Report on the question of the organization of our International Communist Current
One of the aims of the January Conference will be to give ourselves the means to organize and centralize the activity of the different groups of the current at an international level.
This act is a conscious step towards the formation of a fully international organization.
In order to understand the significance of this, we must deal with three main questions:
I. Why an international political organization?
II. Why engage in such a process now?
III. What is the role of the ICC in the process which leads to the formation of the world party of the proletariat?I. Why an international political organization?
1. The political organization is an organ of the class, engendered by the class in order for it to fulfill a specific function: to help develop the consciousness of the class. The political organization does not bring this consciousness from ‘outside’; neither does it create the process of this appropriation of consciousness. It is on the contrary a product of this process just as it is an indispensable instrument of its development. From a certain standpoint one could say that the political organization is as necessary for the collective elaboration of the consciousness of the class, as written and oral expression is for the development of individual thought.
In the general functioning of the political organization of the proletariat, two main tasks can be distinguished:
a. Permanent analysis of social reality, aimed at making more precise the historic interests of the proletariat.(the appropriation of the lessons of the historic experience of the class and the defining of the proletarian position vis-a-vis each concrete situation). This is the task of constant elaboration of the communist programme, that is to say, the definition of the goals and the methods of the historic struggle of the working class.
b. Intervention within the class in order to aid in the conscious carrying out of its historic programme and so that it can appropriate for itself the means for its revolutionary task.
2. The working class is not the only class to exist internationally. The bourgeoisie and the various peasant strata are to be found in all countries. But the proletariat is the only class that can organize itself and act collectively at an international level because it is the only class which has no national interests. Its emancipation is only possible on a world scale.
That is why its political organization inevitably tends to be centralized and international. The proletariat creates its political organization in its own image.
Whether it is a question of political analysis or of intervention, the proletarian political organization is dealing with a world-wide reality. Its centralized and international character is not the result of any moral or ethical demand, but a necessary condition for its effectiveness and therefore for its very existence.
3. The international character of the proletarian political organization has been affirmed throughout the history of the workers' movement. Already in 1847, the Communist League, through its watchword, "Workers of the world, unite, the workers have no fatherland," proclaimed its international character. After 1864, political, organizations took the form of ‘Internationals’. Up until the triumph of the Stalinist counter-revolution and of ‘socialism in one country’ only the failure of the IInd International really broke this internationalist continuity.
The internationalism of the IInd International, which existed in the period of stability of the major industrial powers, inevitably suffered from the confinement of proletarian struggles to the framework of reforms: the horizon of the proletarian struggle objectively submitted to nationalist restrictions. Thus the treason of the IInd International was not an isolated, unexpected phenomenon. It was the worst outcome of thirty years of confinement of workers' struggles within national frameworks. In fact, right from its inception, the IInd International represented a regression in relation to the International Workingmen’s Association. Parliamentarism, trade unionism, the establishment of mass parties, in sum, the orientation of the workers' movement towards the reformist struggle, contributed to the fragmentation of the world workers' movement along national lines. The revolutionary task of the proletariat can only be conceived and realised on an international scale. Otherwise it is nothing but utopia. But from the very fact that capital is divided into nations, the .struggles for the acquisition of reforms (when they were possible) did not require an international arena to be successful. It was not world capital which decided to concede this or that amelioration to the proletariat of this or that nation. It was in each country and in a struggle against their own national bourgeoisie that the workers pressed home their demands.
Proletarian internationalism is not a pious hope, nor an abstract ideal, but a necessity imposed by the nature of the proletariat’s historic task.
That is why the first world war, by decisively demonstrating the historic unviability of the national framework and by putting the proletarian revolution as the order of the day, had to .lead, after the collapse of the IInd International, to the most energetic re-affirmation of proletarian internationalism within the workers’ movement. This was the task imposed on Zimmerwald and Kienthal, and which then demanded the constitution of a new International, the Communist International.
The IIIrd International was founded at the very beginning of the ‘era of the socialist revolution’ and its most important characteristic inevitably had to be its intransigent internationalism. Its demise came when it became unable to maintain this internationalism. This was the theory of socialism in one country.
Since then it has not been by chance that the word internationalist has been part of the name of many of the main organized reactions against the Stalinist counter-revolution. Capitalist decadence is synonymous with the necessity of the proletarian revolution and proletarian revolution is synonymous with internationalism.
4. If at all times proletarian political organizations have affirmed their international character, today this affirmation is more than ever the indispensable precondition for a proletarian organization.
It is because of this that we must understand the importance, the profound significance, of the internationalist effort of our current.II. Why engage in such a process now?
1. When one looks at the development of our international current one can’t but be struck by the weakness of its numerical weight. In the past, even in particularly unfavourable circumstances, international organizations were in one way or another the end product, the crowning of various national activities. With our current the process has been quite the opposite: international existence appeared much more as a point of departure for national activities than as a result of the latter. All the groups in the current were conceived as an integral part of the international current even before they published the first issue of their national journal.
