Communist Left

Two main currents represent the tradition of the communist left, whose different groups and organisations were expelled from the Third International in the course of its degeneration after the victory of the Stalinist counter-revolution: the Italian Left, and the Dutch-German Left (also known as the "council communists").

The Italian Fraction and the French Communist Left

In the previous issue of this Review,

What is the Communist Left? (Part 1)

We are re-publishing here the first part of an article written in 1998 for the Russian journal 'Proletarian Tribune', the aim of which was to give a brief history of the Communist Left for those who may not be well acquanted with the political tradition the ICC draws its heritage from. 

Decadence of Capitalism (x): For revolutionaries, the Great Depression confirms the obsolescence of capitalism

There was no real recovery of world capitalism after the devastation of the First World War. Most of the economies of Europe stagnated, never really solving the problems posed by the disruption of war and revolution, by outdated plant and massive unemployment. The plight of the once powerful British economy was typified by the situation in 1926 when it resorted to direct wage cuts in a vain attempt to restore its competitive edge on the world market, provoking the 10-day General Strike in solidarity with the miners whose wages and conditions were the central target of the attack.

Review: The communist left in Germany, 1918-21 (1)

Firstly, we welcome the recent appearance of this work by D. Authier and J. Barrot, which clearly attempts to make a clear analysis of the Left Communists from the viewpoint of revolutionary marxism, and which moreover will allow revolutionaries to study hitherto inaccessible texts of the Communist Left. The book is one of the very few to put forward the communist perspective -- the only possible perspective in the historical period inaugurated by the Russian Revolution -- of the proletarian revolution. The book has many strengths, but also some weaknesses, which we would like to discuss here.

Reply to the CWO: On the subterranean maturation of consciousness

"Revolutionary ideas are not the property of any single organization, and the affairs of any component part of the proletarian camp are of interest to it all.

Address to proletarian groups

The 1980s are proving themselves to be the ‘years of truth' for the whole of humanity.

Convulsions in the revolutionary milieu

The International Communist Party (Communist Program) at a turning point in its history

The origins of the ICP(Communist Programme): what it claims to be, and what it really is

Introduction

The present convulsions in the revolutionary milieu

Over the last few months, the revolutionary milieu has been going through a series of political convulsions. Some organizations have disappeared or fallen apart:

20 years since 1968: The evolution of the proletarian political milieu, II

International correspondence: The emergence of a new communist regroupment in India

Report on the International Conference

For several years, Revolution Internationale (France), Internationalism (USA), and World Revolution (UK) have organized international meetings and conferences in order to develop political discus

“Left Wing of the Turkish Communist Party” pamphlet

This is an extract from our "Left Wing of the Turkish Communist Party" pamphlet. It is not available online. Copies can be purchased for £4.

In memory of Graeme Imray (1950 -2008)

Comrades of the ICC and World Revolution in particular want to express our sorrow that an old comrade of the left communist Workers' Voice group of the early 70s - Graeme Imray (whom contributors to Libcom may know by his pseudonym, Dave Graham) died, aged 58, at the end of 2008 after a short illness.

Reflections on Loren Goldner’s article The Biggest ‘October Surprise’ Of All: A World Capitalist Crash

In our view, the latest phase of the crisis, summed up under the short-hand ‘credit crunch', will certainly be a factor in challenging existing views and convincing people that we are seeing the real putrefaction of capitalism as a mode of production. In this context, we welcome a recent contribution by Loren Goldner, who would describe himself as part of a "left communist mood" which has been growing in the recent period.

Marc, Part 2: From World War II to the present day

The first part of this tribute to our comrade Marc, who died in December 1990, was published in the previous issue of the International Review, and dealt with the period from 1917 to World War II... In this second part, we will follow our comrade’s activity, first in the French Communist Left (“Gauche Communiste de France”, GCF), then during the last period of his life, when his contribution was decisive in the foundation and development of the ICC.

Marc, Part 1: From the Revolution of October 1917 to World War II

As readers of our territorial press will know already, our comrade Marc is dead. In the December issue of our French territorial press, we published, as usual, the list of donations; one was accompanied with these words: “In reply to many letters which have touched me deeply, and for a first combat fought and won, this donation for the ICC’s press...” As always, our comrade fought against his disease with lucidity and courage. But in the end, it was the disease - one of the most virulent forms of cancer - that had the upper hand, the 20th December 1990. With Marc’s death, not only has our organisation lost its most experienced militant, and its most fertile mind; the whole world proletariat has lost one of its best fighters.

The Jury of Honour: a weapon for the defence of revolutionary organisations (Part 2)

At its 11th Congress in April 1995, the ICC took the grave decision to exclude one of its militants, the ex-comrade JJ, for destructive behaviour incompatible with member­ship of a communist organisation, notably his attempts to create within the ICC a secret network of adepts of the ideology of freemasonry (see WR 194). JJ rejected the arguments given for his exclusion, claiming that this decision was the result of a “serious deviation” by the ICC, the result of a “col­lective paranoiac delirium”. Faced with this “alternative analysis”, the ICC, in conform­ity with the traditions of the workers’ move-meat, has for two years continually at­tempted to push this ex-militant to defend himself by calling for a Court of Honour composed of representatives of other revo­lutionary organisations in order to allow the proletarian milieu to pronounce on the validity of this exclusion and to shed as much light as possible on JJ’s actions.

