Convulsions in the revolutionary milieu
The International Communist Party (Communist Program) at a turning point in its history
At the end of the sixties, the working class put an end to fifty years of counter-revolution by engaging in struggle internationally (1968 in France, 1969 in Italy, 1970 in Poland, 1975-6 in Spain, etc). At the present time the mass strike in Poland has marked the highest point in a new period of struggle which will lead to class confrontations that will decide the fate of humanity: either revolution or war.
On an international scale, the bourgeoisie recognizes what a mortal danger the combativity of the workers means for its system. In order to confront the danger of the mass strike the capitalist class collaborates across national frontiers and even across the imperialist blocs. The proletariat will not face a surprised and disconcerted bourgeoisie as it did in the first wave of struggle in 1968; it will confront a bourgeoisie which is forewarned and prepared to use its capacities of mystification, derailment and repression up to the hilt. The process of the international unification of the working class in its struggle for the destruction of capitalism promises to be a long and difficult one.
This is the reality confronting the revolutionary minorities who are participating in the process of the unification of the working class and in the development of its consciousness. Far from being up to the demands of the present period, revolutionary organizations are in an extreme minority. They exist in a situation of political confusion and profound organizational dispersion.
For more than a year, the weaknesses have been accentuated by splits and the disappearance of groups. This phenomenon is culminating today with the crisis shaking the International Communist Party (ICP) (Communist Program). After a wave of exclusions and numerous departures, the majority of the organization has taken up the most chauvinist and nationalist positions of the bourgeoisie, by taking sides in the imperialist war in the Middle East. This organization is paying the price of its political and organizational sclerosis.
The ICP has been unable to draw a critical balance sheet of the revolutionary wave between 1917-23 and the counter-revolution which followed it, of the positions of the Communist International and the left fractions which broke from it -- particularly on the union and national questions and on the question of the organization of revolutionaries and of the party. These, together with its incapacity to understand the stakes of the present period, have led it straight to opportunism and activism and to the dislocation of the organization.
It is the responsibility of all revolutionary organizations to draw the lessons of this crisis which expresses the general weaknesses of the revolutionary movement today, and to actively ensure that the necessary and inevitable decantation does not lead to a dispersion of revolutionary energies. History does not pardon, and if revolutionary organizations today are not capable of living up to the demands of the situation, they will be swept away without recourse, weakening the working class in its task of defending the perspectives of communism in the course of its battles.
"A crisis which is very serious for us and whose repercussions will probably be decisive throughout the organization, has just exploded in the Party". (‘Better fewer, but better', Le Proletaire no.367, Il Programma Comunista, no. 20). The articles in the press tell us of cascading departures:
-- the split of those who were regrouped around El Oumami, which used to be the organ of the ICP for Algeria, and now has become "the organ of Algerian Leninist Communists", defending bourgeois nationalist positions in a pure third ordlist style;
-- the departure of the majority of members in Paris and a few others scattered around France "amongst which were those with leadership responsibilities", apparently on positions close to E1 Oumami, with a plan by some to bring out a magazine, Octobre.
-- "In Italy, the crisis has shaken all the sections because of its suddenness, but only some comrades in Turin and some comrades in Florence (we don't know how many) have been involved in the liquidation" (I1 Programma Comunista, 29.10.82).
-- the disappearance of the section and of the publication Proletarier.
In giving this news, the press of the ICP doesn't speak of:
-- the expulsion last year of sections in the south of France, including Marseilles, by the same leadership who have now left in France, and of sections in Italy, including Ivrea.
It appears that those who were expelled put in question the whole policy of setting up a panoply of ‘committees' (‘committee against redundancies', ‘committee against repression', committees in the army, of squatters, feminists, etc) , whose objective was to better ‘implant' the Party inside ‘social struggles';
-- the departure of other elements who protested against these expulsions, and individual resignations for unclear reasons.
-- the disappearance of the ‘Latin American sector'.
The whole of the ICP has been thrown into disarray in a few months without any real clarity. Why is there a crisis? And why now?
The events taking place in today's period of mounting class struggle are starting to dissipate the mist of bourgeois ideology in the heads of workers. Further, they put the political positions of revolutionary minorities to the test by sweeping aside the debris of groups made gangrenous by bourgeois ideology and by shaking or dislocating ambiguous and useless groups.
