WHAT DISTINGUISHES OUR PARTY
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What distinguishes our Party
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Each issue of our periodicals carries the following words on the cover:
«What distinguishes our Party is the political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin, to the foundation of the Communist International and the Communist Party of Italy (Livorno, 1921); the struggle of the Communist Left against the degeneration of the International, the struggle against the theory of «socialism in one country» and the Stalinist counter-revolution; the rejection of the Popular Fronts and the Resistance blocs; the difficult task of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and organisation in close interrelationship with the working class, against personal and electoral politics.»
The purpose of these few words is to give a brief and general indication of what characterises our Party. Although it was not intended to be a detailed explanation, a distinctive feature of our movement is immediately made clear to the reader: for us, contrary to the whole myriad of «modernisers» of Marxism, there exists a continuous, unchanged, unalterable line which defines the Communist Party. This is so precisely because the party rises above the ups and downs, the setbacks and advances, the rare but glorious victories and the numerous and catastrophic defeats of the working class on the difficult path of its struggle for emancipation. It is in fact only thanks to the uninterrupted permanence of this line that the proletariat exists as a class; indeed this line does not reflect the temporary and often contradictory position of the proletariat at this or that stage of its path, in space and time, but the direction that it must necessarily take as it leaves its situation as a lowly and exploited class, to become the ruling class and then achieve, throughout the world, the abolition of all classes and communism. While the material conditions for this path were created by the capitalist mode of production itself, it does not fall from the sky and it can be travelled to the end only by struggling all along the way. It is the Marxist doctrine which knows its necessary phases, its indispensable means, as well as its ultimate aims.
This is why Lenin, paraphrasing a famous text of Marx, said that he is not a Marxist who does not extend the recognition of the class struggle up to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessary product of that struggle and as an obligatory stage on the path «towards the abolition of all classes and a classless society».
To recognise the class struggle and the conflict of interests between capital and labour is merely to acknowledge a bare fact - the situation of the proletariat in bourgeois society. To limit oneself to this however is to exclude what historical determinism itself compels the proletariat to become in order to free itself from capitalist exploitation: the weapon for violently destroying the bourgeois state power which protects and defends the capitalist relations of production, and the weapon for establishing its own dictatorship, the «political phase of transition» (according to Marx) in the process of the «revolutionary transformation of capitalist society into communist society». It would be to accept the state of subjection which is the lot of the proletariat in bourgeois society even when it struggles for the defence of its immediate interests against the yoke of capital. It would be to deny the proletariat the historical task of liberating humanity while liberating itself, which alone makes it into a class, the class which will «give birth to a new society».
This line which unites the past and the present of the working class with its future is nothing other than the theory, the program, and the principles of revolutionary communism and it is kept unchanged above the vicissitudes of the class struggle inasmuch as it is embodied in a party which unreservedly makes it its own, in an organisation which defends it, fights for it, and translates it into action. This is why Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto that
«Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement».
Since the proletariat «has no country» and as a class pursues aims which go beyond all the limitations of trade, locality, factory, shop, etc., that which distinguishes Communists, Marx adds, is:
«1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.»
These are the fundamental characteristics which distinguish Communists. These prohibit the name Communist from being applied to those who deny the international character of the aim towards which the proletarian movement is directed and the international character of the struggle for attaining this aim; who deny that this aim and this struggle coincide with the interests of the movement in its totality and of its future; who deny the necessity of the violent revolution and of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the obligatory path towards socialism; and who deny that the party, armed with the science of Marxism, is indispensable as an organ of this gigantic struggle. No link in this chain can be broken without the whole chain breaking and without the proletariat falling into a resigned acceptance of its position as an exploited class for eternity.
This is the doctrine which was born as one whole a century and a half ago and which was codified by Marx and En gels in writings to which there is nothing to add or to «update». This is the doctrine which was restored in its entirety by Lenin against social-democratic treason, against all capitulation before the present of the proletarian movement and all renunciation of its future, against all subordination of its aims and the totality of its interests to allegedly immediate and national aims and interests, and finally against all abandonment of the principles of the revolutionary conquest of power and its exercise by means of dictatorship in favour of allegedly surer and less difficult ways of legalist, democratic, and parliamentary gradualism.