The Jury of Honour: a weapon for the defence of revolutionary organisations (Part 1)

Introduction (October, 2004)

At the time of its 15th international congress, in April 2003, the ICC excluded from its ranks several elements who had openly behaved like informers and who, under the name of "Internal Fraction of the ICC", had gathered around the individual Jonas (himself excluded from our organization for "behaviour unworthy of a communist militant", see A communique to our readers). With regards to the attitude of Jonas and the members of the "FICCI", which consistied of refusing to defend oneself in front of the Congress of the ICC, our organisation, in accordance with the tradition of the workers' movement, had applied a policy of the defence of proletarian principles: it had proposed to them to call upon a Jury of Honour (which they refused) composed representatives of other organizations of the Communist Left, in order to make clearn the nature of their behaviour and the causes of their exclusion.

The communist left and the continuity of marxism

This article was originally published for the Russian publication "Proletarian Tribune" with a view to giving a general overview of the appearance and historical importance of the Communist Left

Revolutionaries denounce imperialist war

Imperialist war always puts revolutionaries to the test. Against the propaganda of the ruling class, which aims to win over the working class, or at least to silence it, the first duty of a revolutionary organisation is to denounce the war: to say as loudly and as clearly as it can that imperialist war is never in the interests of the working class.

Open letter to the John Gray website

In your guidelines to your website, you say that its aim is to “link to any site or document which we feel relates, in whole or in part, to discussion about communism, or to discussion based on a ‘communist perspective’, taking communist in the sense defined in the statement on the homepage for the site. (1)

World Revolution and Communist Tactics (1920) by Anton Pannekoek

Introduction - Parliament is alien to the working class

Faced with another general election, and the calls by any number of so-called ‘socialists’ for the working class to chose between the capitalist parties standing for parliament, genuine communists have to reaffirm their total rejection of the whole ‘democratic’ circus.

80 years ago - the Communist International

A NEW EPOCH IS BORN

80 years ago, in March 1919, the Communist International held its founding Congress in Moscow. The following article, originally published in WR 122, shows why this event was of immense importance for the international working class: faced with the outbreak of a massive, revolutionary challenge to capitalism all over the world, the CI was at to capitalism all over the world, the CI was at that moment the most advanced expression of the class movement, the crucible for synthesising the political programme needed to lead the movement to victory. Today, faced with the bourgeoisie's pernicious campaigns aimed at identifying communism with Stalinism and "proving" that marxist theory has been refuted by history, revolutionaries have the duty to affirm not only that they are the heirs of the CI, but also that its most central positions remain valid for the revolution of the future. The fact that the CI subsequently degenerated and succumbed to the Stalinist counter-revolution does not alter what it had been during the most heroic phase of the revolutionary wave that made the whole ruling class shake in its shoes.

Internationalist Organisations against the war in Kosovo

The bombing of the population of ex-Yugoslavia by the major powers under the aegis of NATO represents a serious escalation of capitalist barbarism. It is accompanied by a cacophony of voices attempting to hide the imperialist nature of the war. There are the voices of those who justify the bombings and try to cover the sordid and bloody self the sordid and bloody self-interest of the major powers under a veil of humanitarianism. There are the voices of those who condemn the NATO attack in order to defend the 'little' ethnic murderer, Milosevic, against the high tech slaughter of the US and European powers. There are the voices of the pacifists who appeal for a peaceful capitalism, as if the spirit of competition weren't an intrinsic aspect of bourgeois rule that leads inevitably to the use of armed force as one country tries to impose its own imperialist interests at the expense of the others. But amid this barrage there is a clear and sane voice raised against the war and all its bourgeois protagonists, that of proletarian internationalism. This position in relation to imperialist war is the foundation stone of the international working class movement and the litmus test for revolutionary organisations. Its intransigent defence marks out the currents of the communist left from those of the radical bourgeoisie, who masquerade as friends of the working class while inviting them to massacre their class brothers in other countries in the name of siding with whichever imperialism they identify as the 'lesser evil'. This song is as old as capitalism! The essence of proletarian internationalism is expressed in the words of the Communist Manifesto, drafted by Marx and Engels in rx and Engels in 1848: "The workers have no country ... Workers of all countries unite!" It affirms the nature of the working class as an international class, no part of which has interests which are in conflict with any other sector in any other country. As such the proletariat has no interest in the victory of either side in wars between capitalist powers for the extension of their spheres of influence and for world domination. On the contrary, it is always expected to pay for the war by dying on the battlefield and by increasing productivity for the war effort. It is always the victim and never a victor while this system of death and poverty has not been overthrown once and for all. When the socialist parties of the Second International betrayed the principle of internationalism by supporting participation in the First World War and played a prominent role in mobilising the workers for the carnage, the International was lost to the working class. But the revolutionary minority regrouped around the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Spartacists in Germany, defended an internationalist position by opposing the war and calling for the workers to defend their own class interests. In the same way, with the onset of the second imperialist carnage, whereas the Trotskyist current passed over to the bourgeois camp by supporting the USSRporting the USSR and the democratic front in the name of opposing fascism, there remained fractions of the Communist Left who maintained the principle of internationalism and have continued to denounce it as an imperialist war. It is the organisations that are descended from this political current that have responded to the NATO bombings by taking up the only consistent and communist position: - condemning the carnage as an imperialist war; - calling on the working class not to defend any of the bourgeois factions involved; - condemning, implicitly or explicitly, the demands of the leftists for the workers to defend the 'lesser evil' or 'self-determination in Kosovo' and, - against the myth of pacifism, affirming that only the working class can offer an alternative to capitalist barbarism through its own struggle as a revolutionary class, whose historic destiny is to destroy the exploitation of the bourgeoisie and create a new society without classes and without exploitation. The titles of the leaflets produced by the various groups of the communist left, immediately after the start of the bombing of Kosovo, testify to the unity, in action, of the internationalists in the denunciation of the war (1): "Capitalism means imperialism, imperialism means war" (IBRP); "The Kosovo war "The Kosovo war is a war of capital" (Programma Comunista); "No to imperialist intervention in Yugoslavia! Down with all nationalism and all bourgeois oppression!" (Le Proletaire); "The real opposition to military intervention and war lies in the class struggle of the proletariat, in its class and internationalist reorganisation against all forms of bourgeois oppression and nationalism" (Il Comunista); "Down with the imperialist war" (Il Partito Comunista); "Capitalism is war, war on capitalism!" (ICC).