In this sense, the crisis in the ICP is the most spectacular manifestation of the convulsions of the revolutionary milieu today. A year ago, when we spoke of convulsions, splits and regression in the revolutionary milieu (International Review, no.28) in face of the ‘years of truth', the whole political milieu turned a deaf ear. Perhaps today these people are going to wake up! The revolutionary milieu (including the ICP) didn't want to create a framework of international conferences allowing the decantation of political positions in a clear way; today they submit to a process of decantation by the ‘force of events', with all the attendant risks of a loss of militant energies. Even today reality is exposing the programmatic weaknesses of the ICP, it is still up to revolutionaries to draw up a balance sheet in order to avoid repeating the same errors ad infinitum.
It cannot be denied that for a long time the ICP has been a pole of reference, in some countries, for elements searching for class positions. But by basing itself on an inadequate and erroneous political program and on the internal structure of a sect, the ICP has been over the years, growing more and more sclerotic. Its political regression was revealed in the test of events: faced with the massacre in Lebanon, the ICP called on the proletarians in the Middle East to fight "to the last drop of blood" in defense of the Palestinian cause in Beirut. Some months later, the organization burst apart.
The crisis can't be explained by mistakes ‘made by the leadership' or by ‘tactical errors', as both the splitters and the remaining ICP seems to believe. The mistakes are programmatic and lie at the very root of the constitution of the ICP (see the articles on p.15 and p.20 in this issue). Today they are paying for these errors. The ‘return to Lenin' in order to support the ‘glorious struggle for national liberation', which the splitters advocate, in order quite simply to cover up their Maoist leanings, is very close to the position of the ICP. If the ICP is today only hanging by a thread, this way of explaining the crisis in terms of ‘tactical errors' or ‘mistakes of the leadership' is going to definitively finish it off.
A crisis which illustrates the weakness of a conception of organization
The bluff of the ICP
The crisis today leaves us with a somber balance sheet for "tomorrow's compact and powerful party". It has led, according to the ICP's press, "to the organizational collapse of the international centre and the disappearance of the former editions of Proletaire, and to the departure of all the responsible centers in France". (Le Proletaire, no.387). The militants who remain in the ICP were not aware of what was going on. They were reduced to making appeals in the press for members who wanted to remain in the party to express themselves in writing to the box address. It's unbelievable that they have had to resort to methods of communication that give the state such an easy means of identification.
The famous and arrogant ‘responsible centers' left taking with them material, and money which included the dues which had been paid that very day by local sections (according to an ICP militant in Paris). We see here the habits of bourgeois political gangsterism totally foreign to the proletariat which we unambiguously branded as such at the time of the ‘Chenier affair' during the crisis of the ICC (International Review, no.28). The grand, high-sounding words on the ‘centralized' pure and hard party were only a bluff. The ICP is collapsing like a house of cards: "the crisis was expressed by a decentralized and localist activity, covered up by a facade of centralization" (Il Programma Comunista, 29.10.82).
The grand speeches on ‘organic centralism' hid a federalism of the worst kind where each part of the organization ended up only doing what it decided to do, a flabby structure open to all the influences of bourgeois ideology, a true nursery of irresponsible people, of apprentice bureaucrats and future recruiting sergeants for imperialist massacres, as has already happened for the Middle East.
After having prattled on for forty years about the party which ‘organizes' the working class, you can't fall any lower than this.
Perhaps this crisis will serve as a lesson to all the groups in the present movement who reduce any debate to the question of the party, who bestow upon themselves titles of glory which they have done nothing to merit, who shackle any real progress towards a true party of the working class by their absurd pretensions today. To explain all the difficulties of the class struggle internationally as being due to the absence of the party, to put forward the idea that this eucharistic presence is the only perspective for solving everything, as the ICP has done for years, is not only false and ridiculous it also has a cost. As we said in International Review no.14:
"The drama of Bordigism is that it wants to be what it isn't -- the Party -- and doesn't want to be what it is: a political group. Thus it doesn't accomplish, except in words, the tasks of the party, because it can't accomplish them; and it doesn't take on the tasks of a real political group, which to its eyes are just petty. (‘A Caricature of the Party: the Bordigist Party').
