The Italian Left, 1922-1937

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We are publishing here the first part of an article which aims at a clearer definition of the relationship between Party and Fraction as it has developed step by step through the history of the revolutionary movement. This first part will deal with the work of the Left Fraction of the Italian Communist Party during the 1930s, concentrating especially on the decisive years from 1935 to 1937, dominated by the Spanish Civil War: it aims, in particular, to answer the comrades from Battaglia Comunista's criticisms of "the Fraction", ie the group formed at the end of the 1920's as a "fraction" of the Italian Communist Party, struggling against the latter's Stalinist degeneration.

We have already answered these criticisms on various specific points elsewhere1. Here, we intend to examine at a more general level the historical relationship between "fraction" and party. This question may seem secondary, now that fifty years have passed since communists considered themselves as fractions of the old parties which have since passed over to the counter-revolution. But as we will see in this article, the Fraction is not merely a matter of statistics (being a part of the Party); essentially, it expresses the continuity between the old party's program, and the elaboration of the new party's program, enriched with the proletariat's new historical experience. This is the fundamental meaning of this way of working, of this red thread running through past history, which we want to bring out for the new generations, for those groups of comrades throughout the world looking for a class coherence. Against all those imbeciles who amuse themselves by 'making a clean sweep' of all the workers' movement that preceded them, the ICC reaffirms that only on the basis of this continuity in political work will it be possible for the World Communist Party to emerge, as the indispensable weapon of the battles that await us.

Battaglia Comunista's critique of the Italian Fraction in exile

Let us first set out systematically, and without deforming them, the positions of Battaglia against which we are writing. In the article "Fraction and Party in the experience of the Italian Left", we find developed the idea that the Fraction, founded in 1928 at Pantin, in the Paris suburbs, by exiled militants, rejected the Trotskyist notion of the immediate formation of new parties, because the old parties of the Communist International had not yet passed offi­cially from opportunism to the counter-revolu­tion. "This comes down to saying that (...) if the communist parties, despite being infested with opportunism, had not yet passed bag and baggage into service with the class enemy, then the construction of new parties could not yet be put on the agenda". This is absolutely true, even if as we shall see, this was only one of the conditions necessary for the Fraction's transformation into the Party. It is also worth remembering that the comrades who founded the Fraction in 1928 had already, in 1927, had to rid themselves of an activist minority who then con­sidered the CP's as counter-revolutionary ("Leave the Moscow International!" as they said), and who, under the illusion that the 1929 crisis was an immediate prelude to revolution, adopted the position of the German Left which in 1924 had already given birth to a short-lived "new" "Communist Workers' International".

Continuing its historical reconstitution, Battaglia recalls that the Fraction " ... has above all a role of analysis, education, and preparation of militants; it develops the greatest possible clarity on the phase when it will act to form the Party, at the moment when the confrontation between the classes will sweep away oppor­tunism" (Report for the 1935 Congress). "Up to then" continues Battaglia, "the terms of the question seemed clear enough. The Fraction­-Party problem was resolved 'programmatically' since the former depended on the process of degeneration going on in the latter, ( ... ) and not on an abstract theoretical elaboration which would have raised this particular type of revo­lutionary organization to an unchanging political form, valid in all historical periods of stagnating class struggle ( ... ). The idea that the transfor­mation of Fraction into Party can only be envisaged in 'objectively favorable' situations, ie during a recovery of the class struggle, rests on the idea that only in this situation, or in its accompanying storms, would the definitive be­trayal of the Communist Parties be verified in fact".

The CPs' betrayal was openly declared in 1935, when Stalin and the PCF [French CP] (imitated by all the others) supported the rear­mament measures decided by the bourgeoisie government in France "to defend democracy". Faced with this official passage to the class en­emy, the Fraction published the manifesto "Leave the Communist Parties, they have become instruments of the counter-revolution", and called a Congress to answer these events as an organization. According to Battaglia's article:

"If we are to follow the schema developed during the preceding years, the Fraction should have fulfilled its task as a function of this event, and gone on to build the new party. But although the perspective remained, when it came to putting it into practice there appeared within the Fraction several tendencies which tried to put off the problem rather than to resolve its practical aspects.