Cajo Brendel Meetings in Germany

Through his exposes and his contributions to the discussions, Cajo Brendel proved, in our opinion, that the 'classic' positions of the German-Dutch left have lost none of their relevance even if, as Brendel asserted, along with Marx, "our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action". As has long been the case with, what can be called "the Dutch can be called "the Dutch school of marxism", which was animated by, among others, Anton Pannekoek and Hermann Gorter, comrade Brendel denounced the bourgeois character of parliamentarism, the trade unions, and social democracy, and the state capitalist nature of the former eastern bloc. And while the state capitalist currents like Stalinism and Trotskyism have welcomed the new "Red-Green" government in Germany as a step forward for the working class, Brendel showed the profoundly anti-working class nature of this government.

Correspondence: anarchism, marxism, and the 'death of communism'.

We are publishing here a contribution from a comrade who describes it as "an attempt to clarify to myself why I broke with anarchism (or more specifically libertarian communism, having been a member of the Anarchist Federation)". We think that the text speaks for itself and will be very useful for many others who are currently seeking a way towards the clarity of communist positions.

The Dutch and German Communist Left

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

The Russian Revolution and the Italian Left 1933-46

The "communist left" is to a very large extent the product of those sections of the world proletariat who posed the greatest threat to capitalism during the international revolutionary wave that followed the 1914-18 war: the Russian, the German, and the Italian. It was these "national" sections which made the most telling contribution to the enrichment of marxism in the context of the new epoch of capitalist decline inaugurated by the war. But those who rose the highest also fell the lowest. We saw in previous articles in this series how the left currents of the Bolshevik party, after their first heroic attempts to understand and to resist the onset of the Stalinist counter-revolution, were almost completely wiped out by the latter, leaving the left groupings outside Russia to carry on the work of analysing what had gone wrong with the revolution in Russia and of defining the nature of the regime which had usurped its name. Here again, the German and Italian fractions of the communist left played an absolutely key role, even if they were not unique (the previous article in this series, for example, looked at the emergence of a left communist current in France in the 1920s-30s, and its contribution to understanding the Russian question). But while the proletariat in both Italy and Germany had suffered important defeats, the proletariat in Germany - which had effectively held the fate of the world revolution in its hands in 1918-19 - had certainly been crushed more brutally and bloodily by the interlocking efforts of social democracy, Stalinism and Nazism. It was this tragic fact, together with certain vital theoretical and organisational weaknesses that went back to the revolutionary wave and even before, which contributed to a process of dissolution hardly less devastating than that which had befallen the communist movement in Russia.

The left fractions and the question of organisational discipline

In a previous article (InternationalReview n°108), we described the emergence of the leftfractions that fought the degeneration of the old workers'parties, in particular the German SPD that supported the wareffort of its national capital in 1914, and the Russian CP and theThird International as they were being transformed intoinstruments of the Russian state with the progressive defeat ofthe October Revolution. In this process, the task of the fractionswas to struggle to re-conquer the organisation for the fundamentalpositions of the proletarian programme, against their abandonmentby the opportunist right and the complete betrayal by theleadership controlling the majority of the organisation. Topreserve the organisation as an instrument of the class struggleand to save as many militants as possible, one of the leftfractions' main concerns was to remain in the party as long aspossible. However, the process of political degeneration wasinevitably accompanied by a profound modification in the partiesthemselves, and in the relationships between the militants and theorganisation as a whole. Inevitably, this situation posed for thefractions the problem of breaking party discipline in order tofulfil their task of preparing the new party of the proletariat.

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