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.



Our Name Is Our Program

“The International Communist Party?”, someone will blurt out with a mixture of irony and incredulity. “Are you kidding? Those parties have shown their bankruptcy! Communism is dead! The era of nationalism has returned! and they call themselves the International Communist Party! In what world do they live?” Our skeptic should calm himself or herself: we know very well in what era we live, and for that reason we so call ourselves. First of all, let’s clear the air of some uncertainties.

Party? Yes, we call ourselves a “party,” and we insist on the necessity of a party. The dominant ideology-the way of thinking of capital and of those who keep it on its feet: politicians, economists, trade unionists, the police and writers of all stripes-would like to reduce us to so many isolated individuals unable to see beyond the limits of the “I,” who is paralyzed by the fears pullulating in the world, stupefied by a trivial, empty, and obscene mass media, and resigned to an acceptance of what is, literally drugged by the myth that “the individual can do everything if only there is the will or the knowledge, if s/he reads or is informed.” Whereas, in reality, under the reign of capital the individual is more vulnerable than one can imagine, the prey of forces whose operation cannot be fathomed.

On the other hand, the dominant class has its political parties, each corresponding to the many competing interests that characterize capitalism. And when need dictates, that class is capable of generating the “totalitarian party,” an explicit and direct instrument of class rule, able to regiment within its ranks individuals otherwise abandoned to themselves and reduced to impotent molecules. Hence, why should the proletariat not have its own party? Why should we aid the ruling class in its work of disintegration, abandonment and subjugation, by accepting the notion that “the parties have had their day”? Doing so would be criminal idiocy. Instead, we say loudly that the working class has need of its own party to react to the disintegrative influence emanating from the ruling class, to respond to the parties of “law and order,” the “fatherland,” “status quo,” and war. But it requires a party that encapsulates its historical interests, that will help the working class regain that unity and self-identity which is needed in order to defend itself today and to counterattack tomorrow; a party that remains a stable and recognizable point of reference founded on a solid theoretical understanding, with a program clear to everyone. It must stand for a multigenerational experience and an internal discipline free of any dumb, unfounded fear of punishment or of blind faith; that rests on the understanding by every member of the obligation to give to a common cause without heeding the motivating rewards of public recognition, personal gain, and positions of honor. It is a truism that in these times parties do not fare well. There are those that have disappeared from the scene and those that “re-baptize” themselves; that go down with their leader or that change their political vestments. But it is not the party-form per se that has gone belly up as allege so many of the so-called “alliances,” movements, clubs, “leagues,” which in the final analysis either end up behaving as parties in the traditional sense, or, not wishing to do so, simply evince their inability to carry on. What went bankrupt were the parties whose political programs relied on one or the other of the two imperialist blocs as models to follow: the one in the West under the hegemonic leadership of the US or the one in the East with the USSR as guide (or in the various other models: Chinese, Albanian, Cuban, etc.). Looking to these models, they had aligned totally their politics, strategies, and tactics. The economic crisis opening in 1975 with its tragic aftermath of social instability, unemployment, racism, ethnic hatreds, and war has minced the old guarantees, certainties, stability of occupation, the self-assurance in the present, and faith in the future. The whole world is undergoing upheavals with old reference points no longer serving as guides; the habits that have served to rectify and condition the modes of living of at least two generations have been shaken to their foundation, and all commentators agree that there reigns today the greatest uncertainty. In this ever more dramatic situation, there are those who would bring on greater disorientation and a deepening of the morass with the proclamation, “The time for parties is over!” Communist? Yes, we call ourselves communist, and we insist most emphatically on the necessity of communism. A cardinal dictum of Marxism states that all societies divided into classes reach a point wherein the further development of productive forces comes into violent contradiction with the social life associated with the system. The result is perennial instability, an acute disintegration of social living conditions in all their aspects-delinquency, drugs, unhappiness, environmental destruction, violence between individuals and social groups-with cycles of economic crises becoming ever more frequent, deeper and longer, and endless wars that converge from the periphery to the center and explode into devastating world conflicts. The system rotates about itself clogged with goods it cannot dispose of, no longer able to reabsorb the millions of unemployed raised up by its development, and seeks to escape from the impasse through the only method it knows-by the over-all destruction of all that exists in superabundance. After which the endless cycle begins all over again with renewed aggressivity and an enhanced ability to destroy. For a time now capitalism has reached the level that from the standpoint of human progress its history is destined to remain negative. For some time, then, there has existed the necessity-objectively, not subjectively, materially, not morally-to replace it by an alternative economic and social system, one that rests on the very high level reached by the productive forces but liberates them from those bonds that render them destructive, redirecting those productive forces to ends that have nothing to do with the race for profits, the competition of all against all, and market imperatives that are structurally and genetically mad!

“Really, the beautiful accomplishments of Soviet communism!” our skeptic will sneer. That observation leaves us neither hot nor cold for the simple reason that we never took for “communism” that which existed in the USSR (or China, Albania, Yugoslavia, or Cuba, the lands of so-called “really existing socialism”). “It’s easy to say that now!” s/he interjects. No, not from now. We have been saying that from the middle 1920s, when our political current first clashed with the neo-nascent Stalinism declaring it to be a negation of communism. To make it clearer: we saw in Stalinism a modern form of counterrevolution. In the USSR and in the countries of the self-proclaimed “real socialism” there was not an ounce of socialism or communism. All of them were possessed by more or less developed structures of state capitalism. Of capitalism, therefore, not of socialism or communism, which was reflected internationally in the programs of the pseudo-communist parties of Stalinist origin, all echoing the myth of popular democracy and identifying with some sort of progressivism, their eyes fixed on reforms, parliaments, and always advancing some scheme for governmental collaboration. As regards our counter-current analyses, based on decades of labor, study, and struggle, we carried on alone and by ourselves. At a time when to affirm the above meant to be labeled “fascists,” “agents of the Gestapo,” “paid representatives of the CIA,” our current closed ranks and learned to reject the infamous deceptions of Stalinism whose horrific, tragic, and disastrous legacy is visible to all in every corner of the earth, the fate of former Yugoslavia occupying first place at the moment.

For this reason we have no difficulty-in fact, it’s a point of pride-calling ourselves communist today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Who has not understood this, who is convinced that “the era of communism is over,” is, like it or not, no less than ...the last Stalinist on this earth for insisting on calling communism what was the (largely) state capitalism of Eastern countries that, having finished with its primitive, primary accumulation, now sought to update itself, a response in part to the world economic crisis initiated in the mid-1970s. In fact, the necessity for communism is felt ever greater in former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, in Los Angeles as well as Moscow or Paris, in Afghanistan as much as Italy; in the world megalopolis swollen with abject poverty, pollution, and violence, as well as in the countryside poisoned by an overuse of pesticides; in the research institutes of medicine, chemistry, and physics that are driven by the imperatives of profit rather than need, not to mention the secretive arms-developing laboratories devoted to the goal of creating ever more diabolical and destructive weapons to defend the system of private profit. The necessity is felt in the so-called First, Second, and Third World, sites of ever greater extraction of surplus value; in the Amazonian forest devastated by the fires of advancing capitalism, and no less so on African plains exhausted by the needs of monoculture and abandoned in the scramble for cheap petroleum and other scarcer forms of extractive wealth.

International? Yes, we call ourselves “internationalists,” and we underscore the need for internationalism and for an international organization and strategy. Not only because from birth communism has been international and internationalist-and could not be otherwise. But also because once again reality itself has indicated the way. In the course of a century, we have witnessed the impressive spread of capitalism to every corner of the earth. As Marx had accurately foreseen, capitalism has subordinated and drawn into its very efficient web of economic, political, cultural, and informative relations the most distant area of the planet. The process so presciently described in The Communist Manifesto of 1848 has leaped out of the confines of Europe and North America to involve Asia, Latin America and Africa, subjecting them to its iron laws and pitiless development. Capital is a worldwide economic system; it has itself created the basis for a worldwide interactional collective of human life.

