«‹Left-Wing› Communism, an Infantile Disorder» – Condemnation of the renegades to come
VI. Key to the alleged «authorisation to compromises» of Lenin
Theory and historical experience
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Lenin, who, after so formidable struggles against fierce enemies of his and other countries, has the double responsibility of both the Russian state and the world movement, and who is sure that if mistakes will be made – which is not avoidable – it will never be a matter of repudiating the Soviet system and the proletarian dictatorship, or of relapsing into the notorious defence of the fatherland, which is typical of the open accomplices of the bourgeoisie; Lenin is right, and was to be admired when he believed it being better not to close all roads before the difficulties the future might show, and did not want us to give up certain solutions only because the exterior formulae were not pure, beautiful, elegant and glowing. Only fools can’t understand that for the party cause the revolutionary militant is ready to do anything. To choose the methods according to ethical, esthetical, and therefore subjective, motives, looking at the form rather than at the content, is, as he says and we always say, a silly thing.
But it is likewise silly not to use the historical experience of the movement in order to establish if given tactical means, in spite of the willingness of those who adopt them, may or may not lead to disaster. We always made use of such an experience, and did not deprive of its importance the Russian experience, although always bearing in mind what Lenin here acknowledges, i.e., that the pernicious effects of the western liberal-democratic environment had no precedents in Russia, where the tsarist oppression itself, Lenin explains, had been a favourable condition.
Those who know the work of Lenin only badly, and whose eyes are not able to appraise the stature of his construction, naively believe that according to Lenin the experience of Russia’s struggle has disclosed for the first time the way of revolution, and that all we have to do is walk in those footsteps. But Lenin’s false followers are today receding from even such counterfeit leninism, as they promise (to their emulated capitalist friends) to no longer follow in the footsteps of October.
Lenin’s construction is far greater, as we've demonstrated with the preceding analysis.
The bolshevik victory came from the fact that the Russian masses, with the experience of the struggle, realised to be on the path, as previously described by that glorious party. The strength of the Russian party was not therefore that of adapting itself to the course of events, allegedly spontaneous and unpredictable. Nor because, having exceptional and heroical men and leaders, they were able to coerce history and bend the events (as Gramsci naively and immediatistically believed in 1917, who was still rubbing his eyes after leaving the darkness of the defence of the democratic fatherland). Their force was neither in the recovery from, nor in the violent reversal of unfavourable conditions, but rather in the biggest example so far boasted by our century-old movement of anticipation of the real history.
As a matter of fact Lenin, whilst recalling all other favourable conditions, puts at the top the timely choice of the right revolutionary theory, marxism. When is an historical theory right? When it outlines a long, long time before the essential features of the future.
Therefore Lenin never said, wrote or dreamt that, once discovered or invented in Russia a recipe to make the revolution, it was the matter of teaching it to someone else.
The Russian bolsheviks had found the theory just in the West and – we quoted the passages – they found it after half a century of search; the events took place in such a way that all opposed theories, either borrowed themselves from the West or formed in different ways in Russia, went bankrupt.
At this point, comes the famous game on the usual sentences. Theory is not a dogma. Theory, for Marx and Engels, is not a dogma, but rather a guide for action. These unquestionable sentences present the marxist position, that theory is far more than a written answer to the whys and wherefores of facts, an explanation of problems and mysteries of reality: the historical theory is the discovery of a way of human action, through which the real social world is changed, subverted. It does not take place because of the will or the proposal of an outstanding mind, but because at a given moment the key to the historical events has been found, discovered, theorised. Of course it does not mean that the detail of episodes and particular situations has been prophesised, but rather that certain fundamental lines, certain principles, that in Lenin are, as a thousand times stated, the class insurrection, the destruction of the state, the new state of proletarian dictatorship, has been established.