In Jacobs' report, around which the debate should have developed, centrism's betrayal and the Fraction's new slogan of leaving the Communist Parties [did not imply] "its transfor­mation into a party, nor did it represent the proletarian solution to centrism's betrayal; this solution can only be given by tomorrow's events, for which the Fraction is preparing to­day." ( ... )

For the reporter, the answer to the problem of the crisis in the workers' movement could not be the attempt to close up the scattered ranks of revolutionaries in order to give the prole­tariat, once again, its vital political organ, the party ( ... ), but was rather to launch the slogan of leaving the CP's, without any other indica­tions of what should be done, because "there exists no immediate solution to the problem posed by this betrayal". ( ... )

While it was true that the damage done by centrism had finished by immobilizing a politi­cally disarmed class in the hands of capitalism ( ... ), it was no less true that the only possibil­ity of organizing any kind of opposition to im­perialism's attempt to solve its own contradic­tions through war necessarily meant the recon­struction of new parties ( ... ), so that the alter­native of war and revolution should not be merely an empty slogan.

Within the Fraction's Congress, Jacob's the­ses created a strong opposition which ( ... ) dis­agreed with the reporter's 'wait-and-see' analy­sis. For Gatto ( ... ), it was urgent to clarify the relationship between Fraction and Party, on the basis not of petty mechanical formulae, but of the precise tasks demanded by the new situation: "we agree that we cannot found' the party immediately, but there may also be situations which force the necessity of its formation on us. The reporter is drematieing; and this can lead to a kind of fatalism".

This was not a vain concern: "the Fraction was to go on waiting until its dissolution in 1945".

Battaglia then claims that the Fraction re­mained paralyzed by this disagreement, noting that "the 'partyist:' current, although stuck in the most absurd immobility, nonetheless re­mained coherent with the positions expressed at the Congress, whereas the 'wait-and-see' cur­rent, and especially its most prestigious element, Vercesi, had no shortage of hesitations and changes of direction".

On this point, Battaglia's political conclusions are inevitable: "to say that the party can only emerge during a revolutionary situation when the question of power is on the agenda, and that during periods of counter-revolution, the party 'must' disappear or give way to fractions" means "depriving the class of a minimum political reference point in the hardest and most delicate periods", with "the sole result of being overtaken by events".

We have tried here to set out Battaglia's position as faithfully as possible, in order to it accessible to comrades who do not read Italian. To sum up, according to Battaglia:

a) from its foundation until the 1935 Congress, the Fraction saw its transformation into a Party as dependent on the recovery of the class struggle, while

b) the same minority that in 1935 defended the formation of the Party remained politically coherent but in practice completely immobilized during the years that followed (ie during the factory occupations in France and the Spanish Civil War):

c) the fractions (considered as "not very well-defined organisms", or "substitutes") were unable to offer the proletariat a minimum politi­cal reference point during the periods of counter-revolution.

These are three deformations of the history of the workers' movement. Let us see why.

The preconditions for the Fraction's transformation into the party

Battaglia maintains that the link between the fraction's transformation into the party, and the class struggle, is a novelty introduced in 1935, which cannot be traced back to the Fraction's birth in 1928. But if we are going back in time, why stop in 1928? Much better return to 1922, to the legendary Rome Theses (approved by the 2nd Congress of the Italian CP), which by defi­nition constitutes the Italian Left's basic text:

"The return to the organization of a true class Party, under the influence of new situa­tions and encouragements to action that events exert on the working masses, takes place in the form of a separation of a part of the Party which, through its debates on the program, the critique of experiences unfavorable to the struggle, and the formation within the Party of a school and organization with its own hierarchy (the fraction), reestablishes a continuity in the life of a unitary organization founded on the basis of consciousness and discipline. From this emerges the new Party".

As we can see, the Left's most fundamental texts are extremely clear on the fact that the fraction's transformation into the party is pos­sible only "under the influence of new situa­tions and encouragements to action that events exert on the working masses".

