The international communist left, 1937-52

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

The polemic which we continue in this publication isn't an academic debate about history. The proletariat's only weapons are its organizational capacity and its consciousness. This consciousness is historic, because it's an instrument of and for the future, but also because it feeds on the past experience of two centuries of proletarian struggles. Here, it's a question of transforming for the present and the future the terrible experience of revolutionaries in the years that preceded and followed the Second World War, in particular of knowing how and within what conditions the revolutionary groups can become real political parties of the proletariat. But to do this, it's necessary to put some historical facts in their true light and to fight the falsifications which, unfortunately were developed, even among the revolutionary milieu.

In Part 1[1] we showed how, in the crucial years between 1935 and 1937, the Fraction of the Italian Left abroad paid the price of a terrible political isolation to keep unbroken the red thread of marxist continuity as all the other left currents sank into democratic anti-fascism, including the most important amongst them: the Trotskyists[2]. This dramatic historic demarcation laid the political and programmatic foundations which remain today the basis for the forces of the international communist left. We have also shown that for the comrades of BC (Battaglia Comunista, the organ of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista), all this is valid only up to a certain point, since for them the central question in 1935 was to respond to the passage of the old parties into the counter-rev­olutionary camp with the transformation of the Fraction into a new Communist Party. This position, which in 1935 was defended by an activist minority (who split from the communist left the following year to take part in the "anti-fascist" war in Spain), was rejected by the majority of the Fraction. They remained faithful to what had always been the Left's position: that the Fraction could only be transformed into a new Party with the renewal of the class struggle. According to the comrades of Battaglia, the majority which defended this supposedly incorrect "wait and see" position in1935 had abandoned it in 1936, only to return to ­it in 1937 with disastrous consequences.

In particular, the majority's most prestigious spokesman, Vercesi, "settled the controversy in 1936 between the "wait-and-see" Bianco and the pro-party Piero-Tito in favor of the latter: 'we have to consider that in the present period, although we do not have and cannot yet have any influence on the masses, we are confronted by the need to act no longer as a fraction of a party which has betrayed, but as a party in miniature' (Bilan, no. 28). In practice, in this phase, Vercesi appears closer to a more dialectical vision, whereby the treason of the centrist parties should be answered by the creation of new parties, not to guide the masses (who were not ready to follow anyway) towards the seizure of power by sheer willpower, (...) but to represent the broken class continuity, to fill the political void which had appeared, and to give the class once again that political reference point which is indispensable even in periods of reflux, and which would, even on a tiny scale, be capable of growing with events, rather than waiting for them to bring the messiah with them. But in 1937, he went back on these positions, and in ­his 'report on the international situation' once again put forward the fractions as the only possible political expression for the moment, implicitly renouncing any transformation at all. ( ... ) Quite apart from Vercesi's individual chopping and changing, when war broke out the Fraction to all intents and purposes ceased to function. This meant an end to all the publications (internal bulletins, Prometeo, Bilan, and Octobre), and a decline in, if not an end to contacts between the French and Belgian sections. In 1945, the Fraction broke up, without having resolved in practice one of the most important problems which had led to its creation at Pantin in 1928. The Party was born nonetheless, in 1942 under the impulse of comrades who had remained in Italy (Partito Comunista Internazionalista). At the end of the war, this party was joined by many of the elements of the dissolved Fraction."[3].