At the same time the competition amongst the various bourgeois nations has become very acute, and prefigures the line up of a future world war. A commercial war between the US on the one side and Germany and Japan on the other has been on the order of the day for years, with the other highly developed industrial nations having to find a place within the parameters of that confrontation. The “warring” competition to control natural resources and dominant trade routes in the environs and periphery of the highly developed areas is a fact of the day, and this provides an explanation for the Gulf War, Somalia, Rwanda, the widespread instability in Africa, Asia, and Kosovo, often assuming the form (but only the form!) of ethnic and religious conflict. This situation is rendered even more chaotic and dramatic by the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the outbreak of local conflicts of unparalleled viciousness. The world of bourgeois relations oscillates ever more between the worldwide dimension of this market as an expression of the imperialist phase of capitalism and the outbreak of localism and nationalism as reflection of competition in the quest for profits, characteristics particular to the era of acute crisis such as the one unfolding in the last fifteen years with its highs and lows, the phases of vertical fall, and moments of timid but deceptive reprise. It is clear that the only way to escape from the wasteland of patriotic rhetoric, nearsighted localism, the barbarism of narrow nationalism, the blind confines of ethnicity-the escape from the darkness of these ever-spreading conflicts lies in the restoration of a vigorous international perspective. A perspective that as a starting point recognizes the positive historic accomplishment achieved by the productive forces in laying the very basis of communism; that goes beyond narrowness and envy, beyond the clearly irrational fears and idiotic theories nurtured by democratic and bourgeois ideology even when loudly and rhetorically proclaiming “liberty, equality, and fraternity.” A perspective able to respond to and resist every sort of chauvinism however masked; able to stand opposed to its own bourgeoisie, yet sure in the knowledge that the struggle is international. A perspective that faces up to the problems posed by huge human migrations, the destruction of large areas of the planet, the increasing impoverishment of the outer peripheries of the developed world with more than hypocritical and empty, beneficient gestures. One that responds by embracing in one worldwide brotherhood the working classes of all nations, forced by the very expansion of capitalism to undergo the daily experience of hunger, disease, nomadism, and death. In summary, an internationalism that is the obligatory anticipation (in reality and not on the level of ideas) of the concept of humankind on which communism must rest, thus going well beyond the embarrassing limitations to which bourgeois society has habituated us, with its exploitation and competition for personal gain. And lastly, an internationalism decidedly against the stew of ideas so characteristic of that society-the “sovereignty of the individual,” “the supremacy of the nation,” and the servile toadying to “elected leaders.” The International Communist Party thus stands for a program, a strategy, a tactic, and an organization that are so structured as to overcome the contingencies of time and space; able to assure a continuity through the generations, to integrate and extol in one organization the best of revolutionary energies while eliminating personal egoism and envy; able to unite the workers of the world not withstanding political, ideological and geographical barriers, to organize, lead, and guide them in the struggle against capital, for communism, for a classless society.

Where We Come From At this point our imaginary skeptic will ask if per chance we are not one of the grouplets or groupies born in ‘68 or so, and somehow survived the internal squabbling and the years of terrorism characteristic of the era of student movements. And again we have to disabuse him/her. The fact is the International Communist Party comes down from afar and has nothing to do with ‘68, the youth movements, the infantile reaction to Stalinism that calls itself “extremist,” “spontaneist,” “movement-oriented,” “worker-centered,” etc. Let us add that this is a matter of radical, even genetic, difference. No matter how small today, with little influence and of limited membership, our party represented and represents, through the highs and lows of a tremendously counterrevolutionary period, the uninterrupted continuation of the grand tradition of the international communist movement dating from the beginning of the century. It’s comparable-if our skeptic will allow us a bit of proud rhetoric-to an underground stream that had (or was able) to course below the rocks and sand and through the mire and landslides. Let us retrace this long march by means of a simplified outline.

1892 - The Italian Socialist Party (PSI) was born. Arising from the conjoining of various currents, not all revolutionary and internationalist, the party was led by reformists (although, in contrast to those who followed in the so-called “Left” particularly after the Second World War, the former were, so to speak, at the very least...possessed of dignity!). Those turn-of-the-century years witnessed huge workingclass struggles in Italy, Central Europe, and in the U. S., and the reformist leaderships of the PSI and of the large labor confederations often found themselves in conflict with the more militant masses.

1910 - A clearly left current, the Sinistra, emerged at the PSI’s Congress of Milan in opposition to the reformist leadership of the party and the trade unions, and soon took a leading position in labor struggles. This Left, the Sinistra, made clear its internationalism by strongly opposing the Libyan War (1911), and organized itself nationally as the Intransigent Revolutionary Faction at the Reggio Emilia Congress of 1912. A similar conflict broke out in the Socialist Youth Federation against those who wanted the body to become largely a culture-dispensing organization. By the Sinistra, both party and Young Federation were seen as organs of struggle. The militant youth were to receive their revolutionary inspiration and stamina from the whole life and experience of the party as it guided the working class on the road to revolution, and not from some banal “party school” education. Amadeo Bordiga (1889-1970) and the “Revolutionary Socialist Club Carlo Marx” of Naples were decisive influences amongst the Intransigent Revolutionaries, and have remained fundamental references points in the history of the Sinistra.

1914 - With World War I the Sinistra proclaimed the need for revolutionary defeatism, which was in full agreement with Lenin’s theses, hardly known at the time in Italy. With a background tragically highlighted by the failure to oppose the war when most Socialist parties voted war credits and solidified with their respective national bourgeoisie, the PSI, notwithstanding the efforts by the Sinistra, approved an ambiguous slogan, “neither support nor sabotage,” which meant no support for the war, but no fight against it either. With Mussolini at their head, the interventionists had earlier abandoned the party.

1917 - At the outbreak of the October Revolution, the Sinistra aligned itself unhesitatingly with Lenin and Trotsky, greeting the event as the opening phase of an international revolution. “Bolshevism, A Plant for Every Clime” was the piece written by Bordiga which warmly greeted the revolution. Antonio Gramsci and Palmiro Togliatti, who would form the group publishing L’Ordine Nuovo in 1919, were initially under the influence of a non-Marxist idealism and displayed a somewhat confused and ambiguous understanding of the event. In the article “The Revolution Against ‘Capital’,” Gramsci erroneously asserted that the October Revolution negated Marxist materialism. In Italy, the Sinistra, the only faction in the PSI with a national network, was able to convoke the party to a meeting in Florence in 1917 that led to the reaffirmation of intransigent opposition to the war. Beginning in 1918, with the nation seized by mounting social tensions resulting from the war and indicated by the increasing strikes and malcontent, the Sinistra, in possession of its own organ, Il Soviet, from December of that year, took the lead in getting the PSI to support revolutionary Russia and openly recognize the international significance of Lenin’s strategy.

1919 - This was the crucial year for all of Europe: the year of the great strikes in Italy and revolutionary attempts in Germany and Hungary, the year Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknicht were massacred, and the year of the birth of the Third International as the party of the world revolution. In Italy, a polemic broke out between the Sinistra-pressing for the creation of an authentic communist party able to apply the experience of the Russian Revolution to the West and stressing the social and political novelty of the soviet as an organ of sovereign power in the revolutionary process-and Gramsci’s L’Ordine Nuovo, that insisted in identifying the factory council as the equivalent of the soviet, portraying the council-normatively a subsidiary organ operating within the social and political functions of capitalism-as “the embryo of the future society.” Still in 1919, thanks to the theoretical and practical actions of the Sinistra, a Communist Abstentionist Faction was founded in the PSI, the nucleus of the future Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d’Italia). One of the views characterizing the faction was the belief that in the nations of established democratic rule-Western/Central Europe and the US-the parliament was no longer the site where important political and economic decisions were taken, an axiom drawn from the classical texts of Marxism. It had ceased to be a usable tribune from which to make known communist views, and for the longest period served to lead astray and dissipate revolutionary forces. Hence the parliament was to be opposed: with a democratic government, opposition to the bourgeois system was rendered most dramatically by boycotting political elections. A second tactic advanced by the Sinistra was the concept of “united front from below”: this meant avoiding the confusing political convergence of parties and organizations having disparate if not conflicting programs, while drawing all workers of whatever political, ideological or religious conviction into a common struggle for clear economic and social objectives and in defense of their conditions of life and work.