Let us return to the Fraction, and its basic text on the question: Towards the 2-3/4 International, published in 1933 and considered by Battaglia as "much more dialectical" than the 1935 position:

"Our fraction will be able to make the transformation into a party to the extent that it correctly expresses the evolution of the prole­tariat, which will once again be precipitated onto the historical stage, and will demolish the present balance of class forces. While always maintaining, on the basis of the trade union organizations, the only position that makes the mass struggle possible, our fraction must fulfill the role that is proper to it: the formation of militants both in Italy and in exile. The moment for its transformation into the Party will be the moment of capitalism's imminent collapse".

On this point, we should consider directly the section cited in Battaglia's text on the 1935 Congress, where the comrades consider that "the terms of the question seemed clear enough". This text states word for word that the transformation from Fraction to Party is possible "in the moments when the confrontation between classes sweeps away opportunism", in other words in a moment of rising class strug­gle. The terms of the question certainly seem clear enough here. A few lines further on we read: "The class therefore recognizes itself in the Party from the moment when historical con­ditions upset the balance of class forces; the affirmation of the party is then the affirmation of the class' capacity for action".

You can't get clearer than that! As Bordiga often said, you just have to know how to read. The trouble with looking at history through the distorting spectacles of a preconceived idea, is that you are obliged to read the opposite of what is written.

But the most extraordinary is that, for the sake of their argument, the comrades of Battaglia are forced to ignore what they them­selves have already written concerning the Fraction's 1935 Congress:

"Here we should recall that the Italian Left abandoned the name 'Left Fraction of the Italian CP', to become the Italian Fraction of the International Communist Left at a Congress held in 1935. This was forced on them by the fact that, contrary to what they had foreseen, the opportunist CPs open betrayal of the proletariat did not wait for the outbreak of World War II. ( ... ) The change in name marked both the adoption of the Fraction's position relative to this 'turn' by the official CPs, and the fact that objective conditions still did not allow the formation of new parties".

This passage is taken from the Political Preface of May 1946, in which the PCInternazionalista (Battaglia) presented its Programmatic Platform, recently adopted at the Turin Conference, to militants abroad. This same basic text, which sets out to explain the historic affiliation between the Italian CP of Livorno 1922, the Fraction in exile, and the PCInt of 1943, is clear on one of the key points of separation with the Trotskyists, which concerned: "... the necessary objective conditions for the communist movement to form new parties with a real influence on the masses, conditions which Trotsky either ignored, or thought ex­isted in the current situation, due to an incor­rect analysis of the existing perspectives. Following the experience of the Bolshevik Fraction, it [ie the Italian Left] established that the course towards the formation of the party was essentially one where the class struggle takes place in revolutionary conditions and therefore the proletarians are led to regroup around a marxist program restored against the opportunists, and defended up until then only by a minority".

As we can see, the PCInt of 1943 had not changed a comma of the Fraction's position on this question; moreover, it officially considered the Fraction's political positions as its own. On the contrary, it is Battaglia which has aban­doned these positions, and which has succeeded in the same discussion in lining up at least four different positions. In fact, Battaglia considers the correlation between the renewal of the class struggle and the reconstruction of the Party as:

  1. on the whole a "possible hypothesis" from 1927 to 1935;
  2. "fatalist" and "in its main lines, mechanist" when it concerns the Fraction between 1935 and 1945;
  3. entirely correct, if we follow the texts, when it concerns the PCInt of 1946;
  4. only to become "an anti-dialectical and liquidatory conception" in the new Platform ap­proved by Battaglia in 1952 (to which we will return in greater detail in a second article).

But let us leave Battaglia's self-serving zig­zags to one side, and return to the 1935 Congress.