As usual, the comrades of BC have rewritten history to suit themselves. Firstly, Vercesi was not the spokesman of the "wait-and-see" (as Battaglia calls it) majority; he was trying to find a compromise between two positions which surfaced, though ambiguously, at the end of the1935 Congress. Early in 1936, Vercesi once again made use of an expression which did in fact contain the ambiguity that the majority fought against, and which is quoted in the above extracts. True, the exact quote speaks of "the need to act no longer as a fraction of a party which has betrayed, but - if we can put it like this - as a party in miniature". But even in this conditional form, which the comrades of Battaglia have rather dishonestly removed, the expression remains full of ambiguity, when it tries to present the Fraction as a party with a small number of militants, when in fact it is a form of organization specific to phases of the class struggle when the existence of a party big or small is impossible. The real spokesmen for the majority had every reason to protest at these contradictory formulations which introduced on the sly the idea that it would have been possible to move towards acting as a party, when the preconditions were absolutely non-existent. It is no accident that an article by Bianco (in Bilan no.28) against Vercesi's, was titled "A little clarity, please!". And indeed, this clarity as to the fact that current conditions only made possible the existence of a Fraction was reestablished, though not in 1937 as Battaglia's article would have it. It was events in Spain that brought matters to a head, when the minority cut loose definitively and sank into anti-fascism. This clarified in practice what talk about "putting an end to 'wait­ and-see-ism'" leads to. Faced with this upset, Vercesi came to his senses, and for the moment (but alas, only for the moment) he gave up his ideas about "new phases". By standing full­-square on its positions during the crucial period from July '36 to May '37 (massacre of the of workers in Barcelona), the Fraction was able to lay the foundations for today's International Communist Left, though only at the price of a total isolation from a political milieu completely in the grip of democratic decomposition. This terrible pressure could not help leaving its mark within the Italian, and in the new Belgian Fractions. A few comrades began to put for­ward the idea that the very fact that war was approaching brought the moment of proletarian counter-attack nearer, and that to be ready for these future reactions, it was necessary to begin a "different" activity. Towards the end of 1937, Vercesi began to theorize the idea that rather than a World War, there would be a mul­titude of "local wars" designed as "preventive massacres" against the proletarian threat sprung from who knew where. To prepare for these convulsions, it was necessary to "do more", and suddenly there reappeared, though in other terms, the idea that the Fraction should act - "if we can put it like this" - as a miniature party. To have the "activity" of a party, in September 1937 the Fractions em­barked on an absurd project of collecting funds for the victims of the war in Spain, in order to compete at the level of "mass" work with the Social-Stalinist organisms such as "Secours Rouge" ("Red Help"), by descending to the same level. While in December 1936, Bilan no.38 reprinted the 1933 proposal for an International Information Bureau, noting bitterly that it remained impossible even to get this minimum proposal accepted, in September 1937, Vercesi de­clared in Bilan no.43 that a mere Information Bureau would henceforth be "irrelevant, and that we must enter another phase of our work" by forming an International Bureau of left fractions. In itself, the formation of a coordinating body for the only two existing fractions was entirely correct. The problem was, that instead of coordinating the activity of clarification and of training new militants, which was the only work possible for the fractions under the conditions of the time, this Bureau was more and more thought of as an organ which should be ready when the class struggle recovered, in or­der to coordinate "the construction of new parties and the new International". In January 1938, still putting the cart before the horse, the publication of Bilan was stopped, and replaced by a review whose name alone - Octobre - an­ticipated new revolutionary convulsions which were nowhere to be seen, and which it was in­tended should be published in French, English, and German! The result of this obsession with "acting like a miniature party" could have been foreseen: the review which was supposed to be published in three languages did not even ap­pear regularly in French, the Bureau virtually stopped functioning, and - far worse - demoralization and resignations spread amongst mili­tants in a state of utter confusion.

The outbreak of war in August 1939 com­pleted the collapse, which was made still worse by the switch to clandestinity, the assassination of some of the best militants, and the arrest of many others; the fractions were thus in fact completely disorganized. Things were made still worse by the fact that with the outbreak of war Vercesi, who till then had maintained that the work of the Fraction was useless, and that it was necessary to work as a "mini-party" began to put forward the theory that since there was no reaction from the proletariat, it had "ceased to exist socially" and that in these conditions the work of the Fraction no longer served any purpose.

The constantly recurring theme here is the calling into question of the fraction as the or­gan of revolutionary activity in historically un­favorable periods. From all this, BC tries to draw the conclusion that those who continued to work as a fraction during the war learnt noth­ing from it. In reality, those who - like Vercesi - learnt nothing during the war, were precisely those who refused to work as a fraction. Contrary to what Battaglia would like us to be­lieve, the fraction's activity did not come to a halt. On the initiative of its section in Marseilles, which had been at the forefront of the opposition to Vercesi, the fraction was reorganized at the beginning of 1940, held annual underground conferences, reestablished sections in Lyon, Toulouse, and Paris, and renewed con­tact with comrades who had remained in Belgium. Despite unimaginable material difficul­ties, a discussion bulletin was once again pub­lished regularly, as a tool for training militants, and for circulating the Executive Commission's orientation texts, which served as a basis for discussion with other groups, when they en­tered into contact. This underground work led to the formation (between 1942 and 1944) of a new French fraction, and to closer contact with a number of German and Austrian communists who had broken with a Trotskyist movement that had by then passed into the counter-revo­lutionary camp.