Where then is this famous ‘monolithic bloc' of a party? This party without faults? This ‘monolithism' asserted by the ICP has only ever been a Stalinist invention. There never were ‘monolithic' organizations in the history of the workers' movement. Constant discussion and organized political confrontation within a collective and unitary framework is the condition for the true solidarity, homogeneity and centralization of a proletarian political organization. By stifling any debate, by hiding divergences behind the word ‘discipline', the ICP has only compressed the contradictions until an explosion was reached. Worse, by preventing clarification both outside and inside the organization, it has numbed the vigilance of its militants. The Bordigist sanctification of hierarchical truth and the power of leaders have left the militants bereft of theoretical and organizational weapons in the face of the splits and resignations. The ICP seems to recognize this when it writes:
"We intend to deal (with these questions) in a more developed way in our press, by placing the problems which are being posed to the activity our party before our readers". (1l Programma, idem)
For the moment these words seem more like a wink to the militants who have left in a state of complete political confusion, some of whom must be aware of the mire into which they have sunk, than a real recognition of the bankruptcy of the ICP, ‘alone in the world', as it describes itself. The recognition of the necessity to open up the debate on the "problems being posed to the activity" and the actual opening up of discussions both internally and externally, is one of the conditions for keeping the ICP within the proletariat, for fighting against the political decay which is gnawing at the organization. The ICP has experienced other splits in its forty years of existence, but today's one is not only shaking its organizational framework, but also the fundamentals of its political trajectory, placing before it the alternative: third worldism or marxism.
Internationalism against any form of nationalism
The open nationalism of El Oumami
El Oumami broke with the ICP because their defense of the PLO in Beirut had met with resistance. But judging by the positions of the ICP on the question, this resistance must have been rather weak. The only point at issue seems to have been how far one should go in defending the PLO. El Oumami entitled the document in which it declared itself ‘From the program-party to the party of revolutionary action'. A whole program!
El Oumami defends the progressive character of the Palestinian national movement against "that cancer grafted onto the Arab body, the Zionist, colonialist entity, the mercenary, racist and expansionist state of Israel". For El Oumami it is out of the question to put on an equal footing the "colonialist-Settlers' state" (Etats-pied-noir) and the "legitimate states" of the "Arab world".
This type of distinction has always been the argument used by the bourgeoisie to enlist the working class into war. Yes, all capitalist states are enemies of the revolution, so we are told, but there is enemy no.1 and enemy no.2. For the first world war German Social Democracy said in essence ‘let us fight against Russian despotism'; for the other side, it was ‘let's fight against Prussian militarism'. In the second world war, it was with the same language that all the ‘anti-fascists' with the Stalinists at their head, enlisted the proletarians, by calling on them to participate in fighting enemy no.1, the ‘fascist state', in order to defend the ‘democratic' state.
For E1 Oumami, the ‘Jewish union sacree' has made class antagonisms disappear in Israel. It is useless to make appeals to the proletariat in Israel. This is precisely what the Stalinists said during the Second World War when they talked about the ‘accursed German ‘people'. And when, after a ‘Solidarity with the PLO' demonstration, El Oumami, to the cries of "Revenge for Sabra and Chatila", bragged of having "captured a Zionist and giving him a good duffing up", it was the same as the French Communist Party's "to each a boche" at the end of the second world war.
E1 Oumami has joined the ranks of the bourgeoisie with this abject chauvinism. At this level, it is a Maoist, virulently third-worldist group, which doesn't merit much time being spent on it. But what is striking, in reading the texts, is that these nationalist chauvinists are full of the words of the Italian Left, that fraction of the International Communist Left which was one of those rare examples and the most important, that was able to resist the counter-revolution and maintain a proletarian internationalism in the whirlpool of the second imperialist war.
How could the ICP, ‘continuator' of the Italian Left, develop such a nationalist poison within it? How could it affect the Paris leadership, the editors of Proletaire, the editors of E1 Oumami, the section in Germany?
In the third part of this article we shall recall how the ICP conceived this child by forgetting a whole period of the history of the Italian Left between 1926 and 1943; how the ‘Party' was formed in 1943-45 with elements from the Partisans in Italy and the ‘antifascist committee of Brussels', how political confusions on the role of ‘anti-fascism' and the nature of the blocs set up at the end of the second world war were never clarified. Today all this has broken through to the surface.
Because the ICP nourished this child and even today still recognizes it, it is now the legitimate product of its own incoherence and degeneration.