The 1935 debate: Fatalism or Voluntarism

As we can see from the above, it was not the Congress' majority that introduced new posi­tions, but on the contrary the minority which called into question those that the Fraction had always held, moreover by adopting the positions of the Fraction's adversaries. One report replied to the accusations of fatalism hurled at the Fraction by all those, and first and foremost the Trotskyists, who rejected the Fraction's work in favor of the illusion of "mobilizing the masses"; Gatto accused the report of "fatalism". Piero declared that "our orientation must change, we must make our press more accessible to the workers" by competing with the pseudo­ ‘workers of the opposition' who specialized in "attracting the masses" thanks to a systematic adulation of their illusions. Tullio drew the ap­parently logical conclusions: "when we say that without a class party there is no leadership, then we mean that this is equally vital in mo­ments of depression"; he forgot that Bilan had already replied to Trotsky:

"From the idea that the revolution is impos­sible without a Communist Party, the simplest conclusion is drawn that we must build the new Party at once. It is as if we were to deduce from the premise that the workers can no longer defend their elementary demands without an insurrection, the conclusion that we must unleash the insurrection immediately" (Bilan, no.1).

Battaglia's attempt to present the debate as a confrontation between those who wanted a Party already well-tempered when the revolutionary onslaught began, and those who wanted to im­provise it at the last moment, does not stand up to examination. To the absurd alternative, "is it necessary to wait for revolutionary events to happen before moving to establish the new party, or, inversely, would it not be better for events to occur with the party already pre­sent?", the majority at the Congress had al­ready replied once and for all: "If our problem was only a problem of will, then we would all be in agreement, and nobody would bother to dis­cuss it".

The problem at the Congress was not a question of will, but of willfulness, as the years that followed were to demonstrate.

The debate from 1935 to 1937: towards imperialist war or renewed class struggle

When Battaglia presents the 1935 debate as one between those who wanted the party irrespective of objective conditions, and those who "took refuge" in waiting for such conditions, they forget what the 1946 Preface had already clearly stated: that the 'Party-builders' did not merely under-estimate or ignore objective con­ditions, they were inevitably pushed to "claim that such conditions existed, on the basis of a false analysis of the perspectives". This seems to escape Battaglia completely: but this is what was at the heart of the discussion in 1935. The activist minority did not merely state its "disagreement with the Party's formation solely in a period of proletarian recovery", it was in­evitably forced to develop a false analysis of the perspectives which would allow it to declare that, if a true proletarian recovery had not yet occurred it was nonetheless just around the corner, that it was necessary to take the lead­ership of the first steps, and so on and so forth. The minority did not develop this rever­sal of the Fraction's analysis of the course to­wards imperialist war openly at the Congress; they had probably not yet realized where their mania for founding parties was bound to lead them. This ambiguity explains why alongside the out and out activists who for the most part came from the defunct Reveil Communiste, there were comrades like Tullio and Gatto Mamone, who split with the minority as soon as it became clear what was really under discussion. But although the minority had not yet revealed the full extent of their disagreements (and unani­mously approved the Jacobs report), this was already entirely clear to the majority's most lu­cid members:

"It is easy to see this tendency when we ex­amine the position held by some comrades over the recent class conflicts, where they claim that the fraction could assume the leadership of these movements despite the present state of decomposition in the proletariat, completely in abstraction from the real balance of class forces" (Pieri).

"So, as the discussion has proved, we are supposed to think that we could have inter­vened to lead today's movements of despair (Brest-Toulon) and give them a new direction ( ... ). To think that the fraction can lead move­ments of proletarian desperation is to compro­mise its intervention in the events of tomorrow" (Jacobs).

The months following the Congress were to see a growing polarization between the two ten­dencies. In his article "A little clarity, if you please" (Bilan, no 28, January 1936), Bianco at­tacked the open rejection by some members of the minority, of Jacobs' report, which they had only just accepted. The attack was particularly directed against "comrade Tito, who is full of fine phrases like 'changing the line', and not just being present but 'taking the lead, the di­rection of the movement for communist rebirth ': abandoning, in order to form an international organism, all 'obstructionist a prioris' and 'our scruples over principle' ".

The final shape of the different groupings was already apparent (although Vercesi, in the same issue of Bilan, tried to minimize the extent of the differences). Already, in the Fraction's Italian review Prometeo, Gatto had distanced himself from the minority, restating that "the Fraction will express itself as a Party in the heat of events", and not before the proletariat unleashes "its battle for emancipation".