We do not understand how all this could have been done, in incredibly difficult condi­tions, by militants who according to Battaglia took "cosy" refuge in their "theorizations", waiting for the "messianic" arrival of the masses, capable at last of recognizing them as the rightful leadership.

Only armchair theoreticians?

Here we come to the nub of the question. Battaglia considers the fraction as an organ (the term "cultural circle" would be more apt) which limits itself, as long as the proletariat is not on the offensive, to theoretical studies, since there is no point in intervening in the class. On the contrary, it is the fraction that makes it possible to maintain the continuity of communist in­tervention in the class, even in the blackest pe­riods when that intervention encounters no im­mediate echo. This is demonstrated by the whole history of the Left Communist fractions. As well as Bilan, its theoretical review, the Italian Fraction also published a newspaper in Italian, Prometeo, with a bigger circulation in France than the paper of those past-masters of activism, the French Trotskyists. The fraction's militants were so well-known for their commit­ment to the class struggle, that the unions' na­tional leaderships were obliged to intervene di­rectly and brutally to dislodge them from the rank-and-file organizations which defended them. These comrades distributed their press despite being hunted down both by the police and the patriotic unions. They were beaten up, and came back to hand out leaflets with a re­volver stuck in the belt, ready to be shot down where they stood rather than abandon their in­tervention in the class. A worker like Piccino was taken by the Stalinists while selling the press, and handed over to the French police; he was beaten up so badly that he remained crip­pled for life, but nonetheless continued to sell the press. In a letter written in April 29, Togliatti asked for help from Stalin's repressive apparatus to get rid of the "Bordigist debris", admitting that their dedication was causing him more than a few headaches wherever Italian workers were to be found. From the class en­emy, this is the highest form of recognition.

It requires extraordinary nerve to present as slippered theoreticians all those militants who were liquidated in the concentration camps, or arrested by the Gestapo as they secretly crossed the border to keep up contacts with comrades in Belgium, who took part in illegal strikes while on the run from the police and without proper papers, or who only escaped from the Stalinist killers waiting for them out­side the factory gate by climbing the wall to get out. Battaglia writes that the comrades in exile should have fought for the transformation of imperialist war into civil war, and that "more attention should have been paid to Lenin's teaching", especially by "comrades who had grown up in the Leninist tradition". But what else were the comrades of the French and Italian fractions doing when they distributed leaflets calling' for revolutionary defeatism, written in French and German, in German troop trains, or when they risked their lives in the midst of an orgy of patriotism, to call on work­ers to desert the partisans?

Clearly, it is completely wrong to write that "the sole possibility of organizing the slightest opposition to imperialism's attempts to solve its contradictions through war, lay in the formation of new parties". If the transformation into a civil war did not take place, this was not due to any "lack of opposition" from the fractions, but to the fact that world capitalism had succeeded in breaking the first attempts in this direction, first in Italy and then in Germany, so pushing back any revolutionary perspective. According to Battaglia, if the fraction had transformed it­self into a party despite everything, this would of changed things. But how? And in what di­rection?

The Partito Comunista Internazionalista in 1942

To answer this question, let us consider the ac­tivity of the Internationalist Communist Party founded in Italy at the end of 1942 by comrades grouped around Onorato Damen. Unlike the fraction, which broke all its links with the PCI (Italian CP) in 1928, this comrade remained in the party until the mid-30's; in 1933, he was one of the leaders of the Civitavecchia commu­nist prisoners revolt. In the article quoted above, Battaglia Comunista (where Damen was one of the leading militants until his death) waxes ironic on the call made by the 1935 Congress of the Fraction for militants to quit the communist parties which by then had gone over to the counter-revolution. BC wonders: if the party could not be transformed because at the time the masses remained deaf to the frac­tion, then who on earth could this appeal be addressed to? "We can't help wondering whether this call was not made in the hope that there would be no answer forthcoming from the proletariat, so as not to create any problems which would call into question the presenter's abstract schema". Battaglia's irony is particu­larly ill-chosen: this call was in fact addressed to comrades, like Damen, who had remained in the CPs in the hope of being able to defend class positions there, and would have concerned Damen himself, had the Stalinists not already solved the problem by expelling him from the party at the end of 1934. Or does Battaglia think that Bilan was wrong to call on these comrades to leave the CP's which had gone over to the bourgeoisie, and to join the fraction, which was the only place where the battle to reconstitute the class party still continued?

