The organisation of the working class of all countries of the world is, as a result of a series of splits and the spread of defeatism, dominated by two forces.
The first of these is the traditional form of democratic socialism. Based on peaceful relationships between classes, these organisations support a programme of social and political collaboration with the bourgeoisie, and plan to defend the workers’ interests by legal means within the framework of the bourgeois constitution. They suggest that private enterprise will gradually change to socialism, and on principle reject the use of violence and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The second section is formed by those parties which follow the government in power in the USSR. It heralds the USSR as a Workers State with a policy modelled on revolutionary communism as defined by Marx and Lenin, and consistent with the great victory of the October Revolution.
This section of the proletarian movement pretends, in theory, not to reject the tactics of insurrection, dictatorship and terrorism. At the same time however, it says that it is convenient in capitalist countries to utilise those propaganda slogans, demands and tactics which can be shared with the property owning and non proletarian classes. Among these shared beliefs can be exampled: national welfare, the safety of the fatherland and the possibility of peaceful co-existence between classes with opposed interests, within the framework of a parliamentary democracy.
Such a social democratic policy could only be applied when certain conditions are satisfied. There would have to be peace between the government of the Soviet Union and the bourgeois governments. The workers of the world would have to admit that the existence of the Soviet Union was the premise and the promise of world socialism, and that therefore in safeguarding Russian power they were guaranteeing themselves against future capitalist exploitation. Both the workers and the capitalists would have to acknowledge that for an unlimited period the Soviet Union could co-exist with the capitalist powers in a normal and peaceful manner. The presumption of such conditions is summed up by the bourgeois democrats in the hackneyed formula of «non- intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign States» and by the new slogan of «peaceful competition» between socialism and capitalism.
From time to time the rank and file of the working class has rebelled against these obvious contradictions in this assessment of the long-standing political position; until now these rebellions have been limited and uncertain but they will without doubt gain strength.
This constant propaganda is increasingly less successful in hiding these contradictions. It is skilfully directed to deliberately confusing the long-term, with the immediate objectives, the tactical expedients with the principled positions, and is chosen according to the particular social setting.
The plan of convincing the capitalist countries that they can very well let the Soviet regime survive without making a military attack or engineering a social upheaval, can only mean convincing them that it is not a working class State and therefore no longer anti-capitalist. Such a policy emphasises the true state of affairs.
To convince the workers in capitalist countries that they need not organise their forces for an insurrection and the overthrow of the economic, administrative and political system of their country, may help to recruit members from the social stratas where the social democrats are successful, but it has no effect on the more advanced workers. However, this policy is combined with the perspective that a third World War can lead to the conquest of power by the proletariat, thus diverging from the teaching of Marx and Lenin who envisaged this role being fulfilled by civil war. When a third World War breaks, the stalinists promise the advanced workers that, whichever side starts it, they will urge a guerilla war, and they support this vain promise by saying that these «partisans» will be able to rely not only on their own forces but also on the parallel action of a perfect modern military machine.
The other section of their followers which of course forms the huge majority, are made up of workers having no revolutionary consciousness; artisans small landowners, shopkeepers and middle class manufacturers, white collar workers and civil servants, intellectuals and professional politicians. To this section the stalinists continually put forward proposals which go as far as offering a permanent united front not only with the propertied classes, but also with the bourgeois parties which they themselves classify as reactionary and right wing. They also promise them a future of peace, both internal and world-wide; of democratic tolerance towards any political party, organisation or creed; of economic progress without conflict or expropriation of the wealthy, and of equal welfare for all social stratas. It is increasingly difficult now even for them to justify, in the eyes of the masses, the existence in the Soviet Union and her satellites of a harsh totalitarian police state, controlled by stalinists through a rigid one-party system.
This degeneration of the proletarian movement has gone further than that of the revisionist and chauvinistic opportunism of the Second International and it will last longer. We can fix the beginning of this modern opportunism, at the latest, in 1928; the opportunism of the Second International reached the culminating point of its cycle in the years 1912–1922, though its origins went back much further than 1912 and its consequences went well beyond 1922.
Recently there have been signs of impatience of stalinist opportunism, both from militants and from groups which have appeared on the political scenes of different countries, advocating the return to the doctrine of Marx and Lenin and the theses of the 3rd International at its first four Congresses. These latter denounce the Stalinists for their complete betrayal of the original policy.