The shameful nationalism of the ICP
"Naturally for the true revolutionary, there isn't a ‘Palestinian question', but only the struggle of the exploited of the Middle East, both Arabs and Jews, which is part of the general struggle of the exploited of the whole world". (Bilan, no. 2)
E1 Oumami deserts this position: schooled in the ICP's tactics, it poses the question not in terms of classes but in terms of nations. The future ‘party of revolutionary action' therefore puts its begetter, the ICP, against the wall, knowing full well its congenital incoherence, and hurls a defiance to it:
"Let's imagine for an instance the invasion of Syria by the Zionist army. Must we remain indifferent or worse (sic), call for revolutionary defeatism under the pretext that the Syrian state is a bourgeois state that needs to be overthrown? If the comrades of Proletaire are to be consistent, they must say so publicly. As for us, we openly take a position against Israel".
"Le Proletaire pronounces itself for the destruction of the Colonialist-Settler state of Israel. So be it. But at the same time, it supported the submission of the Palestinians to a national oppression in the Arab countries, when Israel entered Lebanon in order to continue Syria's work. So then, where does the specificity of Israel lie? Do we have to believe that the destruction of the Colonialist-Settler state has the same significance as the destruction of the Arab states, however reactionary they are?".
For E1 Oumami, it's clear: class criteria don't apply to an Arab proletarian. His state is an Arab state, and that's that. First the war, then the bright tomorrow.
But how does the ICP reply? What does the historic party, the intransigent defenders and heirs of the Italian Left have to say? Just a small "yes, but...".
The article ‘The national struggle of the Palestinian masses within the framework of the social movement in the Middle East', published in Le Proletaire and Il Programma, begins by preaching to us about pan-Arab feelings, Arab capital, the Arab unitary tendency and the Arab nation. It's like the dream of a university student who missed the mark at the end of a course on pan-Slavism, black studies and other Guevarist preoccupations from the sixties.
"Arab capital" doesn't owe allegiance to American capital - ...that would be a "superficial" vision. On the other hand, the "colonialist Jewish state" is "constitutionally" in this position. The ICP doesn't say that Israel is totally a classless bloc, but that the proletarians there seem to it to be "more anti-Arab than the bourgeoisie". Xenophobic sentiments of course never touch Palestinian or French or Italian proletarians. And to finish up, we are left with the lowest level of Maoism that could be cooked up -- a reheated version of the kind pioneered by the American ‘Students for a Democratic Society', who talked about the working class having "white skin privilege", through which they exploited the black workers of America.
As for the PLO, it remains a defender of widows and orphans in "the most advanced part of the gigantic social struggles in the Middle East".
The ICP affirms:
"It is precisely on the terrain of the common struggle (ie. common to the bourgeoisie and the proletariat) that Arab and Palestinian proletarians can acquire the strength to stand up against those who are their apparent allies, but who in reality are already their enemies".
Who? What? Ah, but it is only
"the appearance which is inter-classist",
Bordigist science tells us . .. In reality the class struggle
"lives inside physical subjects themselves... beyond, outside and even against the consciousness of individuals themselves".
The ICP replaces politics by individual psychology.
"It is necessary to strengthen the national struggle by taking out, the content which the bourgeoisie takes care to give it".
This is called defending the ‘double revolution' by doing so and not doing so....
The article of clarification (?) ends up quite simply, in delirium. It is necessary to "build an army under proletarian leadership thanks to the organizational work of communists", in order to create a "co-belligerent" with the PLO army.
The ICP dishes out the same lamentations as the splitters:
"The proletariat in the metropoles isn't really going into action".
"in its place, one could look to the movements of the young, of woman, to anti-nuclear and pacifist movements". (Le Proletaire, no. 367).
This is the sad refrain of all thirdworldists, students, the blase and the modernists: the proletariat is ‘letting us down'.
As the ICP claims to be the party already, its children can only want the movement ‘immediately', hence its description of those who resigned or split as ‘mouvementists'. But El Oumami was only taking the leftist tendencies in the ICP to their logical conclusion. It will not be easy for the ICP to get out of this leftist pit. It is not taking that path. For now, it means its ‘mea culpa' on exactly the same ground as E1 Oumami. The party doesn't know how to make "the tactical link" with the masses; it is still too ‘abstract' too ‘theoretical'. All this is false. The ICP uses the words ‘communist program' in order to cover up a ‘theoretical void' and a practice of supporting nationalism, of unprincipled activism. We are now going to examine in more detail this theoretical void and its practical ramifications.