In fact, according to Battaglia, by 1935 it was clear for any marxist that the definitive departure from the PCI automatically implied the formation of a new party. But if this was so clear, why did Damen not form a new party in 1935? Why did he set himself to the patient, underground, work of selecting and training militants, just as the Fraction was doing in ex­ile? If it is true that "the only possibility of organizing any kind of opposition" to the war lay in the formation of new parties, then why was this party not created in 1939, when in re­ality it waited until 1942, after three and a half years of imperialist massacre? According to BC's analyses, these seven lost years should be regarded as either madness or treason. For us, on the contrary, this is the best possible proof that it is not enough, to form a new party, that the old should have gone over to the enemy.

If the PClnt (Partito Comunista Internazionalista) as created at the end of 1942, then this was due to the development of a strong tendency towards the renewal of the class struggle against fascism and the imperial­ist war; in a few months, this led to the strikes of March 1943, the collapse of fascism, and Italian bourgeoisie suing for a separate peace. Although the world bourgeoisie rapidly suc­ceeded in derailing this class reaction of the Italian proletariat, it nonetheless remains true that it was on this basis that the comrades in Italy considered that the time had come to form a new party. It is no accident that the com­rades in exile came, quite independently, to the same conclusion, as soon as the heard the news of the March 1943 strikes: in August, the Fraction's Conference declared open "the phase of the fraction's return to Italy and its trans­formation into a party". This organized return, however, remained impossible, partly due to virtually insurmountable material difficulties (remember that it was only in 1945 that the PClnt founded in Italy was able to make its ex­istence known abroad); these difficulties were made worse by the assassination and arrest of many comrades.

But the fundamental weakness was political: the minority of the Italian Fraction around Vercesi, along with the Belgian Fraction, denied any class nature in the 1943 strikes, and op­posed any organized activity on the grounds that it was "voluntarist". The 1944 annual conference condemned the positions of the Vercesi tendency, and at the beginning of 1945 Vercesi himself was expelled from the Fraction for his participation in the Brussels "Anti-fas­cist Coalition Committee". But this long struggle had helped to reduce the forces available for an organized return to Italy, and in the end it was replaced by a policy of individual return by many militants; once in Italy, they discovered the party's existence and entered it on an indi­vidual basis. This policy was bitterly criticized by a part of the Fraction, and especially by the Fraction in France, which was increasingly de­veloping underground work against the war, and which criticized the Italian Fraction's lack of determination to make an organized return to Italy. Then in spring 1945, came the bombshell: the news that there had been for years a party in Italy, already with "thousands of members", and including such comrades as Damen and Bord iga, The majority of the Fraction was overwhelmed with enthusiasm, and in a hurried conference in May 1945, decided its own dissolution and that its militants should join a party whose political positions they knew nothing about. When the French Fraction supported the minority that opposed this political suicide, the majority of the conference broke off all organizational links with the French group, taking as a pretext the revolutionary defeatist work that the French comrades had carried out with German and Austrian internationalists who did not belong to any of the Fractions of the Communist Left.

This decision to dissolve the Fraction had extremely serious consequences for the later development of the Communist Left. The Fraction was the sole depository of the funda­mental political lessons which had been drawn during the selection of communist forces carried out between 1935 and 1937; it had a historical duty to ensure that new party was founded on the basis of these lessons, which we summed up in the previous article:

1) the party must be formed by individual adherence to the programmatic positions of the Left, set out by the Fractions, and excluding any integration of groups of comrades situated half'-way between the Left and Trotskyism;

2) the party's revolutionary defeatism must be guaranteed by the head-on denunciation of any form of "partisan militia" designed to enroll the workers in the war, such as the Spanish "workers' militias" in 1936.

Since the Fraction was unable to fulfill this function, due to its dissolution in 1945 and the absence of any organized return to Italy, we must now see whether the Party in Italy had been able to form on these bases. And this is not to determine how we should appreciate this party in particular, but to understand whether or not the fraction's work is a vital precondi­tion for the reconstitution of the class party.