But isn’t the movement of masses to give life to theory, which without it would be dead? What does Lenin mean by this? That theory is a blank paper on which the masses will tomorrow write what is today unknown? Had that been his thought, he would, trivially speaking, closed up shop – and us, too. As who thus thinks can only open one shop: that of personal success and of his own personal business. To attribute the above to Lenin and to the great bolsheviks means to maintain that their defence of party, seizure of power, handling of both dictatorship and terror, were due to the same motive of the scoundrels of both gangs: thirst, even bloody, for privilege. But Lenin mercilessly lashes out at such people, by using passional expressions, i.e., of disappointed leaders who do not have honesty toward themselves.
We do not need to expound this issue in a doctrinarian way. Lenin solves the problem in his superb booklet. The lesson of the movement of masses that taught the theory; the only right one, born in France or Germany, winning in Russia; it is the lesson «of the whole 19th century», of the masses that since 1789 threw themselves on the Bastille. Lenin reads this theory in the pages of the Manifesto, and finds it again, after scattering generations of distorters, among the revolting crowds of 1905 and 1917. Here is the relationship between theory and masses action, in Lenin’s thought, in Lenin’s action, in the power of human history. Theory has for Lenin a date of birth, when its cornerstones are definitely established: it’s that of the French revolution. It’s not the bourgeois theory of liberal revolution, but rather the different and original theory, as issued by the new proletarian class, that Lenin maintains having been formulated in red-hot types by Karl Marx.
It is clear that the path of the Russian revolution can be found since we know the path of the French revolution, seen as an example of bourgeois revolutions, of which the English one was the first, – but it does not mean that they are identical –. This thesis, on which is founded our doctrine for over a century, must be dialectically understood. It’s not a matter of the path as seen by the bourgeois, that is of the false «self-consciousness of the revolution» – Marx, Preface to the «Critique of the Political Economy» –, but rather as it was discovered by our doctrine.
The revolution in France ends with the bourgeois dictatorship, and falsely states to have ended with democracy, a human conquest of all classes. Marxism discovers that democracy means power of one class, the capitalist one, and predicts the new class revolution and the proletarian dictatorship, only foundations for the abolition of classes. Under this flag the working class fights during the whole 19th century in the European countries, before and after the liberal revolution’s victory.
The historical defeats do not prevent the theory from being personified by the action of masses. Before the Russian masses launch their victorious attack, thanks also to their fight experience of 1905 (here lies the essence of Lenin’s work), a party, the bolshevik, is drawn up on the right theory: the masses do not stop with democracy, which means dictatorship of capital, they thrust to the proletarian dictatorship. Lenin masterly establishes that between the two outcomes there’s not the difference of one stage, but rather an abyss, separating the modern world in two fields of pitiless struggle.
Whoever intelligently reads «‹Left-wing› communism» can only draw from it our own thesis, that the revolutionary theory arises at a particular historical moment, rather than that, peculiar to Moscow renegades, according to which theory is continuously elaborated and modified. Such a moment, both for Lenin and for us, was not October 1917, but rather 1847, when the proletarian class condensed in its historical programme, in its Manifesto, the experience of the bourgeois revolution’s betrayal, as well as the destruction of the lie of democracy as a human and eternal conquest.
To fraudulently take from Lenin the permit to «adopt» the theory in order to «enrich it» with the facts of modern times (shitty times!); here is the infamous finishing line, the democracy at large, which is nothing but bourgeois democracy, raised to an idol of humanity and, which is most terrible, of the proletariat!
The fact that a vital duty was that of demolishing petty-bourgeois infantilism is clearly demonstrated by Lenin’s defence (chapter on Germany) against the attack on the fundamental party form.
Such an attack had already been carried on in the same way by right-wing opportunists, the revisionists. In Germany, in Italy, in Russia, and everywhere, they reasoned in the same insidious way. The masses were put ahead of the class, the class ahead of the party. Lenin’s and our position is exactly the opposite.
We may own up that Lenin might have found excessive our way of advocating the above in front of everything and everybody. Let’s own up that on the eve of the decisive battle it is grave to lose some battalions, some divisions, by too brutally rejecting those mistrustful towards the party; and that it may be excess of doctrinairism. It would have been by the way an excess of brutality exactly toward immediatist infantilism, which sees the class acting without its vital intermediary, the party, and which, with its vain purity, will end up clouding the class within the masses and finally the masses within the people. This is the fatal slope of all opportunism: from the proletarian party to a mixture of petty-bourgeois strata, and finally to the totally bourgeois people’s democracy.