The sources of errors: the theoretical void
"Men make their own history, but not of their own free will; not under circumstances they themselves have chosen but under the given and inherited circumstances with which they are directly confronted. The traditions of the dead generations weigh like a nightmare on the minds of the living". (Marx, The 18th Brumaire).
The CI and the Lefts
In order to explain the crisis of the ICP you have to go back to the roots of its political regression, to the lack of understanding of the errors of the Communist International and to the necessary critical re-examination of the past which the present milieu has neither wanted nor been able to do.
The Communist Left of the 20's didn't seek to explain the degeneration of the CI by a ‘crisis of leadership' nor simply by ‘tactical errors', as the ICP today wants to explain its own crisis. That would have been to reduce the crisis of the CI to the Trotskyist line that "the crisis of the revolutionary movement can be reduced to the crisis of the leadership", (Trotsky's Transitional Program). The Communist Left took into account that the CI was founded during an international revolutionary wave that arose suddenly from war and that it hadn't succeeded in grasping all the demands of the "new period of war and revolution". Each Congress of the CI testifies to the increasing difficulties felt in grasping the implications of the historic crisis of capitalism, in throwing off the old social democratic tactics, in understanding the role of the party and workers' councils. To draw all the programmatic implications of such a situation was impossible during their tumultuous times. To try today to elevate into dogmas everything that the CI produced means turning your back on the Communist Left.
The Lefts within the CI, the German, Italian, Dutch, British, Russian and American Lefts, were the expression of the avant-garde of the proletariat in the major industrial centers. With its hesitant and often confused formulations, the Left tries to pose the real problems of the new epoch: are the unions still working class organs or have they been caught up in the machinery of the bourgeois state? Should you finish with the tactics of ‘parliamentarism'? How should one understand the national struggle in the global period of imperialism? What is the perspective for the new Russian state?
The Communist Left never managed to act as a fraction within the 111rd International, to confront it with its positions. In 1921 (when the ‘provisional' banning of fractions in the Bolshevik Party in Russia took place), the German Left (KAPD) was excluded from the Communist International. The successive elimination of all the Lefts followed until the death of the CI with its acceptance of ‘socialism in one country'.
If the Lefts were already dislocated within the CI, they would be even more so outside it. At the time of the death of the CI, the German Left was already dispersed into several bits, fell into activism and adventurism, and was eliminated under the blows of a bloody repression; the Russian Left inside Stalin's prisons; the weak British and American Lefts had long since disappeared. Outside Trotskyism, it was essentially the Italian Left and what remained of the Dutch Left which, from 1928 on, would maintain a proletarian political activity -- without Bordiga and without Pannekoek -- by each making a different assessment of the experience they had had.
The revolutionary movement today still has a tendency to see only the partial and dislocated form of the Communist Left, as it was left by the counter-revolution. It speaks of this or that positive or negative contribution of this or that Left outside the global context of the period. The ICP has accentuated and aggravated this tendency by always reducing the Communist Left to the Italian Left, and then only the Left between 1920 and 1926. For the ICP, the German Left became a bunch of ‘anarcho-syndicalists', identical to the Gramsci tendency. This is not to say that one must not severely criticize the mistakes of the German Left, but within the ICP these become a total caricature. The idea of restoring the heritage of the Communist Left which was buried by the counterrevolution becomes in the ICP an endless process of republishing Bordiga's texts. The heritage of the Left is above all a critical work: the ICP has reduced it to the liturgy of a jealous sect. Thus, a whole generation of ICP militants only has a deformed idea of the reality of the International Communist Left and the political questions they posed.
The period of the ‘fraction' and Bilan (1926-1945)
The Bordigists never speak of this period of the Italian Left: it's not acknowledged by the ICP. What becomes then of the ‘organic continuity' which the ICP lays claim to in order to announce itself as the one and only heir of the Communist Left?
A whole twenty years of militant work. But ...Bordiga wasn't there during those years. The only explanation one can find is that ‘organic continuity' means the presence of a ‘genial leader'.
The Italian Left in exile around the magazine Bilan continued the work of the Communist Left with the watchword of the times: "Don't betray". The reader will find the details of this period in the ICC pamphlet called La Gauche Communiste d'Italie (available in French) .