1920 - At the Second Congress of the Third international, the Sinistra played a determinant role in stiffening the conditions of admission. In so doing, at a time of continued and considerable social ferment, it hoped to bar admission to groups and parties whose acceptance of a revolutionary program and discipline would prove rhetorical and their actions detrimental, particularly if the postwar verve and revolutionary conditions receded, as was soon the case. In seeing the International as a true, authentic world party rather than a formal arithmetic summation of national parties, which later would be free to go on and “make politics” as each saw fit, of all the European communist groups the Sinistra was the clearest on the question of internationalism. Even as it was involved in founding a communist party in Italy, the Sinistra in the International stood for the reaffirmation of Marxism’s integrity and for an internationalism strategically and tactically binding the working classes of the West with the rebellious people of the East. It believed that a revolutionary communist party must seek the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie leading to the establishment of the class dictatorship as a bridge to a classless society. Strongly favoring internal discipline, it maintained that, within both the national parties and the International, obedience must rest on the voluntary acceptance and understanding of the revolutionary program by each and every adherent, and not on bossy compulsion.

1921 - At the PSI’s 1921 Congress of Leighorn (Livorno), the Communist Sinistra broke away from the old reformist party and founded the Communist Party of Italy (CPI), a Section of the Communist International. Regardless of the subsequent assertions of a Stalinist historiography, the leading offices of the party were staffed entirely by Sinistra representatives and by Bordiga. At this time, Gramsci and Togliatti were in total agreement with this leadership. For two years, in a Western Europe where revolutionary elements were seeking a road to revolution to provide decisive aid to the USSR, the Sinistra-led CPI was the foremost edge of the politics of “Bolshevism, A Plant for Every Clime.” Amongst the trade unions, it carried out a strenuous campaign to construct a real united front-not of parties-of the working masses whatever their political loyalties; it fought no less strenuously against social-democratic reformism that misled the workers with its illusory pacifism and legalism; it openly confronted fascism, which it described as the reaction of industrial and agrarian capital to a worldwide economic crisis and the militancy of the proletariat, and not a feudal phenomenon as would be averred later by Stalinists; it built a defensive military apparatus against reaction and did not have to rely on such organizations as the “Arditi del Popolo,” a formation of spurious and uncertain nature; and during all those years marked by the reflux of the postwar revolutionary wave, the party maintained an international and internationalist stance, criticizing from the outset the rise of localism or autonomous actions and, above all else, the moves subordinating the International itself to Russian national needs.

1923-24 - After the arrest of Bordiga and a good many of the party’s leaders in early 1923-although they would be released by year’s end following a successful defense leading to acquittal-leadership passed to a secondary group more open to manipulation by the International. Despite a national conference of the party held in Como in May, 1924, at which the delegates voted overwhelmingly for the Sinistra, the party leadership was given by Moscow to a new Centrist grouping formed under Gramsci and Togliatti. The Sinistra was thus barred from leadership. Employing means, methods and language correctly identified with Stalinism, in the course of the next two years the Sinistra was crushed and its influence eradicated: Prometeo, a journal speaking for the Sinistra, was suppressed after a few issues, party sections with Sinistra majorities were dissolved, Sinistra spokesmen were removed, their articles and views censured or not published, and the party put under a regimen of intimidation, suspicion, and discipline that was ever bossier and bureaucratic.

1926 - Archival evidence has shown that the III Party Congress held outside Italy at Lyons, France, met before an assembly stacked by the Centrist leadership; two examples of the methods used will suffice here: 1) in the pre-congressional congresses, the votes of absentee Sinistra followers were automatically given to the Gramscian Center; 2) at a final meeting in Milan, delegates to Lyons were winnowed to eliminate Sinistra representation. At that congress, the Sinistra was completely marginalized and no longer able to act or have its views known. At the VII meeting of the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International held in Moscow between February-March of that year, Bordiga opposed “Bolshevization,” that is, the reorganization of the party on the basis of the factory cell that, under the pretense of increasing the workers’ influence, had the effect of enclosing the base within the narrowness of the factory or shop, to which the person of the functionary-bureaucrat became an indispensable source of “the line to be followed” and the embodiment of leadership. At that incandescently dramatic session of the VII Enlarged Executive Committee, Bordiga, who openly confronted and questioned Stalin, was the only delegate amongst all present to ask that the grave internal crisis extant within the Bolshevik Party-the prelude to the emergence of the faux and lying theory of “socialism in one country”- be posted as the order of the day for the next world congress. To quote his words: “the Russian Revolution is our revolution also, its problems our problems, and [therefore] every member of the revolutionary International has not only the right but also the duty to labor in its resolution.” Meanwhile, the Fascist authorities saw to it that Bordiga and the entire Italian Communist leadership were arrested long before the next world congress. In the USSR, Stalin isolated the United Opposition. Between 1926 and 1930, the Sinistra followers were expelled from the party, and thus given over to Fascist repression or forced to emigrate. The campaign against the Sinistra was undertaken in parallel with the persecution of Trotsky and his supporters, although between the two currents there were dissimilarities of views-which did not prevent the Sinistra from defending Trotsky in the crucial years of1927-1928. Bordiga himself was expelled in 1930 on the charge of “Trotskyism.” Meanwhile, first with the betrayal of the English General Strike in 1926 and then with the subordination of the Chinese Communist Party to the Kwomingtang during the Chinese revolutionary year of 1927 resulting in the massacre of the Canton and Shangai Communards by the Nationalists, Stalinism, a degenerative manifestation indicative of the rise of a bourgeois force within a USSR isolated by the absence of supportive workingclass revolution in the West, undertook the complete reversal of the principles of the communist program.

1930-1940 - With Bordiga under continuous police surveillance and isolated in Naples, the Sinistra suppressed and hounded by Fascism and Stalinism, its members dispersed through emigration to the West where they had also to fight and oppose the growing illusions cast by bourgeois democracy, there began a phase of our history best described as heroic. The Sinistra reorganized in France and Belgium under the name of the Faction Abroad (Frazione all’Estero) and published the periodicals Prometeo and Bilan, thus returning to the political battle. The situation was very difficult for this handful of scattered comrades. Theirs was a battle waged on three fronts: against Fascism, Stalinism, and bourgeois democracy. They continued the criticism of Moscow’s policies-the “united fronts,” the illusion about the efficacy of democracy, the continuous political somersaults that bewildered the working class, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and Togliatti’s appeal to “the brothers in black shirts.” They worked vainly during the Spanish War to get the uncertain left groups to orient themselves on a class basis. They carried on the struggle against Fascists and Nazis in occupied France, even spreading defeatism amongst German troops. With the myths of democracy penetrating ever deeper in the international workers movement, the Sinistra responded with critical analyses. At the onset of war in 1939, they pointed out its imperialistic character. It was already clear to them that Stalinism represented the worst of counterrevolutionary waves. With insufficient forces due to their isolation, they began the analysis of what happened in the USSR. It was this tenacious resistance, this determination to not allow a break in the “red thread” that led to the rebirth of the party in 1943.

1943-1952 - Thanks to the repatriation to Italy of a number of comrades, the work to reweave a real and viable organization was begun. At the end of 1943, the first issue of Prometeo appeared clandestinely. Contacts were made with Bordiga; the first political work was undertaken among proletarian elements deluded by the resistance movement. The effort was made to give a class basis to the strike wave in the last years of the war. By working in contact with the proletarians, significant gains were made in the North, and often internationalists were elected shop stewards in the factories. At last, the Internationalist Communist Party was born having as its journal Battaglia Comunista. The clash with the Stalinists emerged into the open. While Togliatti as Minister of Justice decreed a general amnesty of fascist leaders and rank-and-file members amidst paeans to “the new man” and “the reborn democracy,” his party denounced the Internationalists as “fascists,” inciting a policy calling for their physical elimination. The culmination of this defamatory campaign was the assassination of two comrades, Mario Acquaviva and Fausto Atti, and others massacred by Stalinists but whose fate has remained shrouded in anonymity. In this initial period, party life was still characterized by theoretical uncertainties and doubts brought home by repatriates from the Faction Abroad. Matters came to a head in 1952 with the need to reestablish the party solidly on the corpus of a Marxism cleansed of all Stalinist distortions and freed from the imperative of an immediate activism. This led to a first split. The periodical Il programma comunista began publication in 1952. Until his death in 1970, Bordiga devoted himself to the enormous task of reconstructing the theoretical and political basis of the party, which became truly international in fact as well as name in the 1960s. The “Fundamental Theses of the Party” (1951), “Considerations on the Organic Activity of the Party in a Situation which is Generally and Historically Unfavorable” (1965), “Theses on the Historic Duty, the Action and Structure of the World Communist Party” (1965), and “Supplementary Theses” (1966) gave the party its theoretical, political, and organizational structure.