Communists struggled not only to keep this line intact against all the material, political, and ideological pressures of bourgeois society, but also to carve always more clearly its essential features through the terrible but nevertheless instructive confirmations of history, with the aim of organising the combative vanguard of the working-class around this red line, retying it where it had broken, and marching against the fortresses of the capitalist states. This battle was led simultaneously on the level of doctrine, program, politics, tactics, and organisation: Communists are not the apostles of a new creed or ascetics awaiting a Messiah but the militants of a gigantic social war.
This was the battle waged by Marx and Engels in the First International to destroy Proudhonism, which refused the immediate struggle, strikes, and the economic organisation of the proletariat; to destroy Bakuninism, which refused the party and the dictatorship that the party centrally exercises in the name of the working class and in its interests; and to destroy «parliamentary cretinism» which had infiltrated into the ranks of the proletariat from the surrounding social strata. This was Lenin's battle within Russia against populism, economism, legalism and Menshevism. On the international level this was his battle first against Bernstein's social-democratic revisionism and later against the capitulation before the imperialist war, a struggle not only for the refusal of war credits, and for the refusal of the social truce during the war, but also for revolutionary defeatism and the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war. This was the battle that was waged to destroy all hesitations, all the «wait and see» and legalist inertia's, and all procrastination caused by the respect of the rules of democratic play; it was the battle that was waged to conquer power in a dictatorial way in the brilliant blaze of October 1917, thus laying at the same time the foundations of the finally reconstructed Communist International.
«It is the aim of the Communist International to fight by all available means, including armed struggle, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet Republic as a transitional stage to the complete abolition of the state».
This was solemnly proclaimed by the Communists of all countries who had assembled in Moscow in July 1920, thus taking up again and reasserting the line of «political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin».
«The Communist International considers the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only means for the liberation of humanity from the horrors of capitalism. [...] The imperialist war is responsible for the close union of the fate of the workers of one country with the fate of the workers of all other countries. The imperialist war emphasises once more what is pointed out in the statute of the First International: that the emancipation of labour is neither a local, nor a national task, but one of an international character. [...] The Communist International recognises that in order to hasten victory, the Workingmen's Association which is fighting to annihilate capitalism and create communism must have a strongly centralised organisation. The Communist International must, in fact and in deed, be a single communist party of the entire world. The parties working in the various countries are but its separate sections. The organisational machinery of the Communist International must guarantee the workers of each country the opportunity of getting the utmost help from the organised proletariat of other countries at any given moment».
This is the line of political continuity which goes from Marx to Lenin and the foundation of the Communist International. There can be no place in its ranks for those who reject the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only path to socialism, and for those who advocate national ways for the emancipation of the working class.
It is on this line that the Communist Party of Italy was founded in January 1921, with the following program embodying the theoretical, programmatic, and tactical heritage of communism:
Bolshevik power in Russia was the bulwark and advanced detachment of the world proletarian revolution. It rested however on a terribly backward and in an overwhelming proportion, pre-capitalist economic base. Communist strategy consisted therefore in working to forge in the different countries the indispensable instrument of the proletarian revolution, the class party, and to gather around it the crucial vanguard of a proletariat which, in the entire world but especially in Western Europe and the advanced capitalist areas in general, came out of the war carnage and post-war chaos driven by a magnificent will to struggle and an indomitable spirit of self-sacrifice. Communists knew that only the victory of the revolution in the developed countries, and in the first place in Germany, would allow Bolshevik Russia to economically advance towards socialism, keeping political power firmly in its hands, without sharing it, and progressing rapidly in the arduous passage from a pre-bourgeois economy, especially in the countryside, up to the extreme limit of state capitalism.
These parties had to be armed with the Marxist doctrine, re-established on its foundations by the party of Lenin, and firmly rooted in international discipline and in its rigorous centralisation. Their strategy just as the very reason for their existence was drawn from the recognition of the fact that the reformist parties (those which Lenin called the «bourgeois worker's parties») and social democracy in all its varieties were from now on bound to play an irreversibly counterrevolutionary role in the social dynamic - as was shown by the aims they had set for themselves in breaking with the basic principles of Marxism, and by their more or less direct integration in the bourgeois state.