In order to continue its activity during a period much more difficult than the present one, it rejected the method which consisted of turning Lenin into a bible. It gave itself the task of drawing the lessons of the defeat by sifting the experience ‘without censorship or ostracism' (Bilan, no.1). In exile, the Fraction enriched its contributions with the Luxemburgist heritage through, amongst other things, the support of militants in Belgium who rallied to the Italian Left. As the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left, it took up the whole work of the Left: by rejecting the defense of national liberation struggles; by putting into question the ‘proletarian' nature of the unions (without ending up with a definitive position); by analyzing the degeneration of the Russian revolution, the role of the state and the party. It outlined the historic perspective of the period as a course towards world imperialist war and this was done with such a degree of clarity that it was one of the only organizations to remain faithful to proletarian principles, by denouncing anti-fascism, popular fronts and participation in the defense of ‘Republican' Spain.
The war numerically weakened the Fraction but the ICP completely hides the fact that it did maintain its political activity during the war, as witnessed by the bulletins, leaflets, Conferences and constitution (in 1942) of the French circle of the Communist Left which published Internationalisme. Towards the end of the war, the Fraction excluded one of its leaders, Vercessi, condemning his participation in the Brussels ‘Anti-Fascist Committee', (just as it had excluded the minority which let itself be dragged into the anti-fascist enrolment for the war in Spain). In contrast, the ICP, being formed in Italy in 1943, flirted with the ‘Partisans' and made Appeals for a united class front with the Stalinist CP and the Socialist Party of Italy (see the article ‘The ICP: What it claims to be and what it is', in this issue of the IR).
The formation of the ICP
The International Communist Party of Italy was formed on the basis of a heterogeneous regroupment: it demanded the dissolution of the Fraction, pure and simple, while groups of the ‘Mezziogiorno', who had ambiguous relations with anti fascism, the Trotskyists and even the Stalinist CP, were integrated, albeit with Bordiga's caution, as constitutive groups. Vercessi, and the minority excluded on the question of Spain, were likewise integrated without discussion.
"The new party isn't a political unity but a conglomerate, an addition of currents and tendencies which cannot help but clash. The elimination of one or other current is inevitable. Sooner or later a political and organizational delimitation will impose itself". (Internationalisme, no. 7, February 1946).
Indeed, the Damen tendency split from the Party in 1952, taking the majority of the members and the newspaper Battaglia Comunista and the publication Prometeo.
All the political and theoretical work of the Fraction disappeared so that the ICP could be formed in an immediatist and unprincipled regroupment. The ICP turned its back on the whole heritage of Bilan: on anti-fascism, the decadence of capitalism, the unions, national liberation, the meaning of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, the state in the period of transition. All this heritage the ICP considers ‘deviations' from the ‘invariant' program. For the new ICP the Stalinist parties are ‘reformist'; Russia is a less dangerous imperialism than enemy no.1, US imperialism; the historic decadence of capitalism becomes ‘cyclical and structural crisis'; the theoretical acquisitions of Bilan on the program, are replaced by a return to ‘Leninist tactics'. Thus the ICP helped to take debates in the revolutionary movement back twenty years, to the time of the CI, as though nothing had happened between 1926 and 1945.
While Bilan insisted that a party can only be formed in a period of mounting class struggle, the ICP proclaimed itself the ‘Party', in a period of utter reaction. Thus, they created a ‘tradition' in which anybody can call themselves a ‘party', at any time.
The re-examination of the lessons of the past which Bilan carried out became, in the ICP, the ‘invariant' program, ‘fixed for all time', ‘undiscussed and undiscussable'. Instead of a critical examination of the past, a ‘restored' marxism was created, with an ‘immutable' nature, transformed into a liturgy inside a monolithic structure where only the voice of the master, Bordiga, was permitted to be heard. On the basis of a theoretical regression and an absolute isolation, with the germs of activism and an ambiguity on principles from its birth, with the internal structure of a sect, the ICP could only become sclerotic and paralyzed. What Internationalisme wrote in 1947 has become prophetic:
"More than its political errors, it is its organizational conceptions and its relations with the rest of the class, which make us doubt the possibility of the ICP of Italy correcting itself. The ideas which came to the fore at the end of the revolutionary life of the Bolshevik party and which marked the beginning of its decay: the forbidding of Fractions, the suppression of free expression in the party and in the class, the cult of discipline, the exaltation of the infallible leader, today serve as the very foundations of the ICP in Italy. If it persists on this path, the ICP will not be able to serve the cause of socialism. It is with a full consciousness of the whole gravity of the situation that we cry: ‘Stop there. You must turn back, for the slope here is fatal'." (Internationalisme, ‘Present-Day Problems of the Workers' Movement', August 1947).