****

Let us start with the party's political positions and methods of recruitment. The PCInt's first Congress (28th December 1945 - 1st January 1946) held after the integration of the militants from the Fraction, declared that the PCInt had been founded in 1942, "on the basis of precisely this political tradition"[4] represented by the Fraction in exile from 1927 onwards. The first groups referred to "a platform constituted by a brief document which fixed the directives for the party to follow, and which for the most part it still follows today". It is hard to say how far this document was based on the Fraction's positions for the simple reason that as far as we know Battaglia has always declined to pub­lish it (despite its "brevity"!), while in BC's 1974 pamphlet on the PClnt's Platforms its exis­tence is not even mentioned. What a strange fate for the Party's founding document ... Consequently, we are obliged to refer to the Platform drawn up by Bordiga in 1945 and ap­proved by the first Congress early in 1946.

Without analyzing this text in detail, suffice it to say that it allows the possibility of par­ticipating in elections (a position already re­jected by the Left at the time of the pre-1914 abstentionist fraction of the Italian Socialist Party, led by Bordiga), that it takes "the founding texts of the Moscow International" as its theoretical basis (so rejecting the Fraction's critique of these texts from 1927 onwards), that there is no real denunciation of national libera­tion struggles (a position established by the Left in 1935), and that to crown it all, it exalts the workers' enrollment in the partisans' armed gangs as a "historical event of the first order". The Platform is also unacceptable on other questions (on the trade unions, in the first place), but we have considered here only those points where the Platform is outside the class frontiers already drawn up thanks to the pro­grammatic elaboration of the Communist Left.

The party's methods of recruitment were in harmony with this ideological hodge-podge; or rather, the ideological hodge-podge was the in­evitable result of the methods of recruitment, based on the absorption of groups of comrades holding the most divers, if not wholly contra­dictory positions. In the end, the Central Committee contained the first comrades of 1942, the leaders of the Fraction which had expelled Vercesi in 1944, and Vercesi himself, who was admitted at the same time as the members of the minority expelled in 1936 for having taken part in the anti-fascist war in Spain. There were even admitted groups like the "Fraction of left communists and socialists" from the south, which in 1944 still believed in the possibility of "correcting" first the Stalinist party, and even the Socialist Party (!) along with it. By con­trast, Amadeo Bordiga, the Platform's author and main theoretician, was not even a member (he seems to have joined only in 1949).

On the second question that had been settled during the years from 1935-37 - the danger represented by the partisan militias - the PCInt's degeneration coincided with its numeri­cal growth at the expense of principles. In 1943, the PCInt courageously and unequivocally denounced the imperialist role of the partisan movement. By 1944, it was already obliged to make concessions to illusions on the "democratic" war: "The communist elements be­lieve sincerely in the necessity of the struggle against Nazism and fascism and think that once this obstacle is demolished, they will be able to march towards the conquest of power, destroy­ing capitalism" (Prometeo, no.15, August 1944).

In 1945, the circle was completed with the participation of whole federations (as in Turin) in the patriotic insurrection of 25th April, and the adoption of a Platform which defined the partisan movement as "a tendency for local proletarian groups to organize and arm in order to take and keep control in local situations", only deploring these movements' "inadequate political orientation" (!). This is the same as the position on the Spanish Civil War defended by the minority in 1936, and which led to their expulsion from the Communist Left.

It is clear enough that the PCInt's overall positions did not match the level of clarification already reached by the Fraction, and considered as the unalterable bases for the formation of the new party. The comrades of Battaglia, by contrast, consider the party "formed in late 1942" as the high point of political clarity ex­isting at the time. How do they reconcile this statement with the existence of the kind of confusions and ambiguities which we have only touched on here? Quite simply: by denying that these confusions were those of the party, and attributing them solely to Bordiga's followers, who were to leave the PCInt in 1952 to found Programa Comunista. We have already answered this in the International Review: "in other words: we and they formed the party together: what was good was us, what was bad was them. Even admitting that this were true, it remains a fact that the "bad" was a fundamental and uni­tary element in the party's formation, and that nobody had anything to say about this".