However most of these splits cannot be regarded as a useful regrouping on a genuine class, basis even of a small vanguard of the proletariat. Many of these groups, as a result of their lack of theoretical work and because of their class origin, show in the very nature of their criticism of stalinist activity both past and present, that they are more or less directly influenced by the political schemes originating from the imperialist centers of the West and by the hysterical and hypocritical propaganda of liberalism and humanitarianism.
Such groups are more harmful in that they may divert unwary militants than because they are the result of the underground work of secret agents of imperialism.
However, fundamentally, the historical responsibility for the possible victory of various types of defeatism in the revolutionary movement rests entirely on the stalinist opportunists. It is they who have in their work approved of many bourgeois ideologies and theories, and have tried to prevent the working class movements from being autonomous, independent, and ready to defend themselves, although these attributes were so often stressed by Marx and Lenin.
This confused and unfavourable course of the proletarian struggle, coincides with the irresistible growth of highly concentrated industrialisation, which is taking place, as much in the old industrial centres as in the extension of industry to the whole world. It therefore aids the offensive waged by the United States against the masses of the world. The United States is the greatest pillar of imperialism and, as with all large concentrations of metropolitan capital, forces of production and power, it tends to forcefully exploit and oppress the world masses by breaking down all social and territorial obstacles. The stalinists have shifted the struggle from international objectives and have confined themselves to the defence of precise national objectives delimited by the political and military aims of the Russian centre. As a result they will be less and less able to lead either the international or the national struggle, and will become more and more tied up with western imperialism, as was openly shown by the war alliance.
The Marxist position has always been that the foremost class enemies are the great powers of the highly overindustrialised and super colonial countries, which can only be overthrown by the proletarian revolution. In accordance with the Marxist viewpoint, the communists of the Italian Left today address an appeal to the revolutionary workers’ groups of all countries. They invite them to retrace a long and difficult route and to regroup themselves on an international and strictly class basis, denouncing and rejecting any group which is influenced even partly or indirectly by the policies and philistine conformism emanating from the State controlled forces throughout the world.
The reorganisation of an international vanguard can only take place if there is absolute homogeneity of views and orientation; the International Communist Party proposes to comrades of all countries the following basic principles and postulates.
For revolutionary marxists the knowledge of acts, of repression, cruelty or violence towards individuals or groups, even if these acts were authorised or controllable, is not in itself a decisive element in the condemnation of stalinism or of any other regime. Manifestations of repression even cruel repression are an inseparable part of all societies based on the division into classes. Marxism was born out of the rejection of the so-called values of a civilisation based on class struggle, of the negation of the rules of «fair play» by which the opposing classes are supposed to practice: self discipline in readiness for the day when they will confront one another in a death struggle. No mutilation, slurs cast on individuals, genocide, either legal or illegal, can be fought by ascribing them to the individual or to those who direct him not only by a revolutionary eviction of all class division. In the present phase of capitalism characterised by increasing atrocities, cruelty and super-militarism, only the most stupid revolutionary movement would limit its methods of action with conditions of formal kindness.
II. Complete rupture with the tradition of war alliances, partisan fronts and «national liberations»
Stalinism was first irrevocably condemned just because it abandoned these fundamental principles of communism by throwing the proletarians into a fratricidal war which separated them into two imperialist camps, and strongly reinforced the shameful propaganda issued by the camp to which it had become allied. This camp was no better than that facing it, but it disguised its imperialist greed which was exposed decades ago by marxist-leninism criticism, by its delusion that its respect for «civilised» methods of war made it different from its adversary. It pretended that if it had to bomb, to «atomise», to invade, and finally after prolonged agony to use hanging, it would not be in order to defend its own interests but in order to restore the «moral values» of civilisation of human liberties so gravely threatened.
When, in 1914 this same disgraceful lie saw the traitors of the 2nd International proclaim the patriotic alliance against the imaginary ogre of teutonic or tsarist «barbarism», Leninism was the answer.
It was this fraud that was the basis for the western imperialists entering the war against the new nazi or fascist barbarism, and the same betrayal formed the alliance concluded between the State of Russia and the imperialist States, first with Nazis themselves, and then between the workers and the bourgeois parties with a view to winning the war.
Today history has proved these lies and betrayals. The Russians accuse the Americans of being aggressors or fascists, a charge returned by the Americans, who admit that, had they been able to use the A bomb, not ready in 1941, to massacre Europe, they would have done so, instead of using the armies composed of mobilised Russian workers for the same task.