Today, the ‘tactical' plan which the ICP searches for like a Holy Grail is only a subterfuge to avoid the real, necessary theoretical and political work.
The reawakening of the class struggle
When the period of reconstruction came to an end with the resurfacing of the crisis of capitalist decadence, when the first wave of class struggle, from the end of the sixties to the mid-seventies took place, marking the end of the period of counter-revolution, the ICP, faithful to the diktat of Bordiga that the crisis would break out in... -- 1975, didn't make the connection. Fixed in its ‘invariant' immobility, it wasn't to be found during the 1968 strikes in France or in Italy in 1969, but it was waiting for "the masses to line up behind its banners". The overflowing of the unions, the rejection of parliamentarism, and the growing disillusion with the results of ‘national liberation struggles', which these battles produced, found no response within the ICP. It didn't speak to the new generation with the voice of Bilan, and Internationalisme, but with that of the mistakes of the CI, elevated into dogmas. The total incomprehension of this period is today summed up by the fact that discontented militants reproach the ICP for not having supported the "glorious struggle for national liberation in Vietnam".
This first wave of struggle against the crisis didn't leave sufficiently solid acquisitions to ensure a political stability to the new groups and elements who emerged. The situation had to mature, and revolutionary minorities had to retie the historic thread by working towards political clarification.
In order to ensure the necessary critical reexamination of the past, in order to avoid the dispersion of revolutionary energies, an International Conference of discussion was called for in 1976 with political criteria defining the framework of the Communist Left. The ICC participated in this work with all its strength. The Conferences (see the minutes in the Bulletins of the International Conferences, see the IR nos.16, 17, and 22), like that at Zimmerwald at the time of World War 1, attempted to provide a framework for the decantation which would inevitably be produced within the movement in a period of crisis and upheaval.
In a period of mounting struggles, the possibility and necessity of working towards the regroupment of revolutionary forces is the expression and the spur for a process of unification of the international working class. But for the ICP, the very word ‘regroupment' is blasphemous, for it is already the Party.
For the ICP, we were only the "debris of the revival of the class". The party rejected any idea of a conference of international discussion, considering that between revolutionary groups, it is possible to have relations of force: the "fottenti e fottuti" (crudely speaking, the fuckers and the flicked). Indeed, why discuss when the ICP has already so infused the truth that the militants of the organization mustn't buy the press of other ‘rival' organizations, because that would only give them money!?
"The Party can only grow on its own basis, not through a ‘confrontation' of points of view, but through a clash against others, even those who seem close". (‘On the Road Towards the Compact and Powerful Party of Tomorrow', Programme Comuniste, no.76)
Today we can see how the ICP has grown on its own basis:
This sectarian attitude isn't the prerogative of the ICP. The ex-Pour Une Intervention Communiste (PIC), the Fomento Obrero Revolucionario (FOR). the Groupe Communiste Internationaliste (GCI), all considered these Conferences as a ‘dialogue of the deaf'. You only discuss when you agree! It's more peaceful! Even the PCInt-Battaglia Comunista who put out the first appeal for the Conferences hasn't truly understood why they were necessary. For the PCInt, since it is also imbued with Bordigist self-satisfaction, they had to serve as a spring-board towards a "common practical work" in order to respond to the "social democratizations of the CP's" (see the letter of appeal for the 1976 Conference). In order to convince the PCInt to invite other Bordigist parties, this organization had to be pushed, quite hard, and it was only too happy when they turned the invitation down.
But even a beginning of political clarification was too much for the PCInt and the Communist Workers' Organization. They ‘excluded' the ICC at the 3rd Conference because of its disagreements on the question of the party, not after a profound discussion, but a priori, after a maneuver worthy of the most sinister intrigues of a Zinoviev in the degenerating CI. What a fine school Bordigism is! Especially if you touch their fetish, the party -- which they alone know how to build, with the results that are now well known. At a recent meeting, called the ‘4th International Conference of the Communist Left', which Battaglia sees as "an indisputable step forward from the preceding conferences" (Battaglia Comunista, 10.11.82), Battaglia and the CWO "began to deal with the real problems of the future party" ... with a group of Iranian students who have hardly broken from thirdworldism. After all, everyone has a people to liberate: Programma its Palestinians, Battaglia its Iranians.