We now aim to show that these weaknesses were those of the party as a whole, and not just of a particular fraction which happened to be passing through. BC has always denied that the Party was open to anyone who was kind enough to join. But according to BC them­selves, the presence of Vercesi on the Central Committee was explained by the fact that the latter "considered it his duty to join the Party"[5]. Is this a political party or a golf club? (though even in a golf club, you have to be ac­cepted by the other members in order to join ... ). Moreover, it should be remembered that Vercesi "considered it his duty to join" the PCInt's Central Committee directly, thus becom­ing one of its main leaders. BC informs us that although Vercesi was on the CC, the Party was not responsible for what he said or did: "The positions expressed by comrade Perrone [ie Vercesi] at the Turin Conference (1946) ( ... ) were the free expressions of a wholly personal experience and a whimsical political perspective, which it is inadmissible to take as reference points in criticizing the formation of the PCInt"[6]. Well said. What a pity that when we read the proceedings of this first National Conference of the PCInt, we find (on page 13) that these "free expressions" of "political whimsy" were nothing other than the report on "The Party and international problems", presented to the Conference by Vercesi on behalf of the Central Committee. But the surprises don't end here, for when we come to page 16, we find that it is none other than Damen himself who gives the conclusion to Vercesi's report, and declares that at this point, "there are no disagreements, just different viewpoints which allow problems to be clarified organically". If Damen thought that Vercesi's report veered on political whimsy, why did he deny that there was any disagreement? Perhaps because he found an unprincipled al­liance with Vercesi useful at the time?

Let us pass now directly to the Platform, written by Bordiga in 1945. Battaglia repub­lished it in 1974, along with a proposed pro­gram distributed by the Damen group in 1944, with an introduction affirming that the 1944 proposal is much clearer than the 1945 Platform. This is certainly true on some points (the eval­uation of the Russian Revolution, for example). On others, it makes much greater concessions than the 1945 document. On the matter of tac­tics in particular, it says: "our party, which does not under-estimate the influence of the other mass parties, defends the 'united front'". However, if we return to the Turin Conference, we find Lecci's (Tullio) report on the work of the Fraction in exile, and its demarcation from the Trotskyists: "this demarcation presupposed in the first place the liquidation of the tactic of the united front of political blocs" (Proceedings, page 8). Certain key points of the 1944 pro­posal were thus already considered by the 1946 Conference as incompatible with the positions of the Communist Left. Let us continue now with a look at the 1974 Introduction to the 1945 Platform:

"In 1945, the Central Committee received a proposal for a political Platform from comrade Bordiga, who, we should emphasize, was not a member of the Party at the time. The document, whose acceptance was demanded in the terms of an ultimatum, was recognized as being incom­patible with the firm positions adopted by the Party on the most important problems, and de­spite some modifications the document was al­ways considered as a contribution to the debate, and not as a de facto Platform ( ... ) As we have seen, the Central Committee could only accept the document as a wholly personal contribution to the debate at a future Congress; this was put off until 1948, and was to highlight very different positions (see the Proceedings of the Florence Congress)"[7]. This is how the com­rades of Battaglia presented events in 1974. To see whether they correspond to reality, let us return to the January 1946 Conference, which was to have taken a position on the "acceptance demanded in the terms of an ultimatum" of Bordiga's Platform. On page 17 of the Proceedings, we read: "At the end of the debate, since no substantial disagreements had appeared, the 'Platform of the Party' was ac­cepted, and the discussion on the 'Proposal for a Program', and on other documents currently being drawn up will be taken up at the next Congress". As we can see, what happened is exactly the opposite of what Battaglia is saying today: at the 1946 Conference, the comrades of Battaglia themselves voted unanimously to accept Bordiga's Platform, which henceforth became the official basis for joining the party (and which was published externally as such). The French delegates also joined the Party at the Conference on the basis of the recognition of the Platform's correctness (page 6), and the resolution on the formation of an International Bureau of the Communist Left begins in these terms: "the Central Committee recognizes that the Platform of the Internationalist Communist Party is the only document which gives a marx­ist answer to the problems encountered with the defeat of the Russian Revolution and with the Second World War, and affirms that it is the ba­sis of this document and the heritage of the Italian Left that the International Bureau of the Communist Left can and must be constituted".

