countries to eliminate the tragic sore of emigration, when it is precisely the sweeping introduction of capitalism to those countries-the demands it makes on an international level and the recurrent crises that accompany it-that is responsible for this tragic phenomena? That truly is utopian, and of the most painful sort, because it is not innocuous: it deceives millions and in so doing contributes to the strengthening of the system that gave rise to the ills listed above.

“Very well, but this ‘communism’ of which you speak exists nowhere, as you yourself note!” Sad is the mode of thinking that believes possible only that which exists and refuses to fight for what is not yet, though it is possible and even necessary. It’s a bit as if the Wright brothers had not set themselves to create a flying machine given that... no such machine had ever existed earlier. What is to be born does not exist yet; that’s elementary. Even bourgeois society did not exist when the first revolutionary burghers set out to oppose the feudal system. So what? As with the one above, such an observation is tantamount to implying total passivity, the deadening of one’s mental faculties: it is the result from a way of thinking that at all times insists “this is the best of all possible worlds.”

And then, as we have said, it is a false observation. There existed a “primitve communism” that given its low productive forces had to give way to a society based on class-based production. There was the experience of the Paris Commune of 1871, that showed how it was possible to reorganize social life and what errors to avoid in so doing. There was the experience of the first years after the October Revolution that indicated the long road to be taken and, again, the errors to avoid in terms of international strategy.

“Yes, OK, still you have behind you one hundred and fifty years of failure!” And so? To establish itself as a world order and defeat feudalism, the bourgeoisie took five hundred years: from the first stirring of the Italian communes in the late Middle Ages to the French Revolution of 1789, and even longer in some regions of the planet. Five hundred years of glorious battles and bloody defeats, long periods of uncertainty and proud advances, and finally total victory. Anyone finding this view objectionable would do best to abandon the notion that all affairs must be concluded in the fretful haste so typical of bourgeois conduct associated with the closing of a deal, remembering that communists work for the future of human kind. There is written in one of our texts from 1965: “S/He is a militant revolutionary and communist who has been able to forget, denounce and tear out of his/her mind and heart the status assigned by this putrefying society, and sees and confounds him/herself with the entire millanerian span that ties the ancestral tribal predecessor in the struggle against the wilderness to the member of the future fraternal community, glorious in its social harmony.” (From: “Considerations on the Organic Activity of the Party in a Period when the General Situation is Historically Unfavorable”, 1965)

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