But if we are to understand the extent of the errors that the minority was on the point of making, then we must take a step back, and consider the balance of forces between the classes during these decisive years, and the way in which the different left forces analyzed them. The Italian Left described the period as counter-revolutionary on the basis of brutal re­ality: 1932, the political liquidation of the reactions against Stalinism, with the exclusion from the Left Opposition of the Italian Left and other forces that could not accept Trotsky's zig-zags; 1933, the crushing of the German proletariat; 1934, crushing of the Spanish proletariat in the Asturias; 1935, crushing of the Austrian prole­tariat, and the French workers' enrolment under the tricolor flag of the bourgeoisie. Trotsky closed his eyes to this mad race towards world­wide butchery to keep up the moral of his troops or him, the German CP, rotten to the core, was still, even in 1933, "the key to the world revolution"; and when the German CP col­lapsed in the face of Nazism, that meant that the way was clear for the foundation of a new party and even a new International, and if the militants controlled by Stalinism did not join it then it was social-democracy's left wing that "was evolving towards communism", and so on ...

Trotsky's opportunist maneuvers provoked splits on the Left, of those who refused to fol­low this line: the Ligue des Communistes Internationalistes in Belgium, Union Communiste in France, the Revolutionary Workers' League in the USA, etc. Until 1936, these groups seemed to stand half-way between the Italian Left's rigor and Trotsky's acrobatics. The test of 1936 was to prove that their solidarity with Trotskyism was much greater than their differ­ences. In reality, 1936 was the last desperate class upsurge of the European proletariat. The period between May and July 1936 witnessed the French factory occupations, the wave of strug­gles in Belgium, the Barcelona proletariat's re­sponse to Franco's coup, after which the work­ers remained in complete control of Catalonia for a week. But this was the last convulsion. Within a few weeks, not only had capital suc­ceeded in bringing these actions under control, it had managed to denature them completely by transforming them into moments of the Sacred Union in defense of democracy. Trotsky ig­nored this recuperation; he proclaimed that "the revolution has begun in France" and encouraged the Spanish proletariat to enroll as cannon fodder in the anti-fascist militia, to defend the repub­lic.

All the left dissidents, from the LCI to the UC, from RWL to a large fraction of the council communists, let themselves be taken in, in the name of the "armed struggle against fascism". Even the minority of the Italian Fraction ad­hered, in reality, to Trotsky's analyses, declar­ing that the situation remained "objectively revolutionary", and that in the zones controlled by the militia, collectivization was being carried out "under the noses of the governments in Madrid and Barcelona" (Bilan no 36, Documents of the minority). The bourgeois state has survived and is strengthening its control over the work­ers? This is nothing but a "facade", an "empty envelope, a simulacrum, a prisoner of the situa­tion", because the Spanish proletariat when it supports the bourgeois Republic does not sup­port the state but the proletarian destruction of the state. Consistent with this analysis, many of the minority's members left for Spain to enroll in the government's anti-fascist militias. For Battaglia, these perilous 360 degree about-turns mean "remaining coherent with their positions in the most absurd immobility". This is a strange idea of coherence and immobility!

In reality, the minority had completely aban­doned the Fraction's analytical framework, to adopt Trotsky's dialectical acrobatics; these, the Fraction had already denounced when it wrote of the democratic Republic's massacre of the Asturian miners in 1934:

"The repent terrible massacre in Spain should put an end to all those balancing acts which maintain that the Republic is certainly a 'workers' conquest' to defend, but only under 'certain conditions', and above all 'to the extent that' it is not what it is, or on condition that it 'becomes' what it can never become, or if, far from having its actual meaning and objectives, it should be on the point of becoming the organ of working class domination" (Bilan no 12, October 1934).

1935 - 1937: the watershed years

Faced with the war in Spain, only the Italian Fraction's majority (and a minority amongst the councilists) stuck to Lenin's defeatist position. But only the Fraction drew all the lessons from this historical turning point, denying the con­tinued existence of backward regions where it would be possible to struggle temporarily for the bourgeoisie or for national liberation, and denouncing as bourgeois and an instrument of imperialist war all the forms of anti-fascist mili­tia. This political position was vital to remain internationalist in the looming imperialist mas­sacre, and so to be able to contribute to the rebirth of the future World Communist Party. The Fraction's positions from 1935 (Sino­-Japanese war, Italo-Abyssinian war) to 1937 (Spanish Civil War) are thus the historical wa­tershed which marked the Italian Left's trans­formation into the Internationalist Communist Left, and which was point of selection for all the revolutionary forces from that moment on.