As even the opportunists of the old right were on the same path. They had belittled everywhere the party form. The yellow Trade Unions and their bonzes’ bureaucracy were stronger in number, and therefore more important within the party’s organisation and political structure. The M.P.s were more important than the party sections and militants, because they represented a far broader mass, the electors, most of whom were not party members. The trade unions’ bonzes, through the party M.P.s, negotiated with the employers and with bourgeois ministries, made alliances with parties that represented petty-bourgeois strata, and this chain ended up with a subordination to the popular, national, inter-classist interest; as we see today, under our very eyes, is the behaviour of those who do not decide to repudiate the name of communists and… leninists.
Their scheme suits the legend of the «July uprising». The big party in Italy is today corrupt to the bone, it ruined the preparation of the masses, and deprived them of all class energy. It lies on an interclassist electoral mass, where the petty-bourgeois strata prevail on real proletarians; the tendency of the party bonzes is to reach the intermediate bourgeois strata, and to isolate from the people only a minority of high-rank prelates and alleged captains of industry. How will such a party leave that abyss: will the not better defined masses (and, according to another, empty but fashionable formula, the young masses) give a lesson to this party, which, always ready to renew its theory, makes a leftist revision, and takes a revolutionary attitude?
Such a way is only illusion before a so scoundrelish and counterrevolutionary party. But a 1960 infantilism, worse than the one forgiven by Lenin in view of the horror of the enormities of the right-wingers of the time (though less grave than today's), would be to say: Masses must act with no class spirit, with no wage labourers’ pre-eminence or with the latters’ subjection to students, intellectuals and the like, while abolishing any party organisation. Action is all!
Hence the passages we abundantly quoted from Lenin: the political party as the prime revolutionary factor; wage labourers of both city and country as the sole revolutionary class; the mass of semi-proletarian workers, whose physical movement may be of help in a more than ripe situation, on the condition that the proletarian party is strong in both theory and strategy, as subordinated to the class. Lenin pointed out the prime conditions, i.e. discipline and centralisation, within both party and class. Party, centralisation, organisational and class discipline, all of these issues advocated by the Left since before the war; being the hesitation in accepting them peculiar to the infantilist immediatism. We believe being no longer necessary to dwell on this any further.
The contemporary world as a whole, and its literature as well, lives of set phrases, which is peculiar to the epochs of decadence. That whoever opposes today’s unbelievable repudiations hasn’t learnt from Lenin that tactics must be flexible, is one of such fixed ideas. We won’t deny that Lenin used that term. But Lenin was rigid, when he taught to be flexible. He wanted the party to be flexible like a steel blade, which is the hardest material to break. But these people who dare speak about him are flexible like ricotta, not to mention another material, better suited to symbolise them; i.e., that becomes strained, not to resume the inexorable direction of the sword that goes to the heart of the enemy, but rather like a trampled turd.
Lenin doesn’t want to make doctrinairism and spares the use of his doctrinal power: it isn’t convenient to risk blinding those we intend to enlighten. He, to the delight of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals grown up, as in Turin, in the idealist school, wants to be concrete and gives practical examples, and we'll keep to them. Woe betide the turd willing to be abstract. After years of drying up, he isn’t even able to be concrete. In English concrete is a mixture of sand, gravel and cement: once it’s set, of course. The Italian concretes haven’t set yet, after so many years; they're on the contrary beyond all limits of softness.
We bolsheviks, says Lenin, have not been intransigent in the pre-revolution years; we made deals, alliances, compromises with bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties. But it does not justify the English, French, etc., allies of the bourgeoisie in power. Where is then the distinction between revolutionary flexibility and surrender to the bourgeoisie? The issue is not a trivial one.