But during this period, 1976-1980, the ICP did, despite it all, begin to feel that it was time to ‘move'. Having turned its back on international political clarification, and without a coherent analysis of the new period, the ICP simply swapped its immobility for frenzied activism: two sides of the same coin. Today, seeing the organization in tatters, what does the ICP emphasise? ‘Tactics' once again -- and not only for the national question, but for everything.
The ICP transformed the anti-parliamentarism of the Abstentionist Fraction into a ‘tactic' and then called for participation in elections and referendums. It calls for the defense of ‘democratic rights' for immigrant workers, including the right to vote. Why? So that it can afterwards tell them not to vote? Now we see what happens ‘afterwards'. ‘Anti-narliamentarism' has become purely verbal, separated from any coherence about the historic period of capitalism.
Union ‘tactics', frontist committees, critical support for terrorist groups, like Action Directe in France - it's OK as long as it helps to ‘organize' the masses.
And in Poland, the ICP saw the saboteurs of class autonomy, Solidarnosc and its advisors in the KOR, as the ‘organizers' of the class movement -- the ones who did everything they could to drag the movement onto the terrain of defending the national economy. And the ICP calls for the ‘legalization' of Solidarnosc, alongside the democratic bourgeoisie!
Not wanting to discuss with the "debris of the class revival", the ICP preferred to recruit from the residues of the decomposition of Maoism. When the ICP played the policeman, the ‘steward' against the ‘fascist danger' at demonstrations of immigrant rent strikers in France -- which in fact meant forbidding the distribution of the revolutionary press -- this was a symbol of its descent down the slippery slope of leftism.
The ICP should have rejected the position of E1 Oumami a long time ago, before this gangrene penetrated the organization. E1 Oumami sings the siren song that lures the ICP towards the coherence of the bourgeoisie. The ICP can no longer take refuge in incoherence and jargon. Patch-up jobs don't last long in the present period. In the first place, the ICP and the whole revolutionary milieu have to recognize clearly that in this epoch internationalism can only mean a total break with all forms of nationalism, an intransigent struggle against any national movement, which today can only be a moment in the struggle between imperialist powers large or small. Any wavering on this question immediately opens a breach to the pressure of bourgeois ideology which will quickly and ineluctably lead a group towards the counter-revolution.
It's not too late for the ICP to draw back, on condition that it has the strength and the resolve to look reality in the face, to re-examine the lessons of the past, to review its own origins in a critical manner.
There have been other departures from the ICP over the past year, but we don't know exactly what has become of these militants. In Marseille there survives a circle which says ‘the formal party is dead, only the historic party lives on.' This Bordigist vocabulary isn't very clear to common mortals: does the ‘historic party' mean the Bordigist program? Marxism? What balance-sheet has to be drawn and why are these elements silent today?
Others left the ICP because of the stifling organizational atmosphere and out of instinctive reaction against degeneration. But you have to go further than a mere observation. You have to go to the roots of the disease.
You can't stop half-way, in the belief that you are ‘restoring' a ‘true' Bordigism which doesn't exist, the pure Bordigism ‘of Bordiga', which never existed. This path leads to the land of small sects, to tinier and tinier ‘Partiti', each one claiming the legitimate title, each one ignoring the others. We've seen this with numerous Bordigist splits over the years. Each one claims to be the true ‘leadership' that will guide the working class to paradise.
Political clarification can't come out of patch-up jobs, or out of isolation. It can only be done with and in the revolutionary milieu. The spell of silence has to be broken, by opening up a public debate, in the press, in meetings, to finish with the errors of the past, to ensure that this decantation takes place in a conscious way, to avoid the dispersion and loss of revolutionary energies. This is the only way to clear the ground for the regroupment of revolutionaries, which will contribute to the unification of the international working class. This is the task of the hour; this is the real lesson of the crisis of the ICP.
 After the split Bordiga's party became the Partito Communista Internationale. Many ex-members of the Fraction left with Damen and the program of Battaglia Communista (PCInt) in 1952 contained certain important positions of Bilan on the national question, the union question, on Russia. Unfortunately, the thirty years that separate us from the beginnings of Battaglia saw this group get caught up in a process of sclerosis. This can be easily seen by reading its press today and comparing it to the platform of 1952.