The tragedy of the world proletariat in the first post-war period was that the gigantic effort of the Bolsheviks to control and dominate the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces springing from the Russian economic and social substratum and to extend the revolutionary flame to the whole world, was not met in the crucial areas of fully capitalist Europe by the process of an organic and rigorous formation of Communist parties. The democratic, parliamentary and legalist traditions had been weighing too heavily on the Western workers' movements, and the leadership of the Communist International (whom our current, however, would have been the last to hold responsible for a historical course which had its origin in the rotten bourgeois world of the West) did not always clearly understand that the harshness with which Lenin and his party had struggled against opportunism for twenty years and the determination with which they had conquered power (excluding from it not only the openly bourgeois parties but also the workers' parties of a conciliatory type) must become even more strict and unrelenting in the West where the bourgeois revolution had already been an accomplished fact for hail a century and more. Whereas the situation was such that is was urgent to proceed with a rigorous selection of membership from the old socialist parties, the prevailing attitude instead was by far too lax: it was considered - a generous idea, but one which proved to be mistaken - that the debris from the past would be burned up in the blaze ignited in St. Petersburg and Moscow. In order for the working class to defend itself efficiently against bourgeois counterrevolution, which now appeared also under the fascist banner, and if possible to pass on to the counterattack, it would have been an urgent necessity to develop a well defined tactic, uniting the proletarians around the revolutionary Marxist party in the defence of their conditions of life and work within bourgeois society, which would have been able to tear them away not only from the influence of reformism, but also from the illusion that those who had abandoned the line «which goes from Marx to Lenin and to the Communist International» could be won back to the cause of the proletarian revolution. On the contrary, poorly defined slogans were launched which, against the intentions of the Bolsheviks and in spite of them, left the door open to this illusion, and so much the more so when these slogans were adopted by the old repeated offenders of reformism or even of social-chauvinism who were flocking around the flag of the International. Such was the case with the slogan of the «united front» which, because it was insufficiently defined, left the door open for varying and even contradictory interpretations. It was the same with the «workers' government», which was sometimes presented as a «synonym of the dictatorship of the proletariat» and sometimes as a different way, indeed as a parliamentary way, to power. And thus it went up to the «Bolshevization» which adulterated the nature of the Communist parties and ran the risk of turning them into some kind of Labour Parties, erasing little by little the boundary line - so clear in the beginning - between the Communist parties on the one hand and on the other the peasant parties and movements in the capitalist countries and the national revolutionary parties and movements in the colonies, a phenomenon which paved the way for the catastrophic re-edition in China of the Menshevik story of the «revolution by stages».
It was also because of this gradual slackening of the fabric of organisation and tactics that the International, instead of controlling and directing the process of purifying the Communist parties born of traditional socialism, was in the end conditioned by the Western parties which were Communist in name only. The results were disastrous from two points of view: the world revolution, which had been expected shortly, was delayed, and at the same time the bourgeois social forces which were putting pressure on the Bolshevik dictatorship both from within Russia and above all from without, strengthened themselves to the point of sweeping away the party which had been the magnificent instrument of the leadership of the October Revolution and of the Civil War. Stalinism was the expression of this reversal of the relations of forces between the classes on a world scale. It had to massacre the Old Guard in order to advance without hindrance on the path of capitalist accumulation. Even before that, it had to camouflage its counter-revolutionary role behind the flag of «socialism in one country», that theory which is the origin of the «national, peaceful and democratic» ways to socialism. A candidate to succeed social democracy in its task, Stalinism eventually called on the proletarians of all countries to massacre each other on the fronts of the second imperialist war.
This is why for us the line that goes from Marx to Lenin, to the foundation of the Third International and its first brilliant years. finds its continuation in the struggle of the Italian Left against the first manifestations of an opportunist danger within the Comintern (only a danger at first, later a cruel reality determined by objective factors) and in the struggle, led in 1926 parallel with that of the Russian Opposition, against Stalinism which was on its way to make itself master of the Soviet state and Lenin's International.