By 'selection', we mean in reality, not in somebody's theoretical schemas. The collapse of the Ligue des Communistes in Belgium was an­swered by the appearance of a minority, which formed the Belgian Fraction of the Communist Left. In France, the collapse of Union Communiste was answered by the emergence of a few militants who joined the Italian Left, and who then founded, in the midst of imperialist war, the French Fraction of the Communist Left. In the New World, the collapse of the Revolutionary Workers' League and of the Mexican Liga Comunista was followed by a split of a group of Mexican and immigrant workers, who founded the Grupo dos Trabajadores Marxistas on the positions of the International Communist Left. Even today, only those who place themselves in direct continuity with these positions of principle, without quibbling or searching for some "third way", have any chance today of contributing to the rebirth of the class party.

It is well known that the ICC recognizes the totality of this programmatic demarcation. But what is Battaglia's position?

"The events of the Spanish Revolution high­lighted both the strong and the weak points of our tendency: the majority in Bilan appeared tied to a theoretically impeccable formula, which nonetheless had the defect of remaining a sim­plistic abstraction; the minority on the other hand, dominated by the urge to take part in events whatever the cost, was not always suffi­ciently prudent to avoid the traps of bourgeois Jacobinism, even on the barricades.

Since the objective possibility existed, our comrades in Bilan should have posed the prob­lem, just as our party was to do later with the partisan movement, by calling the fighting workers not to fall into the trap of imperialist war strategy".

This position, which we have taken from a 1958 special issue of Prometeo devoted to the Fraction, was not incidental but restated on several occasions2. Here Battaglia declares itself for a third path, separate both from the abstractions of the majority and the participa­tion of the minority. But is it really a third path, or just a reformulation of the minority's position?

The Spanish civil war: "Participationism" or "Revolutionary Defeatism"?

What is the minority accused of? Inertia, a will­ingness to be right in theory without taking the trouble to intervene in order to defend a cor­rect orientation amongst the Spanish workers. This accusation repeats, word for word, those put forward at the time by the minority, the Trotskyists, the anarchists, the POUMists, etc: "to tell the Spanish workers that they are in danger, and not to intervene ourselves to com­bat this danger, is a sign of insensitivity and dillettantism" (Bilan no 35, Texts of the minor­ity). Not only are these accusations identical; more to the point, they are shameless lies. The majority immediately took up the combat along­side the Spanish workers, on the class front, and not in the trenches. Unlike the minority, which abandoned the struggle in Spain at the end of 1936, the majority continued its political activity there until May 1937, when its last rep­resentative, Tullio, returned to France to an­nounce to the Fraction and to the workers of the world, that the anti-fascist Republic had just massacred the workers on strike in Barcelona.

The majority's presence in Spain was cer­tainly less visible than that of the minority, who published their communiques on the presses of the Partido Obrero del Unificacion Marxista (POUM) in government, and who became brigadier- generals on the Aragon front, like their spokesman Condiari. The majority's repre­sentatives by contrast (Mitchell, Tullio, Caridali ) acted in strict secrecy, in constant danger of arrest by the Stalinist squads, or of denuncia­tion by the POUMists and anarchists, who re­garded them more or less as fascist spies. Under these terrible conditions, these comrades continued the struggle to rescue at least a few militants from the spiral of imperialist war, confronting not only danger, but also the hos­tility and contempt of the militants with whom they debated. Even the most lucid elements, such as the anarchist Berneri (later assassi­nated by the Stalinists), were ideologically shaken to the point where they became the ac­tive promoters of the extension of the war econ­omy - and the resulting militarization of the working class - to every factory, and remained totally incapable of understanding where the class frontier really lay, to the point of writing: "the Trotskyists, Bordigists, and Stalinists, are only divided on a few tactical points" (Guerre de Classe, October 1938). Even when every door slammed shut in their faces, the comrades of the majority continued to knock at them: emerging from the POUM headquarters after yet another fruitless discussion, they found the Stalinist killers waiting for them, and only es­caped with their lives by pure luck.