1952-today - The following decades saw the Internationalist Communist Party (later, from the mid-sixties onwards, the International Communist Party), gathered around “il programma comunista” and gradually other titles in other languages, engaged in the harsh political battle to continue and rigorously develop the analysis of capitalist reality under all its aspects (economic, social, ideological), including here that of Russia’s so-called “real socialism”; also accompanying and, within the limits of the forces available, attempting to guide the proletarian battles sparked off in all parts of the world by the capitalist mode of production – as always theory and practice interweaving dialectically, firmly defended, despite the difficulties deriving from the lasting (and for some aspects worsening) counter-revolution in its democratic and Stalinist (or post-Stalinist) version. These very difficulties (this could not help being the case) lay at the basis of a path that was extremely obstinate in maintaining a straight, though equally arduous, line.  The Party, which in the ‘60s and ‘70s developed a considerable international network, was forced to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis, to make use of a literary image: i.e. between the drive, at times generous but always a herald of political-organizational disaster, to abbreviate the time needed to reconnect with a proletarian class still crushed beneath the weight of counter-revolution (activism), and the temptation to remain closed in pure, theoretical analysis, whilst awaiting a class recovery which, almost instinctively and above all mechanically, would lead the class to recognize its “own” party (academicism).  It was (and always will be, as the history of the Bolshevik party and the work of Marx, Engels and Lenin teach us) a difficult and stormy path to navigate and the many splits that occurred in the decades after 1952 are due to this and gave rise to other formations more or less taking the Communist Left as their reference point, but from which points of principle and party practices separate us, although there is insufficient time to go into them here – right up to the very serious crisis of 1981-83, which dispersed sections and comrades in Italy and abroad and from which the Party only managed to emerge with effort in the following years, thanks to a lot of hard work on defining various issues.  What has always characterised us has been the will to proceed on our path, analysing and clarifying political tangles and mistakes made along the way, but never falling into the traps of personal gossip or, worse still, the practice of individual trial and judgement, which is utterly outside the tradition of the Communist Left.  We thus continue to do our work “in contact with the working class, outside personal or electoral political wheeling and dealing”, in the serene conviction that we shall have the future we have managed to win.

Historic Party and Formal Party “OK,” answers our somewhat puzzled skeptic, “I concede you have a long and glorious history. Still you remain a handful of nuts rattling in an empty bag.”

Of course, we are few and our real influence is almost nothing. The fact neither astonishes nor frightens us. Such observations do not take into consideration that, as indicated earlier, Stalinism was the most ferocious counterrevolution ever to have overwhelmed the international communist movement. Its devastating influences were felt for over seventy years; they are felt today. In all of this time, thanks to the destruction of the world communist movement and the obliteration of the movement’s theory and practice, the working class of Western capitalism has been harnessed to the illusion of a democratic order, defined by principle as that idyllic world in which all contradictions can be overcome and eliminated. The working class was subjected to the massacre of another world war. It went through the postwar reconstruction creating an imposing mass of surplus value-the boom period to the 1960s-, the minimal offerings of which bred the delusion that this is “the best of all possible worlds.” It turned its back on the people of color who rebelled against the rule of imperialism and were beginning to experience the delights of capitalist penetration. Every time the class attempted to defend its interests as a class, it was told... “national interests would be endangered” or “there is the danger of helping the right wing,” and so on and on. It is abundantly clear that under the conditions existing in the Euro-American scene for the last half century and more, revolutionary communism has had a difficult time developing.There is a virtual composite wall that must be broken through: ways of thinking, habits, ideological influences, traditions, apathy, illusions, the fact even that for long periods jobs and salaries appear to be guaranteed... All things that for us materialists are more than understandable. Not only that: communists already experienced such situations. After the failure of the revolutions of 1848, the Communist League counted on only a few members scattered throughout Europe; but this very solitude was the prelude for the emergence of the First International in 1864. After the Paris Commune of 1871, Marx and Engels remained substantially alone in drawing the lessons from that revolutionary attempt drowned in blood; but those very “lessons” pondered “in solitude” permitted the communist movement to revive within a few years on a more solid basis. Something similar happened with Lenin and the Russian Marxists after the failure of the Revolution of 1905, the crucible for the confirmation of Bolshevism leading to the 1917 revolution and the birth of the Third International. The same befell the Sinistra and our party after 1926, its direct heir. That amidst this counterrevolutionary wave-and this last, as we have said, was the most destructive of all, even erasing the ABCs of Marxism-this party was reduced to a few in numbers and remains unknown to the many is perfectly comprehensible. It is part and parcel of historical development. The party does not change an unfavorable situation with a magic wand, does not conjure up the revolution with an act of will. The revolutionary process matures over decades pari passu with the accumulation of contradictions that the capitalistic system unavoidably generates. The party must favor this process, organize, direct, and guide it theoretically and practically to the degree it can. It may appear paradoxical, but history demonstrates it to be so: the revolution matures during the counterrevolutionary phases, when revolution is not anywhere on the order of the day. We prepare for it by reconstructing the party, defending its theoretical and practical inheritance, reattaching the red thread that all would cut, and spreading its program even at the cost of swimming against the current. If one does not prepare beforehand in this manner, the revolution will never come: when favorable conditions present themselves, the party, the necessary instrument acting as guide, will be missing and again the bus will be missed. That is an important primary consideration, but not enough. There exist two parties: the “historic party” and the “formal party,” and here, too, we deal with a key concept of Marxism. The historic party is the sum total of theory, program, theses, and historical experience of communism. It dates from 1848, when the Communist Manifesto was published, and includes in a monolithic bloc all parts that integrate with each other: the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, the political battles of the First, Second, and Third Internationals, the lessons of the Commune of Paris and of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and October 1917, the experiences of the great battles in the capitalistic West and the Orient between 1917 and 1927, the theoretical-political doings of the communist Sinistra over the span of a half century, and the lessons it has drawn from the counterrevolution. It is, therefore, all in one a means of interpreting the history of social development, a political doctrine and an experience of struggle combined with a theory, a program, tactics and strategy, all of which constitute the fundamentals of communism to which subsequent generations must have recourse to. And then there exists the formal party. That is to say, the translation of this totality-theory, program, strategy, tactics-into an organizational structure, a living organism made up of people of flesh and blood working in specific circumstances and undertaking to spread the influence of communism. This is the organization that by retying the red thread of communism materially fuses the diverse generations into one prospective struggle. And this body is inevitably affected by the highs and lows of class struggle, by favorable and unfavorable moments, and by victories and defeats. There does not exist, let us note this well, a separation between the historical and formal party. We are not dealing with two separate and successive stages or experiences. Let’s put it this way: the historic party has to “turn itself” into the formal party without which communism will remain a dead letter; the formal party has to identify itself with the historic party for otherwise it would be deprived of communist theory, program, strategy, and tactics, its true substance. The whole history of the international communist movement is, in the end, no more than the account of the passionate and difficult process by which the historic party becomes the formal party, theory becomes praxis, producing a living and fighting entity. In certain periods the formal party may be reduced to a few individuals deprived of or having reduced influence in the historic process. It remains paramount that these few elements defend the historic party with all their might, seeking to give it life, whatever the derision or indifference of the great majority, while projecting to the limits of their ability the party’s influence nationally and internationally. This is the precondition, so that at the first appearance of more favorable circumstances-and the capitalist cycle cannot but continuously create these circumstances, given the internal contradictions inherent in its nature-communism will find again a more numerous following. In the course of the second postwar period, our party found itself having to defend the historic party, without ever ceasing to struggle to keep alive a formal party in the society of capital, no matter how isolated we remained. We know that this struggle of ours, which stands for a literal turning upside down of the present mode of seeing and interpreting reality, is basic, if we are to grow from two to four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on, tomorrow. Our party had to go through the more difficult and unfavorable periods of all, and this also is the reason why its history has been so labored. A deeply counterrevolutionary period as the one we are still experincing is short on the oxygen of class struggle, and this factor weighs on the party like a ton of lead, helping to give rise from time to time to illusions and delusions. Thus the small party must guard against becoming a small sect of academics caught up in a continuous internal debate and at the same time it must be on the alert against the easy illusion that, regardless of the period, it is enough to multiply our activities a thousand fold in order to amplify our influence in the working class.

Why the Working Class “All this talk about the working class! But the working class does not exist anymore... with the telecommunication revolution, it disappeared! Possible that you are unaware of it?”