One could pick out two main reasons for this state of affairs:
a. The organic rupture resulting from fifty years of counter-revolution which, because of the weakness it has caused in the revolutionary movement, has forced revolutionaries, right from the beginning of the resurgence of class struggles, to concentrate their weak forces in order to carry out their tasks.
b. The definite disappearance, after fifty years of capitalist decadence, of all illusions about the possibility of any real action on a national scale.
If the point of departure for our current was international activity it is thus because above all it is the concrete expression of a particular historic situation.
2. In fact with the creation of an international bureau we are not suddenly embarking upon the process of formation of the international organization. This process has existed since the beginning of the different groups of the current. All we are really doing is consciously recognizing this process by going beyond the stage of a certain passive, anarchic spontaneity with regard to the objective conditions for revolutionary work, to a stage of conscious organization which creates, by its own volition, the best conditions for the development of this process.
There is at the basis of all collective activity a degree of spontaneity (action which is unpremeditated as regards objective conditions). The development towards organization is itself a spontaneous product of this activity. But organization is nevertheless a supercession (not a negation) of spontaneity. Just as in the collective activity of the whole class, so in the activity of revolutionaries, organization creates the conditions for:
a. consciousness to arise out of the conditions which have been engendered by spontaneity.
b. the means to be provided for acting consciously and willingly upon the development of this process.
This is what we are doing in creating this international bureau and orientating ourselves towards the creation of a full international organization.
3. The organic rupture which the revolutionary movement has suffered since the revolutionary wave of the twenties weighs heavily on revolutionaries today, not only because of the difficulties which they encounter in trying to reappropriate the gains of past struggles but also because of the undue influence of petty-bourgeois student ideology within their ranks. The student movement, which was such a spectacular sign that capitalism was once again entering into crisis and into a new phase of proletarian struggle, inevitably served to infect the young revolutionary groups with its world-view. (It could hardly have been otherwise.)
One of the main manifestations of this weakness was concretized in the problems of organization. All the habits of the university milieu constituted an enormous burden which the revolutionary movement had to carry on its shoulders: the difficulty of conceiving theoretical work as a reflection of the real world divided into antagonistic classes, (which took the form of a jealous protection of ‘one’s own' little thoughts ‘in themselves’, in the same way as academics sit on their own college theses), a difficulty in grasping theoretical activity as a moment of general activity and an instrument of the latter, a difficulty in understanding the importance of practical will, of consciously organized activity, in sum, the inability to carry out, in all its depth and with all its implications, the old marxist motto “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change it.”
It is this incomprehension which expressed itself in the criticisms of our current made by elements such as the ‘Ex-Lutte Ouvriere Tendance’ in Revolution Internationale,
For these elements, our international current would be an artificial invention and the organizational effort to create it would be pure voluntarism. Arguments of this sort are based on two main ideas:
a. It would be ‘voluntarism’ because there exists a volition to ‘build’ an organization, whereas the latter can only be a natural product of an objective process independent of the will of the few individuals of the current.
b. It would be ‘artificial’ because the class struggle has not yet made that “qualitative leap” which will transform economic struggles into “revolutionary”, “communist” struggles.
Behind these pseudo-marxist ideas there lurks a total inability to grasp the essential foundation-stone of marxism: the will to act consciously for the revolutionary transformation of the world.
Against all idealist tendencies, marxism affirms the insufficiency of human will: man does not transform the world when he wants and how he wants. The concretization of all subjective volition depends on the existence of favourable objective conditions, effectively independent of this volition. But nothing could be more alien to Marxism than to transform the insufficiency of will into a complete negation of will. That would be to confuse marxism with its principal philosophic antagonist - empiricist, fatalistic positivism. Marxism makes a critique of voluntarism in order to affirm all the more strongly the importance of will. In affirming the necessity of objective conditions for the concretization of human will, marxism underlines above all the necessary character of this will.
The idea that revolutionary organization builds itself voluntarily, consciously, with premeditation far from being a voluntarist idea is on the contrary one of the concrete results of all Marxist praxis.
Understanding the necessity of objective conditions for beginning the construction of the revolutionary party does not mean that this organization is an automatic product of these conditions. This means in reality that it is necessary to understand' the importance of subjective will at the moment when these conditions are historically present.
Let us now examine this accusation of artificiality.
According to the anti-organizationists, the objective conditions which must subsist at the beginning of a process of building the party are none other than the openly revolutionary struggle of the proletariat - the destruction of the capitalist state, and even the installation of communist relations of production.