To conclude, let us say simply that there was indeed a document considered simply as a con­tribution to the debate, and whose discussion was put off to the following Congress; only, it was not Bordiga's Platform but... the proposed Program drawn up in 1944 by the Damen group, and which Battaglia is today passing off as the PCInt's de facto Platform during the 1940's. No words are hard enough to condemn the utter falsification of history carried out all these years by the comrades of Battaglia. They descend to the level of the Stalinist falsification of the history of the Bolshevik Party, which wiped out the names of Lenin's executed com­rades, or attributed Stalin's mistakes to Trotsky. To try to give things an air of coher­ence, Battaglia has made its own Platform disap­pear from the Party's history, and in other documents[8] has not hesitated to attribute to "the ICC's ancestors", the comrades of the French Communist Left, the acrobatics of Vercesi, with whom their own "ancestors" made an opportunist alliance in 1945 when they ad­mitted him onto the Party's Central Committee. We are well aware that this is a very harsh judgment. Nonetheless, it is based on the PCInt's own official documents, such as the Proceedings of the January 1946 Conference, which Battaglia has taken care to keep hidden, whereas it has republished the Proceedings of the 1948 Congress, since by then the oppor­tunist alliance with Vercesi had been broken. We submit our conclusions, and our judgment, to the critique of the comrades of the international movement of the Communist Left. If the docu­ments we have cited are false, let Battaglia say so and prove it. Otherwise, it will be clear, once again, who are the falsifiers.

****

At all events, one problem remains to be cleared up: how is it possible that comrades of the caliber of Onorato Damen, who had held high the flame of internationalism during the blackest days of our class' history, should lower them­selves to such a falsification of this period of their own history? How is it possible that the comrades of Programa Comunista (who parted company with Battaglia Comunista in 1952) should come to the point of making all their history from 1926 to 1952 vanish into thin air? From what we have seen in this article, the answer is clear: in the crucial years surrounding World War II, neither were fundamentally capa­ble of ensuring the historical continuity of the Left Fractions, which is the only possible basis of the Party of tomorrow. Certainly, we cannot reproach them for thinking in 1943 that the conditions were ripe for the Party's rebirth, since even the Fractions in exile shared this il­lusion on the basis of the beginnings of a pro­letarian response to the war contained in the 1943 strikes in Italy. But by January 1946 and the Turin Congress, it was clear that capitalism had succeeded in breaking the proletarian re­sponse, and in transforming it into a moment in the imperialist war, through the workers' en­rollment in the partisan gangs. In this situa­tion, it was necessary to recognize that the preconditions for the Party's formation were ab­solutely nonexistent, and to devote the revolutionary forces to the work of a fraction: draw­ing up a balance sheet of events, and training new militants on this basis. Neither group was capable of undertaking this task, and this explains their contortions since then. The Damen tendency began to theorize the idea that the formation of the party has nothing to do with the renewal of the class struggle, so denying their own experience in 1943. The Vercesi ten­dency (close to Bordiga) began to move towards something which was not yet the Party, but which was no longer the Fraction (the old "miniature party" of 1936 was recycled as "enlarged fraction" of 1948), anticipating all Programa Comunista's future balancing acts be­tween the "historic" and the "formal" party. Only the French Communist Left (Internationalisme), which today's ICC recognizes as its predecessors, was able to recognize openly the mistakes it had made in 1943 when it thought the conditions for the Party's formation existed, and to devote itself to the work of drawing up a historical balance-sheet which the times demanded. Whatever its limitations, this work remains the indispensable basis for the work of reconstituting the Party tomorrow.

In a forthcoming article, we will analyze what this contribution represents.

Beyle



[1] International Review no 59, 4th Quarter 1989.

[2] See the ICC pamphlet La Gauche Communiste d' Italie (shortly to be published in English), on the relationship between the Italian Left and the International Left Opposition.

[3] "Frazione-Partito nell ‘esperienza della Sinistra Italiana', Prometeo no 2, March 1929.

[4] "Proceedings of the first national conference of the Internationalist Communist Party of Italy", Publications de la Gauche Communiste Internationale, 1946.

[5] "Letter from Battaglia Comunista to the ICC", published together with our reply, in International Review no 8, December 1976.

[6] Prometeo, no 18, 1972.

[7] "Documents of the Italian Left", Ed. Prometeo, January 1974.

[8] Battaglia Comunista no 3, February 1983; the article has been republished in the International Review no 34, 3rd Quarter 1983, without reply.