We beg our interlocutor to study better reality before shooting off his mouth, and thus avoid having to parrot and repeat the latest sound byte pronounced by an “expert” in a 40 second news report on last night’s television. This genuine blast of hot-air discovery about the “disappearance of the working class” or its “integration” into the “middle class” is not of recent vintage. It was circulated and popularized by certain US sociologists in the ‘40s; it was taken up by “thinkers” associated with Herbert Marcuse in the ‘60s; it was “confirmed” and became the daily bread of some ultra-left grouplets in the ‘70s. In fact, one can trace the idea back to the very origins of bourgeois ideology: from the beginning the latter claimed to have eliminated the class division so typical and representative of feudalism. It is no surprise to find anew the theory underfoot today. Let us look at matters as they stand a bit more closely. If we maintain that the notion of the disappearance of the working class is a fat tale, we do so on the basis both of theory and of actual reality. Theoretically-and laying it out in the most simplistic fashion-the making of profit is at the heart of capitalist production; without profit capitalism would shrivel and fall away. (In fact, it was Marx’s discovery of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall that exposed the Achille’s heel of the system: that which will lead inevitably to its death.) Now, this profit is created by the extraction of live surplus value; that is to say, making the worker labor for a number of hours but paying him for only a part. (Again, we must caution that the problem is rather complex, and the inquirer seeking to learn more can deepen his/her understanding of the Marxist view by reading some texts-Wage Labor and Capital, Salaries, Price, and Profit, or Capital itself.) This means that capital can never give up the employment of human labor, precisely because it cannot extract surplus value from a machine. Herein lies the great contradiction of capital: it must introduce machines in order to increase production, but it cannot introduce them beyond a certain limit, otherwise it would reduce drastically the source of its profit. Hence the tendency to mechanization is constant in the history of capital (a propos see Capital, Book I, Section IV, Chapter XIII) but this cannot alter or substitute for the central mechanism that allows the system to function: the extraction of surplus value from living labor that remains essential to capital. And this holds true either for the traditional working class, the so-called blue collar, or for the new technical strata, the white collars, who also contribute to surplus labor through the non-payment of work done. That an individual may work amidst the fiery light and the resounding crash of a steel foundry or in the aseptic brilliance of a laboratory producing chips and fiber optics in no way modifies the rapport between labor and capital. And from its point of need, capital cannot eliminate labor to which it is attached like a hanged man to his noose. So much for theory. If we then turn to actual reality, we have additional confirmation. It is enough to open one’s eyes to become aware of the enormous growth of the working class in all corners of the world. Media speak of “the globalization of the market,” and what is this globalization if not the penetration and settling of capitalism in every nook and corner of the earth, leading to ultra-exploitation and massive uprooting in Asia, Africa, and Latin America? We are fed a constant stream of news announcing tragic factory fires in China, Taiwan, and Thailand; of the violent suppression of strikes in Korea, Zaire, and South Africa; of the establishing of new sweatshops in Latin America with the factories surrounded by barbed wire, like the military bunkers of old, to keep the trade unions out and underpaid labor in. What is all this, if not the dramatic proof that the working class, far from disappearing, is instead born and multiplying in areas that until a few decades ago were untouched by the presence of goods and modern capital? Finally, what are these huge flows of migratory human streams that cause so many headaches to our good bourgeois and petty bourgeois, again, if not the evidence, on a world scale, of the swelling ranks of a population of pure proletarians, that is, of arms that must count on the work of future children (in Latin, prole) to hope to survive at least less poorly? At this point, we could even open a sideline consideration on “overpopulation,” another nightmare for our good bourgeois and petty bourgeois, but for us further proof at hand of the insuperable contradictions of a capitalism that must stimulate the birth of a labor force destined historically to defeat it. And again: what is the drama of an increasing unemployment everywhere but the proof of the presence of a very real, very palpable working class in the very metropolis of old capitalism, the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and now Japan, the very nation where until recently bourgeois ideology blared to the four winds the happy tale about the disappearance of the working class? In reality, in the last half century we have witnessed on the one side to a comprehensive and awing growth of destitute workers and authentic proletarians and on the other to a sharp process of proletarianization particularly in the citadels of advanced capitalism-the ghettoes, the banlieus, the bidonvilles, the favelas. Far from sliming down, the ranks of the world’s working class have multiplied.

“However, you cannot deny that a rapid de-industrialization is in process!” Certainly, but beware: the de-industrialization of certain areas-we stress certain areas!-has nothing to do with the kooky ideas of post-industrialism or post-capitalism. This is a phenomenon that can only be analyzed by grasping the totality; that is to say, by understanding that we are dealing most simply with capital’s imperative to find the most advantageous conditions for the utmost exploitation of manpower, and hence for the extraction of surplus value. Putting it clearly: if factories disappear from Detroit, it is only to reappear along the US border in the maquiladora zone of Mexico; if the “big factory” is dismantled, it is only because dozens of smaller factories or sweatshops arise in some peripheral area... Faced with its economic crisis, capital must restructure in order to 1) avoid scenarios of great conflict due to a concentration of a large, seasoned labor force, 2) have at its disposition a younger labor force, less expert, hungrier, and more amenable. But we always end up with a cyclical phenomenon: the dispersion must end with a new concentration because capital is “genetically” compelled to move in that direction.

There is no question, and in so saying we anticipate the immediate objection of our skeptic, that faced with this macroscopic dispersion of the world’s proletariat there is an absence of understanding amongst its members that they are a class, that they have common interests both immediate and historic. But, nota bene, if Marxism identifies the proletariat as the revolutionary class that will bury capitalism and open the way to a classless society, it does not signify that the proletariat is automatically always and everywhere revolutionary. This is another fat tale that we leave to Stalinists and “workerists,” both being equally demagogic. The designation of the proletariat as a “revolutionary class” follows from its placement in the center of the process of production. It is at the heart of the extraction of surplus value and below it there are no classes that it can exploit. By rebelling, it puts into question the whole structure of the society based on capital. Liberating itself, it liberates all humanity. In all previous revolutions that have marked the passage from one mode of production to another, against slavery and against feudalism, the leading protagonist class had behind it other classes destined, once the revolutionary change was carried out and the leap to the new productive order completed, to become the oppressed and exploited classes. With the bourgeoisie and the proletariat we come to the end of the long arch across the span of time associated with the division of society into classes. Once victorious, today’s exploited working class has no class over which to exercise its own exploitation. The new society that will be born-that has already reached the maturity of birth, and the very delay of this act induces a travail which so resembles an agony-will not know class divisions and, therefore, will not have exploited classes. Certainly, there is a subjective problem. In its great majority this class, both the older part to be found in the aging metropolises and still enjoying long-won social guarantees and the newer one undergoing dramatic exploitation in the countries of more recent capitalist development, does not perceive itself as a class and does not move in the direction of its historic tasks. As a matter of fact, we can say that for the most part it does not move at all. It undergoes exploitation without rebellion. This does not disconcert us. We stand before a political problem that has much to do with Stalinism and bourgeois democracy, that is to repeat, with the effects of the most profound counterrevolution in the history of the workers’ and communist movement. It is a political problem that has to do with the destruction on a world level of the revolutionary party: the destruction of those factors of consciousness and will, of theory and action that from the beginning have been identified by Marxism as the indispensable conditions for a revolutionary development and necessarily served as guide to all past revolutionary classes.

Without its revolutionary party, which means without its revolutionary political program and the class’s understanding of itself as a class, the working class is a nothing! It remains a statistical conglomeration of individuals unable in their majority to raise themselves to the heights of their historic mission. The present as history demonstrates this in an unforgettable fashion.For that reason the path that leads to communism necessarily goes through the fixed course of the reconstruction of the revolutionary party.

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”)

And what does it mean to be communists?

If dealt with in detail, this would be a subject that would take up a lot of space. In effect, for a reader truly interested in understanding and anxious to find anew the road to revolution, it would entail the summing-up of the communist program and taking the reader back to all our texts, traditions, experiences, and party activities. This cannot be done in this space, but we can try to define the unmistakable stances that distinguish the revolutionary communists.