It is true that Marxism looks for and has always looked for the origin of all conflicts between States, in the increasing struggle between groups and factions of the ruling classes and from this it draws its deductions and gains its foresight. But any conception which opposes a civilised wing of capitalism to a barbaric wing of the sane system is a real negation of marxism. Indeed from a determinist point of view, it may well be that proletariat gains more from the victory of the attacking party using the roughest methods of combat than otherwise.
For human communities to pass beyond barbarism the development of productive techniques was indispensable; but man has had to pay for this passage by subjecting himself to the countless infamies of class civilisation, and the suffering arising from the exploitation of slavery, serfdom and industrialisation.
It is therefore a fundamental condition for the rebuilding of the international revolutionary movement that the traditions of chauvinistic politics shown in the support of the 1914–18 and the 1940–45 war alliances, popular fronts, guerilla resistance and national liberation, are equally condemned.
The guiding line of the marxist position on the possibility of a new war can be sought in Lenin. According to him wars of the great powers since the time of the Paris Commune are imperialist wars as the historical period in which there were wars and insurrection systematising the national boundaries of capitalist countries was over. Therefore with the occurrence of war all class alliances, all suspension of class opposition and pressure, with the war in mind, constitutes a betrayal of the proletarian cause. For Lenin, also, the revolt of the coloured masses in the colonies against the imperialists & the nationalist movements in underdeveloped countries in this modern phase of capitalism have a revolutionary significance only if the class struggle in the industrialised sectors is never interrupted, and never loosens its tie with the international objectives of the proletarian. organisation. Whatever may be the foreign policy of a State, the real internal enemy of the working class of each country is its government.
Seen in this perspective and reinforced by the formidable confirmation given by the evidence in World War 2, the many explicit forecasts in the theses and resolutions of the Third International at the time of Lenin’s death, the period of imperialist wars can only end with the downfall of capitalism.
The revolutionary party of the proletariat must therefore deny all possibility of a peaceful settlement of the imperialist conflicts. It must energetically fight against the lies which promise that federation, leagues and associations between States will avoid conflicts by the means of an international armed force to repress «those who would provoke them».
Marx and Lenin, although aware of the rich complexity of the historical relationship between wars and revolutions, nevertheless condemned as idealist and bourgeois frauds, all fallacious distinctions between «the aggressor» and «the aggressed» in wars between States. Similarly the revolutionary proletariat should know that all State institutions are only designed as a repressive force in order to conserve capitalism and their armed forces are but a class police and a counter-revolutionary guard.
Real International Communism is therefore characterised by a total refusal of any ambiguous propaganda based on the defence of pacifism and the stupid slogan of condemnation and punishment of the «aggressor».
It is a tradition of leftwing opposition in many groups, dating back to the first tactical errors of the Third International to reject as incorrect the methods of agitation, rather badly defined as «bolshevik».
In working towards the final confrontation between the proletariat and the ruling class for the formation of a workers State, and a worldwide red dictatorship and for political terror and economic expropriation of all privileged classes, there must be a programme exclusively and fully communist. It is not possible to keep silent at certain moments and during particular situations, especially once the elimination of all feudal institutions is completed and irrevocable.
It is an illusion to think that one can conquer the masses more quickly by substituting for a class position, orders for popular agitation. Equally it is a defeated illusion to confidently suppose that the leaders of the manoeuvre are not themselves deluded by it, although this is often proclaimed, at best it is nonsense. Every time that the pivot (always said to be transitory) of a political manoeuvre has been a united front with opportunist parties, the demand for democracy, peace non-class popularism or even worse a national and patriotic solidarity has been the result. It has not been a case of setting up a clever camouflage which abandoned at the right moment would have revealed an army of soldiers of the Revolution prepared to fire on the temporary allies of yesterday after weakening the enemy front.
On the contrary it has always happened that the masses, both militants and leaders have become utterly incapable of class action, and their organisations and their rank and file, progressively disarmed and domesticated through such ideological and functional preparation, have become fitted to act as instruments and the best tools of the capitalist class.
These historical conclusions are no longer based only on doctrinal criticism but from the terrible historical experience, so dearly paid for, of thirty years of bankrupt efforts.
Therefore a revolutionary party will never again attempt to gain mass support by demands likely to be independently made by the non-proletarians and a cross section of classes.