Let us note in passing that the same minor­ity which in 1935 insisted that the party should be ready before the decisive class confronta­tions, in Spain declared that the revolution had arrived, and would win, in the complete absence of so much as an ounce of class party. The majority, on the contrary, set the party at the heart of its analysis, and declared that there could be no question of revolution, since no party had been formed, nor was there even the slightest tendency in this direction, despite the minority's intense propaganda to prove the opposite. It was not the members of the majority who under-estimated the importance of the party ... and of the Fraction. When we consider the collapse of the minority, who in the end deluded themselves into taking the POUM - a member of the government in the bourgeois republic - for the party, then we can see how correct were the majority's warnings to the 1935 Congress of the danger of "adulterating the very principles of the Fraction".

For Battaglia, the minority was guilty of being "not always (!) sufficiently prudent to avoid the traps of bourgeois Jacobinism, even on the barricades". What does such a vague expres­sion mean? The difference between the majority and the minority was that the former intervened to convince at least a tiny vanguard to desert the imperialist war, while the latter intervened to take part in it by volunteering for the gov­ernment militia. Battaglia certainly holds a re­markable trump card if they know a way of participating in imperialist war which is suffi­ciently "prudent" not to play the game of the bourgeoisie... What does it mean to say that the majority should have behaved like the PCInt "towards the partisan movement"? Perhaps the majority should have called for a "united front" with the Stalinists, Socialists, anarchists and POUMists, as the PClnt did in 1944 when it pro­posed a united front to the Agitation Committees set up by the Italian CP and Socialist Party with the anarcho-syndicalists? Battaglia pre­sumably thinks that "since the objective condi­tions existed", such "concrete" proposals would have allowed the Fraction to pull out of its hat the Party which was so sorely lacking. Let us hope that Battaglia has no other cards up its sleeve, no other miraculous expedients capable of transforming an objectively counter-revolu­tionary situation into the exact opposite; this is certainly possible, "but only under certain con­ditions", and above all "to the extent that it is not what it is", or on condition that "becomes what it cannot become" (Bilan no 12).

The real problem is that Battaglia departs from the Fraction, whose tradition it nonetheless claims, on at least two essential points: the pre­conditions for the formation of a new party, and the attitude to take in a globally counter-revo­lutionary period towards the confrontation with superficially proletarian groupings such as the anti-fascist militias. In a forthcoming article on the period between 1937 and 1952, we will see how this incomprehension appeared in the PCInt's formation in 1943, and in its attitude towards the partisans.

In considering this tragic period in the his­tory of the workers' movement, we also intend to demonstrate the falsehood of Battaglia's af­firmation that the Fraction was incapable of "giving the class the slightest political orienta­tion in the toughest and most delicate periods"3.


1 On the Spanish Civil War, see the articles in the International Review nos 50 and 54. On the Italian Fraction and its political oppositions, see the various articles and documents published in the International Review, and our pamphlet La Gauche Communiste d'Italie, published in French and Italian (shortly to appear also in Spanish and English) as well as the supplement on the relationships between the left Fraction of the Italian CP and the International Left Opposition, 1929-33.

2 In an article "The ICC and the course of history" published in Battaglia Comunista no 3, 1987, Battaglia comes on a bit strong: "In the 1930s, the Fraction (...) considered the perspective of war was inevitable", which supposedly led them "make political mistakes" such as "eliminating any possibility of revolutionary intervention in Spain, even before the proletariat's defeat".

3 These attacks on the Fraction, of which Battaglia claims to be the heir, are all the more significant in that they are appearing just as several Bordigist groups are beginning to rediscover the Fraction, after the silence maintained by Bordiga (see the articles published in Il Comunista of Milan, and the reprinting by Il Partito Comunista of Florence of the Fraction's manifesto on the war in Spain). Are Battaglia and the Bordigists changing places?