To be communists means being antidemocratic! Democracy expresses the outcome of the bourgeois revolution and the structure of its power. The claim of equality for all was a powerful weapon in the struggle against the rigidity and closed hierarchy typical of feudal society. Still, the new society that emerged from the bourgeois revolution never knew equality for the simple reason that class divisions remained, now shaped by the imperatives arising from the economic laws of capitalism. Equality was for the bourgeois, leaving to the proletariat dire necessity.

Centuries have gone by, but matters remain the same. Democracy actually continues to be the best cover for exercising bourgeois control-the best means of deluding the individual into believing that s/he is free and master of one’s own destiny, whereas enormous material forces crush people into obedience to laws, rhythms, and push them into the maw of unforeseen and uncontrolled developments. Moreover, from the time world capitalism entered the imperialist phase dominated by financial capital and the power blocs of the great powers, this democracy has become ever more emptied of substance, a rhetorical front that conceals a substantial movement toward centralization, authoritarianism and fascism.

In reality, democracy and fascism do not stand as polar opposites, but enter into a reciprocal relationship that assures the continued dominion of capital in the final analysis. Obviously, communists have no use for democracy, a term which has from its first coining shown to be fundamentally hypocritical. In Greek, democracy stands for “the rule of the people, the rule of all”; yet the democracy of classical Greece excluded from “the rule of all” foreigners, helots, and slaves. Communism has nothing to do with democracy: by abolishing all classes communism will introduce the first true equality, not for a few but for the entire human race.

Communists have no use for democracy not even as a means for internal party practice, nor as a way of increasing the party’s influence, nor as a means of exercising power after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. The communist party is a disciplined party, founded on an organic centralism-a process much like that of a living organism by which center and periphery, directing and operating organs are tightly and dialectically connected in order to operate on the basis of an integrated understanding of the party’s program, theory, strategy, and tactics. They have no need for internal democratic measures to establish the order of things or the party’s organization, which are the result of a veritable natural selection arising from comrades working for a common goals without privileges, personal ambitions, formal recognition or material gain. On the other hand, communists openly declare their intents. They don’t hide from anyone that once in power they will exercise authority in a dictatorial fashion because it is the only way to carry out that surgical cut if one is to put an end once and for all to the old society-an operation that will be long, painful, and complex: the heritage of centuries and centuries of class rule will not disappear in the blinking of an eye. Ferocious will be the resistance of the beaten class, and the very habits and mentalities, the whole tradition of bourgeois individualism and ways of doing things, the heredity of capital’s competition and oppression will exercise an enormous inertia. Only with a party based on a sound program, one closely connected with the working masses and the most deprived proletarians, who for the first time will have been awakened to the real significance of politics found in the dictatorship of the proletariat-the historical transitory phase to a new history for the human species, sans privileged or exploiting groups-would communism be victorious. The discussion on the significance of democracy raises unavoidable conclusions. To be communist is to be antiparliamentarian. For an entire early phase of bourgeois society, the parliament was a place for communists to wage political battles. To be sure, it was not the most important forum. From the very beginning it was clear to communists-consult the “These on Parliamentarism” prepared by the Third International in 1920-that the parliament was above all a theatre of democratic illusions, whereas the commanding decisions affecting social and economic life were made outside parliament. And to believe that the ruling class, which is ever ready to suppress with force any workingclass manifestation, is so naive as to trust its survival to a ballot box outcome is both ingenuous and a case of accepting voluntary political suicide. This does not take away the fact that in the early years communists used the parliament, although exclusively as a tribune from which to have their message heard, emphasizing the antithesis between class struggle and the nature of bourgeois power, however democratic. It was a useful tactic, but only if it was kept in mind that the real sites of struggle between the worker and the bourgeois are in the factory, on the street, and in the public areas. It was of great usefulness in the young democracies and in those countries moving out of feudalism and into capitalism, but the tactic turned useless and harmful in the countries of old democracy where the representative bodies had become a powerful drug by which to drain from the masses the will to fight. The arrival of modern imperialism completed the process: the real decisions concerning economic and social matter were taken from the representatives and moved elsewhere-to the banks, the organizations of industrialists, the International Monetary Fund, etc. These are the true organs of bourgeois domination, representing the general and international interests of capital, capable of extending control over nations, governments, national parliaments, local representative bodies, and so on. Most emphatically at this point, the pass word for communists can only be against the parliamentary system and against the electoral system! And then, the very modality of elections-their obsessive frequency, the enormous costs, the debauchery of television, the play-acting of candidates ever hungry for dollars from corporate interests, and the paralysis of any other social and political activity that they imply-is the best proof that their function is to dissipate workingclass demands, move them away from the class struggle and delude them into thinking they can sometimes count. Instead, we call for an end to these illusions and a return to a meaningful vision of political struggle, away with these frustrating rituals useless to workers and very useful to the ruling class! To be communist is to be against federalism and local controls. Federalism and “localism” are two exquisitely bourgeois concepts, even pre-bourgeois or feudal. They go back to a bypassed historical period when, given the limited nature of economic development, economies might be thought of as islands of development in which goods circulated limitedly. But when capitalism moved into large-scale production, and especially when it undertook to enter the “street of no return” known as imperialism, that phase became passé. Localism and federalism became further influential illusions, stultifying myths. In economy and in politics the world scene is dominated by the economic giants whose tendency is to swallow the small and penetrate every nook of the planet. Capital has entered everywhere and globalization is by now a decades-old reality. The belief in a return to economic autonomy belongs to the delusions of the small businessman who is terrified by what he sees, does not understand or does not want to understand, preferring the illusion of holding on to his small shop and run his own affairs behind a zealously guarded autonomy. It means believing in the possibility of turning back the clock of history and assuming passivity on the part of those monstrously powerful global forces that lunge toward greater globalization and concentrationtion. For example, it’s like expecting that the underdeveloped world can become fiscally and economically “free” and able to escape from fiscal and economic dependence on the industrially advanced nations. It means accepting as possible and viable that “small is beautiful,” whereas movement and continuous development characterize capital whose fundamental drive is constantly to expand, not remain small. Such are the elements of a total utopia. To be communist is to be anti-nationalist. The rise of the nation state has been the historical form marking the advent to power of the bourgeoisie. Within boundaries set by a complex process of history, a dominant national class could carry on its economic and political interaction with other dominant national classes, at times with commerce and at times through war. Using the myth that “the nation is indivisible,” the ruling class nourished the deception that the historic duty of the working class was to identify with the nation-the state and its economy-and defend it with arms against all threats.

This deception was exposed by Communists from as long ago as 1848. The nation-state was an important advance over feudal fragmentation, but bore all the stigmata of bourgeois domination. Once the revolutionary wars against the Old Regime were over, the proletarians had nothing to share in common with their bourgeoisie. Especially with the arrival of the age of imperialism and the penetration of capital into all nooks and crannies of the globe, the working classes became men and women without a country. On the other hand, not only is communism by its very essence – something we have pointed to all along – economically and socially international and indifferent to any geographical limitation, but capitalism itself though it continues to exalt national myths and counts on the nation for support in wars or inter-imperialist rivalries has already moved to a level which is well beyond the nation. This contradiction between the internationalism attained by productive forces of capitalism and the national confinement of bourgeois ideological discourse is one the unbridgeable contradictions that make the death of capitalism an historical imperative. To be anti-nationalist does not simply refer to being anti-patriotic, refusing, that is, to fall into the trap of defending the fatherland, which for proletarians does not exist. It means to realize openly that the state which has been raised over all national borders is nothing more than a powerful machine to defend the interests of the dominant class. It is not something that stands above all classes, not a sort of “benign father” who impartially administers the economic and social life of the community, but, as occurs historically with every state – and it will be no different with dictatorship of he proletariat – , it is an instrument of class rule. Only with the abolition of all classes under communism will the state disappear as an instrument of coercion because there will be no longer any need for it. To be anti-nationalist is to avoid falling for the deception which is particularly insidious and widespread, that the national economy is “everyone's economy”. The national economy is capital's economy and there are no common interests between capital and labor. If production and export are increased, the winner is capital, with the workers paying with increased pain and efforts. If GDP is increased or goods become more competitive, this does not translate into an improvement of the conditions of life and work for the working mass: profits are not generously distributed across the board, but are reinvested in the productive process to the exclusive advantage of capital. To bow to the “superior needs of the national economy”, to accept sacrifices made in its name, is to passively accept one's own subordination to the needs of the class in power. Worse: it means unquestioningly agreeing, on some tomorrow when those needs request it, to the demands of war against some other proletarians, duped in the same manner.