The revolutionary party is not a decorative organ whose task is to embellish the dish served up by the spontaneous outburst of revolutionary struggle. It is on the contrary a vital, powerful element of this struggle, an indispensable instrument of the class. If the Russian Revolution is the proof positive of the indispensable character of this instrument, the German Revolution is the negative proof of this. The inability of Luxemburg’s tendency to understand the necessity for beginning the construction of the party before the first outbreak of revolutionary struggle was to weigh heavily on the course of events in Germany.
To understand the party as an indispensable instrument for the revolutionary struggle is to understand the necessity to actively aid its construction as soon as the conditions for a revolutionary confrontation have ripened.
In fact, a failure to grasp the importance of the construction of the world political organization of the proletariat when the conditions for a revolutionary confrontation are ripening means an inability to understand the importance of the role of this organization.
There is no infallible index for measuring the rising wave of class struggle. In certain circumstances even a dimunition of hours lost through strikes can hide a maturation of revolutionary consciousness. Today, however, we do possess two indices which enable us to be certain that since 1968 we have been moving in a revolutionary direction:
a. The deepening and increasing acceleration of the crisis.
b. The existence of a level of combativity in the world working class which demonstrates the fact that just as the bourgeoisie can “less and less continue to govern as before”, the proletariat “can and will less and less put up with lining as before”. That is to say that the conditions of a revolutionary situation are ripening irreversibly.
In these conditions, the work of building the political organization is not an artificial wish but an imperious necessity.
4. For revolutionaries today the danger is not to be in advance of the revolutionary process but to be caught up behind it.III. What is the role of the International Current in the process which leads to the formation of the world party of the proletariat?
1. In order to understand the importance and the significance of what we are doing in setting up an international bureau, we must pose the problem of the relationship between our international current and any group which may arise defending class positions.
We have often asserted that it was the task of revolutionaries to constitute a pole of regroupment of the proletarian vanguard. Today we must understand that we must constitute the pivot, the ‘skeleton’ of the future world party of the proletariat.
2. From the theoretical point of view, the current’s platform, because it gathers together the essence of the historic experience of the proletariat, constitutes the rallying point in any group which situates itself on the terrain of the historic struggle of the proletariat.
Contrary to what the EX-L.O. Tendance asserted in one of its texts, there are not “several possible coherences” which can encompass class positions. In the last instance, theoretical coherence is not a question of syllogisms, or of pure logical reasoning. It is the expression of an objective, material coherence which is unique: that of the practice of the class.
It is because it synthesises this practical experience that our platform is the only possible framework for the activity of a revolutionary organization.
3. From the organizational point of view, could there exist a group which had the same positions as the international current but which did not integrate itself organizationally? Bordiga emphasized - quite rightly - that the party, far from being simply one programme was also one will. This will does not consist of pious vows or ‘sincere’ wishes. It’s persevering determination for revolutionary intervention. And as we have seen, this intervention is synonymous with organization and thus with organizational experience.
There exist organizational gains just as there are theoretical gains, and the one conditions the other in a permanent way. Organized activity is not an immediate phenomenon, given right from the start, spontaneously. It is the result of an experience and a consciousness which is not to be confused with that of one or several ‘individuals’. It results uniquely from a collective praxis all the more rich because it is collective.
That is why at times when a great revolutionary organization was in existence a split was something which one hesitated about for a long time. The organic continuity which links revolutionary organizations since 1847 is not a mere ‘tradition’ or a product of luck. It expresses, as a reflection of the continuity of the proletarian struggle, the necessity to conserve the organizational gains which the proletarian political organizations have bequeathed.
That is why the international organizations of the proletariat have always been constituted around a pivot, around a current which not only defended in a more coherent fashion the theoretical gains of the proletariat, but which also possessed a practical organizational experience which was adequate to the task of acting as a pillar of the new organization.
This role was played by the current of Marx and Engels for the Ist International, by Social Democracy for the IInd, and by the Bolshevik Party for the IIIrd.
the workers movement had not gone through the 50 yr. break which
separates the Communist International from today, it is without doubt
the ‘left’ of the latter (German left, Italian left) which would
have assumed the task this time. From the standpoint of political
positions there is no doubt that the
next international will be a continuity of the ‘left’; but from the organizational point of view this pivot has still to be built.
Since the recent resurgence of the class struggle, our international current has taken on an organizational practice based on the proletariat’s class positions. That is to say that its praxis has become, with all its weaknesses and errors, the heritage of the proletarian struggle. The current has thus recreated a new source of organic continuity, by being the only organization to have assured a continuity in its practice within the framework of class positions.
4. The international current which today is taking a step towards centralization must therefore, and can effectively consider that its essential task is to constitute itself as this pivot, which is indispensable to the constitution of the next international, the world party of the proletariat.
Those who see in this affirmation pure megalomania are not being modest but irresponsible. The international current would commit suicide if it was incapable of fully taking responsibility for what it objectively is.