Brazenly camouflaged between 1928 and 1932 under a veneer of «leftism», Stalinism was responsible for the political and organisational disarmament of the proletariat faced with the Nazi and fascist offensive. It was responsible for its disarmament - this time faced with democracy and under the pretext of the struggle against fascism -with the Popular Fronts in France and especially in Spain, where Stalinism extinguished the rekindled flames of the class struggle in the name of the defence of the Republican regime and by means of a governmental coalition with the bourgeois and opportunist parties. It was responsible for the proletariat's support of the second world massacre under the flag of liberty and country, and for the entry of the «communist» parties into fronts which were no longer «popular fronts» but national unity fronts of the Resistance. It was responsible for the participation of these parties in the governments of reconstruction after the war, and eventually for their quite logical renunciation - even formally - of the dictatorship of the proletariat and internationalism, and for their open candidacy as saviours of the crisis-ridden national economy and of the dying democratic institutions.
This is why the line which links Marx and Engels to Lenin, to the foundation of the Communist International, and to the struggle of the Left against the degeneration of the International and then against Stalinism, is inseparable for us from the historical struggle against the popular fronts, war fronts, national fronts, and all their offshoots up to and including the most recent manifestations of an opportunism whose virulence is unequalled even by the bloody be gin-flings of the old German social democracy. It is inseparable from the denunciation of the essentially fascist course, be it under the cloak of democracy, of capitalist imperialism with Washington as its centre, as well as of the false socialism reigning in Moscow or Peking, a socialism based on commodity production, wage labour, and all the other bourgeois economic characteristics.
To take up again the red line of the doctrine, the program, the principles, the tactics, and the methods of organisation of revolutionary communism requires that we return to the world outlook of the Communist International in its founding years, completed on the level of organisation and tactics by the balance sheet which the history of the last 50 years has given us and which confirms the obstinate struggle of the Left. This balance sheet has been drawn by our Party, especially after 1952, in a series of theses included in our book, Defence of the Continuity of the Communist Program.
There is no possible meeting-point between democracy and communism. There is no way for the emancipation of the proletariat other than that which, outside the official democratic or fascist bourgeois institutions and against them, already prepares in the present for the proletarian revolution. This preparation excludes, even as a means of agitation, resorting to elections and, worse yet, parliamentary politics. It is accomplished on the one hand by constantly taking part in the immediate struggles of the working class to defend its conditions of life, work, and struggle and by enlarging, reinforcing, and developing these struggles on class bases and through class means. It is accomplished on the other hand through the incessant propaganda of the final aim of the proletarian movement, m relation to which the struggle for immediate demands is a school of war (but only a school) provided this struggle is led in a consistent way, never forgetting or hiding its limitations; through organising around the party strata of proletarians who instinctively commit themselves to the open class struggle, and organising into the party the proletarian minority which has become aware of the indispensable ways and means of final victory; through the strengthening of the immediate organisations born of economic and union struggles which react against the betrayal of the union leadership and which are potentially capable of developing in a political direction; and finally through the struggle in the heart of the existing unions with the perspective (which can neither be excluded nor be held for certain) of winning them back not only to a class tradition, but also to a Communist orientation, in situations - which are today far away - of intense social tension.
There is no place on this path for the spontaneist illusion, always unfortunately reappearing, of a revolution and of a dictatorship of the proletariat not prepared for and led by the Party. Neither is there a place for the Trotskyist illusion of a fatal crisis of capitalism which would only need the shock provoked by an organised vanguard to be brought down, after having passed through the intermediary stage of «workers' governments» composed of parties which supposedly, even if they have passed lock, stock and barrel to the counter-revolution, can be regenerated thanks to the push of the ebullient masses and to the skilfulness of communist manoeuvring, just as the «degenerated workers' states» like the USSR, China, Cuba and others can be won back to the cause of revolutionary proletariat. If, in workerist spontaneism, one sees an age-old adversary of marxism, in the Trotskyist illusion (an adjective which Trotsky, in spite of his errors, would today be the first to be ashamed of) the tactical errors of the decadent International reappear, terribly exaggerated and, on such bases, those deviations of principle in regard to the sound doctrine which alone can explain why some people take nationalisation's in industry and economic planning in themselves for socialism.
The proletariat today more than ever needs clarity on the aims, the path, and the means of its emancipation. It is to this work of clarification that we dedicate ourselves, without arrogance but without hesitation, conscious that we are marching «in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path» but faithful to the lesson of Lenin and determined to fight «not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh».
This is the difficult task of «restoring the revolutionary doctrine and organisation in close interrelationship with the working class, against personal and electoral politics».
Source: «Communist Program», No. 4, april 1978
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