The anti-nationalist stance of communists means taking a clear and decisive stand on all the wars that devolve from the imperialist phase of capital. In this phase all wars – whether waged in the name of the Nation or the Fatherland, of Liberty or Mankind – are not directed at clearing away a by-passed socio-economic system or to establish a more progressive ethical and political system in the place of another. Inevitable outcome of a whole economic cycle (espansion, saturation, recession), they have the one aim of destroying surplus production (both commodities and human beings), so that the cycle can start anew. Communist are thus against wars, because they are the crudest expression of the putrefaction which by now characterizes a moribund economic and social system.

But communist are not opposed to war in the name of a general pacifism. Pacifism is always – and always will be – unable to stop them and, precisely because it is generally based on some “moral option”, it most often changes itself to “interventionism” whenever one nation or the other beats the drums pointing to the “barbarians at the gate” or to “the greater evil”. Moreover, communists can't be pacifist or non-violent because they know well that the move from one socio-economic system to another cannot come about peacefully; there will be violence, the “storming of the heavens”. Thus they oppose the paralyzing myths of pacifism or non-violence, reminding the working classes that they must not fall into the trap of fighting the wars for others, but must reserve their strength and blood for the only war that serves their interests: the revolutionary war for communism.

I seem to understand”, says our skeptic, “ that you must concentrate the energies of the party for the preparation of the politics, theory, and practice of the extreme solution: the revolution and the dictatorship the proletariat... But, meanwhile, are the workers, the proletarians abandoned to themselves in their struggle to defend their conditions of work and life? Or are these struggles really useless?”

Nothing like that at all! We wouldn't be communists, if we said that those struggles are useless and are of no importance for a party that works for the revolution. Precisely through those struggles does the oppressed class begin to slowly develop an awareness of the need for a final revolutionary battle. Hence the intervention into the fights for higher wages, shorter working day, better conditions, and into the organizations that have sprung up – whether official trade unions or ad hoc bodies – to give them a class orientation is one of the essential roles of the party, and an integral part of its historical tradition, of its uninterrupted tradition.

At this point, one must raise again the question Lenin posed in 1903: What is to be done?

What Is To Be Done?

The question needs be raised today with even more dramatic urgency than in the time of Lenin in 1903 when he wrote that homonymous work. That was a period of great and hard-fought strikes. If the political party was still absent, there existed a generation of militant workers with great experience from which to pick and recruit into a fighting political organization. Today, the working class lives under numerous handicaps: the mortal danger of reformist illusions, the bastardized theories of “post-industrialism,” the computer and automation hailed as representing a new phase of history (“new economy”!), talk of the disappearance of the working class, and more generally, the after-effects of the Stalinist counterrevolution. To internationalist communists, it is only too evident that one must start anew: starting from the basis of an enormous patrimony of strategic theory and a mountain of practical experience. Isn’t it clear that for us the central point, the focus around which everything turns, is the reorganization of the party on an international level? If one does not work for that goal, whatever the struggle, however courageous the action may be, even on occasion heroic, it is destined to fail. And the world’s working class will thus emerge from decades of tragic failure only to embark on another road guaranteed to fail as well. Reaffirming and diffusing the revolutionary program of Marxism is our primary duty: this can be done only within the ambit of a larger and more general activity that is, unavoidably, the praxis of the party. There does not exist on this matter any kind of division of labor (“We will see that Marxist theory is well known, and you...”), nor successive stages (“First let’s set the correct Marxist theory, then...”). To reason in that fashion is to reason in a manner utterly non materialistic, which means to be out of Marxism, for Marxism is not a philosophy or an opinion but a battle weapon, the instrument thanks to which it is possible to lead the attack on an outdated mode of production and by means of the dictatorship of the proletariat bring humanity at last into a society without classes. This organization does not exist today on a worldwide plane. We must direct our efforts so that the small militant nucleus that we are today will become truly international and operate internationally as a party. Whoever befriends us will come to understand well how this need for internationalism cannot remain rhetorical or a sentimental aspiration. It must come to life and possess a heart and brain, legs and arms, if it is to materialize into reality. For that reason, the idea and the practice of internationalism are the center of all our theory and action, propaganda and proselytism. In recent past decades the world’s working class has suffered the sharpest defeats on this very terrain: from the bastardized theory of “socialism in one country” to the proclamation of “national roads to socialism,” and to the many episodes of “internecine wars mongst the poor” leading to factions fighting each other or to the artificial pitting of sectors of the same class against one another, when to be victorious the class must be united. It is manifestly obvious that this international diffusion can only be done on the basis of a rigorous acceptance of Marxism and of our classical texts. The party is not made by clobbering together disparate groups, but by the selection of vanguard elements who understand the uselessness of other roads and the inevitability of ours. Therefore, no shotgun marriages or other buffoonery, no “rainbow movements” or such things, especially in a period of very low revolutionary potential. Entrance into the party will be on the basis of individual acceptance of our party’s program. The defense of theory will be always and again our primary task, be it in the organization of the party on a world level, be it in daily activity of participation in struggles, propaganda, and proselytism. Without this defense-in actuality representing the return to the ABC of Marxism in all aspects big or small of social life - we would fall into a sterile activism, a kaleidoscope of actions without goals; we would drown in a “let’s do something today” empty of any revolutionary perspective. And we would render a disservice to a working class that has been martyred enough by the effects of a “concretism” and pragmatism minus any principle, which deceives itself - and what is worse, deceives workers - that the revolutionary road is nothing but a raw cumulation of actions, interventions, and leafleting. To us, a defense of theory means: an analysis of reality in the light of Marxism, a criticism of the dominant ideology, the demystification of all those who declare themselves to be communist but are nowhere near it; further, it is the political education of militant members through a collective action in the party; active participation (where possible) in workingclass action, with the aim of directing it; and the strengthening, the implanting, and the spreading of the party organization. From this point of view, our press must always stand for that collective organizer of which Lenin spoke in What Is to Be Done? The communist press must be at one and the same time an instrument to educate militant followers, a point of reference for the class in its daily battles, and a mirror of the life of the party. And even for these reasons our papers carry no names of authors: the views expressed are not personal opinions but a collective patrimony, and the reader must perceive and identify with it as such. This stands in contrast to the petty individualistic personalism that characterizes the contrary world of the bourgeois media. This defense of theory is necessarily accompanied by a serious and constant endeavor to work in tight contact with the working class, to the degree that our forces allow it. This work with the class is far from being simple and cannot be discussed lightly and superficially. One has to take into account the disastrous effect on the proletariat of the twin influences of Stalinism and democracy, of the changes imposed on the economy and industry by the pressures of the last twenty-five years of crisis, of the sense of disillusionment and isolation felt by entire generations of workers, of the periodic inclination to spontaneous and individualistic outbursts induced by dejection and bewilderment. Therefore, no more illusions, no more quick fixes. It must be amply clear that any possible reprise by the class must pass by way of the repossession of fundamental class-struggle concepts. And that this repossession will be the one and only possible axis around which will develop-even if not in the immediate future-the rebirth of organs that will defend the living and working conditions, and thanks to them, the ability of the class to fend off the attacks of capital.

