The Dutch and German Communist Left

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The Dutch communist left is one of the major components of the revolutionary current which broke away from the degenerating Communist International in the 1920s. Well before Trotsky's Left Opposition, and in a more profound way, the communist left had been able to expose the opportunist dangers which threatened the International and its parties and which eventually led to their demise. In the struggle for the intransigent defence of revolutionary principles, this current, represented in particular by the KAPD in Germany, the KAPN in Holland, and the left of the Communist Party of Italy animated by Bordiga, came out against the International's policies on questions like participation in elections and trade unions, the formation of 'united fronts' with social democracy, and support for national liberation struggles. It was against the positions of the communist left that Lenin wrote his pamphlet Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder; and this text drew a response in Reply to Lenin, written by one of the main figures of the Dutch left, Herman Gorter.

In fact, the Dutch left, like the Italian left, had been formed well before the first world war, as part of the same struggle waged by Luxemburg and Lenin against the opportunism and reformism which was gaining hold of the parties of the Second International. It was no accident that Lenin himself, before reverting to centrist positions at the head of the Communist International, had, in his book State and Revolution, leaned heavily on the analyses of Anton Pannekoek, who was the main theoretician of the Dutch left. The continuity and experience of the Dutch left in the combat for the defence of revolutionary positions led it to become the main theoretical inspiration for the German left (KAPD and AAU), which it survived in the 1930s in the shape of the GIK (Group of Internationalist Communists) animated by Pannekoek and Canne-Meijer. After the disappearance of the GIK in 1940, the 'council communist' (or 'councilist') current - a name which the German-Dutch left gave itself in opposition to 'party communism' or 'state communism' - had a certain renaissance with the formation of the Spartacusbond and to some extent of the group Daad en Gedachte. Spartacusbond disappeared at the end of the 1970s, while Daad and Gedachte suspended publication in 1998.

Despite its weaknesses, in particular its underestimation of the role of communist organisations which was to play a big role in the gradual disappearance of this current, the Dutch left made a vital contribution to the revolutionary movement during the terrible counter-revolution which descended on the working class after the revolutionary wave of 197-23. This contribution was taken up in the most complete way after the second world war by the Gauche Communiste de France, whose positions were the basis for those of the International Communist Current. The GCF emerged from the Italian left, which had achieved a high level of clarity thanks to its correct conception of the role of communist fractions in a period of counter-revolution. This is why this document is an indispensable complement to The Communist Left of Italy, already published by the ICC, for all those who want to know the real history of the communist movement behind all the falsifications which Stalinism and Trotskyism have erected around it.

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