First of all we answered Lenin that before the fall of the despotic feudal regime, in keeping with an old marxist principle, a block of the workers’ party with petty-bourgeois and bourgeois democratic parties is not to be excluded. As Lenin and Trotsky have pointed out, Marx and Engels said that in 1848. In such a situation, as in China and colonies during the present century, those parties have an insurrectional programme and task. The solution we're looking for is not a lesson of recent history or of the 20th century: Lenin shows us that it’s already complete in Marx: if this is doctrinairism, then he is the doctrinarian. It is a matter of making compromises with those movements but, within ours, to never lose sight of the fact that at the very next stage they'll turn into enemies, and that our action – even if thanks to deception, but deception for them not for ourselves – will easily be directed toward their defeat and destruction. A flexible manoeuvre then; but, if the preparation of our party’s ranks is omitted, if the ideology of the temporary allies is not unceasingly denounced, it will turn into our own ruin and defeat.
We might call the above a «schema» (another word that is fashionable to laugh at), a theoretical schema in Marx because it has not yet achieved its whole development, while for Lenin it becomes historical praxis, and real action in October 1917. This is clear and it is likewise clear that doctrine has come before action, and that victory rewarded the right doctrine. Lenin was afraid that we kids would have inferred: let’s find the right doctrine and then stop, with our hands in our pockets. We did our best not to deserve such a bad reputation; but a far, a thousand times worse reputation is that of those who bent (with immense elasticity, but still bent) to the enemy’s defeatism.
Lenin’s examples should have referred to the situations of full bourgeois regimes; and should have dealt with allies and «compromises» only within the field of the «workers»' parties, which at the time were of three types: second, second and a half and third Internationals. Such was the nature of the discussion after Lenin. The champions of the united front actually invoked him; but they did not believe that the theory of compromise (as we foresaw and feared) would have spread to the bourgeois and capitalist parties and states with just a smattering of eternal «democracy»; the latter being the same justification advanced by the 1914 cads for their shift to the defence of the fatherland in the imperialist war.
Let us therefore take Lenin’s examples on the bolshevik tactics under tsarism. They're sufficient to know who understands Lenin and who repudiates him.
Lenin recalls that in 1901–02 the bolsheviks (then socialdemocrats) made a short- lived but formal alliance with Struve, leader of bourgeois liberalism (the famous legal marxists). But how, under which conditions?
«While at the same time being able to wage an unremitting and most merciless ideological and political struggle against bourgeois liberalism and against the slightest manifestations of its influence in the working-class movement.» (op. cit., p. 551)
Is it possible to say anything even remotely similar about the behaviour of French or Italian communists within the partisan Resistance? Apart from the astronomical distance between capitalist fascism and the feudal tsarism, nothing was done as to the ideological battle against bourgeois radical or christian democrats, and their influence has been allowed to spread among proletarians who were already quite antimasonic & anticatholic…
Lenin mentions the pre-revolutionary agreements of bolsheviks with both mensheviks and populists, and justifies them with the example of the final defeat and dispersion of such parties. He finally takes delight – with a true polemicist’s «flirtatiousness» – in mentioning the most famous compromise, that after the revolution with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, a peasant and petty-bourgeois party. This «block», not made in bourgeois times but after the seizure of power, ensured the majority in the soviets and made possible the dispersion of the Constituent Assembly.
Such a block was dissolved by the Socialist-Revolutionaries themselves, owing to disagreements upon the acceptation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The allies broke off for «intransigence» and «hatred of compromises». The bolshevik party was on the verge of scission. The «S.R.s» attempted an armed rebellion, and had to be repressed. In this succession of turning-points Lenin was always on the side of the marxist revolutionary line; the infantiles did not understand him, but in Italy we were with him, even when direct communications were cut.
It was, Lenin says here, a compromise with a whole non-proletarian class, the small peasants. But, although it was possible to do and peasants kept to their revolutionary commitment in the epic struggle against the whites of all sorts (who hoped to see them split from the city workers), the greatness of Lenin was that he never doctrinally compromised the marxist agrarian theory, and that he carried out the arduous manoeuvres with his eyes always fixed on the final goal. Under Stalin such a powerful policy was reversed and betrayed, while the hegemony of the proletariat on the peasants was gradually demolished (up to today’s shames), to give life to the petty-bourgeois Kolkhos form. The flexibility of the revolutionary manoeuvre was substituted by the shame of the renunciations that made of Russia a non-proletarian country, ruled by such lackeys of world capital as petty-bourgeois; and the pseudo-doctrine of coexistence does, not express but this type of compromise, which is put by Lenin’s historical analysis among those of traitors.