These are the fundamental concepts:

a. Reject all conditional qualifications attached to settlements of workers’ demands. As already indicated, the national economy is not a common good. To impose on the workers a do-or-die defense of that economy, as was done in Italy with the tripartite (trade union-industrialists-government) wage contracts during the years ‘92-’95-the most recent examples of a practice with a long history-leads to more exploitation, a worsening of life standards, an intensification of working strains, more job insecurity and less certainty of steady employment, an increase in work accidents, a decrease in real wages, a worsening of the environment, and a growth in the number of inter-imperialist rivalries destined to lead to a new world war sooner or later.

b. Reject all efforts to limit the workers’ struggles. For decades the practice of trade unions has been to bridle the workers’ power by wasting them in micro-conflicts, department strikes, strikes limited to a factory, area, region or sector; by placing time and other confinments on strikes; by calling diversionary strikes to defend the national economy, democracy, legality, and so forth. They have weakened the capability to struggle by calling for “worker self-discipline,” making the trade union less susceptible to the voices of the grass roots, and isolating and throwing out militant individuals. These trends and developments must be fought not in the name of deluding “trade-union democracy,” an empty expression given the irreversibly anti-worker orientation taken by trade unions in the past fifty years or so, but in the name of a real and true return to the widest and most vigorous class struggle possible. The strike, the picket line, the cessation of production, and so on are the arms of the proletariat. They must not be taken away, turned against the workers themselves , or rendered less effective.

c. Reject any internal division within the class. Amongst the devastating results of counterrevolution and the practices of opportunistic parties and trade unions there is the shattering of the unity of the class, and from that the spreading of localist and federalist ideologies-the placing of “our” group, area, or trade union above others; the growth of hostility, diffidence and competition amongst workers, and the emergence of an exasperated or conceited individualism. Rather than provide a way out for individuals or groups, all these lead simply to ever greater disasters for the class. The working class can hope to stand up to the attacks made against it by capital today and pass to the offensive tomorrow only by finding its internal unity around the methods and goals of class struggle-by recognizing itself and acting not like a mass of individuals but as a united class against every attempt to divide and fragmentize it. As a class, it must turn against wage limits, firings, the precariousness of employment, the discrimination by age and sex, the myths of professionalism, federalism, localism, racism, and all that turn one worker against another, men against women, young against old, and the native against the immigrant.

d. Beat back every attack against living standards and work. When capital enters crisis, it must fall upon the working class-and even against large strata of the middle class who until then illuded themselves with the comfort of being safe from any ugly surprises. The class must resist this attack and defeat it, and can only do so by returning to a recognition of itself as a class and finding its unity. Other attacks will follow, other attempts to dump on the working class the effects of a crisis that is not the result of bad leadership, of private dishonesty, or personal egoism. Of necessity, these attempts will take different forms, some mild and deceitful, others hard and explicit. Workers will have to prepare themselves for a battle whose results are not always certain, whose victories may be immediately challenged, and whose conquests may not be final. The class must carry on a daily resistance without falling into the illusion of a return to a pre-existing idyl of “good times and peace.” These were no more than limited illusions for most: the good times and good wages of some were paid for by great masses of other workers, along with the pitiless exploitation of resources in vast areas of the planet, and the accelerated destruction of the environment.

Workers must not let themselves be detracted by false goals. They must fight for physical survival and demand: Strong wage increases, larger for the poorly paid. Low wages do not maintain the family, especially since steady employment tends to be precarious for those categories of labor. For them, medical coverage has grown skimpier at the same time as many are not covered at all. Workers in these vulnerable conditions find the burden of rent, heat, light and gas ever more onerous. Big reductions in the hours of work. The suffering from labor grows heavier with the widespread disappearing of steady jobs and the growing use of overtime, which is paralleled by the dramatic rise of on-the-job accidents resulting from demand for increased productivity and the cuts in accident-prevention and worker safety. Reducing the hours of work will not absorb the unemployed (this is a pure delusion), but will ease the burden of work and lessen the tension under which many millions labor, and permit the rehabilitation of a psychological and physical condition that has been drained today for the sole reason of adding profits to capital. What all this comes down to is: Get the working class to reconstruct its class self-identity! From what has been said we derive two fundamental considerations. Whoever affirms that the economic struggle-the defense of life and work-is passé is outside the pale, and is a disseminator of pseudo-extremist demagogy. We know-and all workers should know-that any gain made today through struggle is destined to have to be refought for tomorrow, until the day when that regime is overturned forever. But Lenin himself in What Is to Be Done? well demonstrated how the immediate economic struggle is the first necessary step towards leading the class to grasp the inevitability of the supreme battle. Without that first step-and here it is the party’s responsibility to make known that significance to the entire class, at the same time making clear the need to mount in time all the other steps-there is no future. The economic struggle is the war college of the proletariat, Lenin used to say: it must return so again. From this, other considerations derive: the necessity to create new organisms to defend immediate interests, which should have the widest possible extent and be open to all, in order to check the tendency for the class to drift into disunity and fragmentation, into drawing into itself and retreating, which places a winning hand in the possession of capital. These organisms will become the instruments of class struggle, the structures that will organize and centralize the class, and the vital intermediate sinews between the class and the revolutionary political party. Do such bodies exist today? No. The trade unions are now completing (in Italy and elsewhere) their parabolic descent-something we anticipated at the very beginning of the postwar-into becoming an integrated element of the state of capital, a veritable bulwark of it. Workers have often reacted to this state of affairs. The last twenty years have seen the rise and disappearance of numerous organisms suggestive of the many aborted attempts to react and organize. Many times we pointed out: too often these attempts have been characterized by unclear goals and decentralized and autonomous tendencies, or marked by concern for a narrow sector of workers. Added to the common mania for a formal democracy, the results are organizations that are fragile and provisional. Despite a generous expenditure of energy and effort, by failing to establish a unitary and centralized organization and inclined as they often are toward demagoguery and silly wishful thinking, they end up creating greater division and confusion in the class. These weaknesses reflect the situation in the working class today. Internationalist communists and avant-garde workers who seek to stand on the terrain of the class struggle will conduct an open and sharp struggle against any manifestation of what we see as “state trade unionism,” and will criticize unsparingly any negative traits of any group born from the disillusion and disgust for such a trade unionism. They will work both in the trade unions-until the point that it becomes impossible and they are faced with expulsion, which would indicate how anti-worker such unions are-and in the organisms that arise spontaneously, laboring to broaden any obvious limits. They will participate and labor shoulder to shoulder wherever the class is found, not to follow it, but to point out what is to be done; they will not bridle themselves behind the limitations of the trade union or ad hoc body but help workers react to the demands of the moment. Once more, before anything else, at the center of any strategy and action must be the content of the demands and not the form. Only in that manner will it be possible to contribute effectively to a return to the class struggle, and, with that, to the rebirth of trade-union organisms that be not phantoms of the state of capital. Only then will it be possible to reawaken in a fighting class the perspective of the revolutionary party, the proletarian revolution, and communism. Never more than now has the working class of the world demonstrated this need so dramatically.

In Conclusion

As we reach the end of this presentation (and obviously we do not pretend that it could exhaust all matters before us), we hope to have convinced our imaginary questioner. Still we do not want to leave without reaffirming two basic concepts for the benefit of whoever seriously wants to embrace revolutionary communism.

The first is: “you don’t make revolution, you lead it”. Revolutions erupt from the social underground when material conditions make them possible and necessary, and there is no single or collective will that can accelerate or modify the process. Yet in the absence of leadership and direction the enormous social energies that emerge from said social underground disperse like “vapor not confined in a piston cylinder-box” (Trotsky, in the “Preface” to his A History of the Russian Revolution, 1930).

The second concept is closely related to the first, and enounces that “the Party can wait for the masses, but the masses cannot wait for the Party”. Still quoting Trotsky, “The masses have never been a spitting image one of the other: you have revolutionary masses, passive ones, even reactionary masses. The same masses can be inspired by different objectives and purposes at different times. It is for this very reason that it becomes indispensable to have a vanguard that is centrally organised” (“Of Moralists and Sycophants Against Marxism”, 1939). Thus the Party is the element that provides continuity in a long process that is first the preparation and then the actual undertaking of the revolution. In the dark periods of counterrevolution, when the masses are “passive” or even “reactionary”, the Party goes against the current, conscious as it is that the laws of social events will bring about the eruption of the revolution. And when it will occur those masses, awakened to the revolutionary situation, will (must) find an already existing and already active leadership, their “piston cylinder-box”. Too many times the same masses have awakened from their torpor and lethargy, only to find that they were in a drama on whose stage they were acting alone. And the drama turned into tragedy. Towards the end of one of his more significant novels (Bleak House, 1853: the long travail of a case in court, against the background of an England ruled by money, property titles, and a new triumphant technology), the British writer Charles Dickens writes: “a break up soon took place in the crowd, and the people came streaming out looking flushed and hot, and bringing a quantity of bad air with them. [...] and presently great bundles of paper began to be carried out - bundles in bags, bundles too large to be got into any bags, immense masses of papers of all shapes and no shapes, which the bearers staggered under [...]. We [...] asked an official-looking person who was standing in the midst of them, whether the cause was over. ‘Yes,’ he said; ‘it was all up with it at last!’ and burst out laughing too.” This is what we are toiling for, a small Party that goes against the current. So that one day we too can say, laughing: “it was all up with it at last!”, and we can leave the pre-history of human society and finally enter its history. And to this end there are no passion nor devotion, no energies, that can be tagged as wasted.

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