This particular basic criteria does not apply to the immediate and specific demands which arise from the concrete antagonism of interests between wage-earners and employers in the economic sphere. It is however in opposition to the classless or interclass demands, especially political ones whether they are made by one nation or internationally. This criteria, flowing from a criticism of the politically united front of proletarians, of the slogan workers government, and of popular and democratic fronts, establishes a boundary between the movement which we support and that which calls itself the Fourth International of the Trotzkyists. Our movement is separated in the same way from all neighbouring versions which under a different title renew the slogan of revisionist degeneration «the object is nothing, the movement is all», and thus reveals itself as superficial agitation deprived of all contents.
The way in which the economy, legislation and administration of the Soviet Union has developed over the last thirty years give historical proof that the workers revolution can be submerged not only in a bloody civil war as was the case in Paris in 1871 but also by progressive degeneration. This is equally illustrated by the ruthless repression, and extermination of the revolutionary bolshevik kernel which paid dearly for having allowed the party to be transformed from an iron vanguard to an amorphous mass incapable of controlling its own legislature or executive. The monetary and mercantile character of the greater part of the Russian economy, which is in no way contradicted by the State control of important services and industries, also existing in several big capitalist countries, presents us not with a workers State menaced by degeneration or in the course of it, but by a completely degenerated State in which the proletariat is no longer in power.
Power has passed to the hands of a hybrid and shapeless coalition of internal interests of the lower and upper middle classes, semi-independent
businessmen and the international capitalist classes. Such a combination is contradicted only in appearance by the existence of a police controlled and commercial iron curtain.
Consequently a war which seems superficially (as all wars do) to arrest co-operation of the privileged classes of various countries in administrating the world will not be a revolutionary war in the leninist sense; that is a war for the protection and diffusion of proletarian power throughout the world. Such an historical possibility, which is not today on the agenda, would never include justifying the political and military co-action in any country. Above all, this is because revolutionary States, if any, could find no allies in the capitalist camps, as was obviously the case at the end of World War 1. If this possibility did arise a strong international communist party would put the strength of all sections against the power of the ruling classes in order to stop military «punitive» expeditions organised by world capitalism against the revolutionary countries. It would mobilise the workers so that they used their arms against those who armed them.
In all cases where the offensive is less developed, and the struggle of lesser potential, it would be even more important that any revolutionary movement constantly maintained a universal anti-capitalist and anti-State orientation. The communists know that to stop capitalists indulging in punitive expeditions against the proletariat they must destroy the capitalist class, and that this cannot be done unless the vanguard of the working class is everywhere kept prepared for war.
Disarmament of class consciousness is always, therefore, a betrayal, wherever it takes place and even if it only be temporary, or merely ideological, or organisational or material. The centre of the communist movement must not succumb to it, even where the discipline is firmly established that the choice of timing and form of action over all the front is left to the centre. Any party or group which accepts such disarmament especially if it calls itself a workers’party, whether communist or socialist, is the first enemy to fight and quell. It is its very existence and function that holds back the overthrow of the capitalist system foreseen by Marx and Engels and awaited with conviction by all revolutionary marxists.
The completely contrary strategy which was applied during the last war by the residue of the Communist International and which led to its shameful self-liquidation was undertaken so that the western governments should not be hindered in their war efforts but it has only had the effect of strengthening the western imperialist power. Too late the Russian government and military circles admit that this is more of a menace than Germany, even now, when their objectives are overtly national.
While fascism and barbarism has launched a new but no less false and sinister attack, revolutionary workers forming a vanguard, must continue to draw their forces together; for a combat in which they will expect neither help nor ammunition from existing military forces. They must work in the hope and the certainty that the crisis and downfall of capitalism, expected in vain for 150 years will strike at the heart of the highly industrialised States, the hitherto unvanquished black guard of the world.
The following pamphlet, though written in 1950, with a view to be published in French, has lost none of its validity. This is mainly because the evolution of the capitalist world, including Soviet Russia, has more than confirmed our expectations and also because the reactions to stalinism of some groups of vanguard workers never ceased to be hybrid and confused, taking the form of democratism end even of the negation both of the role played by violence in the class struggle and of the revolutionary party as a fundamental and prominent organ of the proletarian dictatorship. Thus it became a serious and urgent task for the Marxist Left to draw a demarcation line between itself and the rainbow of political groups and currents, lacking all ideological background and class struggle tradition, which grow on the rotten soil constituted by democratic or parademocratic criticism of the Soviet regime.