The impudence of Moscow’s samhedrin and of its satellites is boundless when they outline, of course in the name of marxism and leninism, a way to the victory of socialism, according to which the latter would conquer the states of the western block by means of a peaceful and imitative (the model!) penetration, such as the one condemned by Lenin for Russia 1920, as to the passages we have quoted. And today, through new laborious as well as camouflaged compromises, this absurd theory takes, forty years later, the senseless form of the leader-state to which all the other eighty parties pay their mystical and vile respects.
Today’s model, although with a big industrial and capitalist development, shines above all in the very field of industrial production for decentralisation, mercantilism, and for its always more shameless entrance into the world monetary gambling den.
Such stuff is concealed under a doctrinairism (that really of a counterfeit metal) which excuses its faults by means of a condemnation of a mere stalinist ring against dogmatism and sectarianism, and of an even more debauched censure against revisionism.
What is revisionism? It is the negation of what the untouchable corpus of marxism had engraved in granite, which had been concealed for forty years in the drawers of its depositories, the Germans, and that Lenin brought back to the revolutionary light of triumph; as in these very pages it is reconsecrated for the centuries to come.
That historical, famous concealment of the doctrine tables enabled the placid sunsets socialists to mock the infantile and petty-bourgeois revolutionarism of anarchists who, although maintaining that the state form and social framework of exploitment would have collapsed after an imaginary battle, were the only ones to understand, during that nineteenth-century interval, that the proletariat would have destroyed the state and founded a stateless society.
Lenin describes once more the solution of Marx. It is a very simple one. One general battle will not be sufficient, if we don’t want the society to die of starvation, as the economical structure evolves in a rhythm that can be accelerated, but not to the extent of having an instantaneous transformation. But this coldly «scientifical» argument does not mean that the revolutionary party does not expect and want the catastrophe. The general and decisive battle will take place, but it won’t mark the end, starting from the next day, of both mercantile economy and the state. Here appears the fundamental function of dictatorship; revisionists, who revised Marx’s prophecy of the catastrophe, imprisoned the discovery of proletarian dictatorship, for which the French masses, almost devoid of doctrine in the scholastic sense, had already fought three times.
The economy will have the necessary time (the longest time in Russia, said Lenin «it was easier for us to start, it will be easier for you to continue» – all but model and guide!), but we'll have today’s class state blown up in the first day: from the next day, we'll have our ruling class state; dictatorship; economical evolution until classless communism. How long a time? Even fifty years in Russia, said the great bolsheviks, but maybe ten years in Europe, if the dictatorship will win there. Meantime, the state will pass away.
What therefore is revisionism, killer of the same marxism that is resuscitated by leninism? It is gradualism in both economy and politics, the idea of a course in which violence and class terror are no longer characters of the historical tragedy. And in which the socialist economic gradualism begins under the capitalist state.
Isn’t therefore the infamous manifesto of Moscow 1960 exactly revisionism? Isn’t it gradualism (which once again triumphs over Marx and Lenin, bound together in an historical tomb of oblivion) the perspective according to which – even without another world war, as expected by Joseph Stalin – a sort of polite plebiscite of the whole world population, after a succession of examples to be admired and models to be imitated, will smoothly lead the fake socialist system to spread step by step on the other side.
As Marx and Lenin hated the cowardly palinody of pacifists, in the same way this one must be cursed; being the most foul evolutive outlook of humanity’s life. If war really threatens it like a catastrophe, the dialectics of Marx and Lenin (which we know we are the only ones able to follow) points out that the only salvation lies in the theory of the catastrophe: where the glorious flame of the civil war overwhelms the coexistent and emulative league of exploiters and traitors.