What is 'Lotta Comunista' in reality?

Printer-friendly version

In Britain, the group Lotta Comunista hides behind the “Internationalist Workers Club”, which runs food banks in London. It may at first sight look like an internationalist organisation from the tradition of the Communist left. This article argues that appearances can be deceptive.


There exists in Italy a group called Lotta Comunista (Communist Struggle) that not only claims to pass itself off as a vanguard of the working class, an internationalist group, but even to be one of the political formations belonging to the communist left, i.e. to come at least politically if not organisationally from the political current that, starting in the 1920s, opposed the degeneration of the Third International. We will see how this is completely without foundation and how LC in fact pursues very different objectives.

LC and the Communist Left

In reality, Lotta Comunista is the name of the newspaper it publishes, but the real name of this grouping is Leninist Groups of the Communist Left. LC has never explained what its political and theoretical connection to the Communist Left consists of. In its press we have never found any reference to the experiences of those minorities that in various countries, such as Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Russia, Mexico, France, clashing with the forces of capitalist repression, have tried to maintain the real thread of marxist continuity.

If LC carefully avoids any reference to the positions of the Communist Left, while continuing to bear its name, it is because the origins of this organisation are at the political antipodes of the Communist Left. They are in fact rooted in the so-called 'Resistance' to the occupation of Italy by German troops during World War II. A number of partisans, including Cervetto, Masini and Parodi, later joined the anarchist movement, forming the Proletarian Anarchist Action Groups (GAAP) in February 1951 with L'Impulso as their press organ. The GAAP founding conference, held in Genoa-Pontedecimo on 28 February 1951, is considered by LC itself to be the starting point for the whole organisation as we know it today, so much so that on 28 February 1976 a 25th anniversary commemoration event took place in Genoa-Rivarolo. In those days the city of Genoa was plastered with posters indicating the place and time of the demonstration and with the words in big letters "Lotta Comunista - 25 anni"; nothing else.

It is more than evident, therefore, that LC's reference to the Communist Left is a pure historical forgery.

LC and Marxism

For LC, marxism is something metaphysical, suspended above society, the classes and the struggle between them and not, instead, the expression of the real movement of emancipation of the proletariat. It is but a revelation, a religion - passed off as a science to be applied, detached from the reality and material situation of the proletariat in its contradictory relationship with capital. LC’s 'marxism' is merely the product of the thinking of ideologues based on philosophical speculation. To give itself some credibility, Lotta Comunista attaches the adjective 'scientific' to its elucubrations and thus believes it is saving its soul: we then have the party as the place where the science of revolution is born and lives, we have the 'scientific' revolutionary programme, 'proletarian science'. The development of this purported marxist science takes place in the brains of thinkers, albeit armed with 'revolutionary science' and not as a theory expressed by the proletariat in its movement, which is antagonistic to capitalist society. Today this immutable corpus of "marxist science" is supposedly the dowry of Lotta Comunista, which uses it to develop itself outside the oscillations of the real movement and outside the ebbs and flows of the class struggle.

LC and the analysis of society

For LC, the economic crisis does not exist; on the contrary, it is a fable invented by the bosses to attack the working class. In 1974 LC even printed a pamphlet with the significant title "But what crisis?".

Capitalism is said to be expanding thanks to whole areas and markets that capitalism has yet to conquer.

LC sticks to the statistics of the OECD or Fortune magazine or the Financial Times without any marxist interpretation. The paper, instead of being a journal of study but also of propaganda and struggle is, after the front page that could be described as a colourless, aseptic examination of the concentration of car companies, pharmaceutical firms, the mass media, with nowhere a concern for the emerging revolutionary perspective. The references to the working class in the column on workers' struggles in the world are just a photographic statistic of strike hours without any reference to the level of consciousness, the degree of combativeness, let alone autonomous organisation. After all, it is not strange: LC sees in the proletariat only a producer of surplus value, of variable capital, exactly like capital does. There is no analysis, no dynamic vision of the becoming of the class struggle and its prospects, but only a static vision, in which the proletariat is conceived as a statistical summation of atomised individuals, to be led, tomorrow, to the revolution - or what is believed to be the revolution.

LC, the class struggle and trade unions

In order to understand LC's position on the working class and the class struggle, we must refer to three different elements that combine to determine LC's conception of the problem: the 'Leninist' conception of the party, the role of the trade unions, and finally the current economic phase that apparently requires an “orderly retreat” on the part of the class. Let us try to analyse these three elements in order.

LC has a conception of consciousness and of the party according to which the proletariat is unable to develop a communist consciousness; this should instead be transmitted to it exclusively by the party, made up of bourgeois intellectuals dedicated to the revolutionary cause.

In this view, LC takes no account of the real struggles of the proletariat, but focuses mainly on the level of unionisation of the working class and its own influence within its adopted union, the 'red' CGIL. LC's argument is simple: being the revolutionary party, we have to organise and direct the working class and, to achieve this, we have to take over the union, by whatever means.

The consequence of this is that its interventions in the working class are never aimed at raising the consciousness of the proletariat, but only at gaining new political spaces to control and recruiting a few more cadres.

Finally, insofar as LC believes that the economic phase of capitalism is one of continuous growth and that it is essentially up to the working class to wait for events to mature, i.e. for capitalism to be implanted in all its glory, in 1980 this group launched the watchword of “orderly retreat”:

"... we have long since taken up the courageous Leninist watchword of gathering around the revolutionary party the conscious and healthy forces of the working class willing to fight in an orderly retreat, without zig-zags, delusions, confusions, demagogy."[1]

This implies working to dampen the aggressiveness of struggles, in order to avoid, apparently, having to suffer a “disorderly rout”. In this sense LC even goes so far as to reproach the old Italian Stalinist party, the PCI, for having gone too far on this level for mere party interests:

"As it is no coincidence that the PCI has instead gone so far as to use the trade unions to aggravate the disorderly course of workers' struggles in order to defend its own parliamentary weight in the exclusive interest of the bourgeois factions."[2]

Same criticism of the 'big union', namely the CGIL, a union of which LC dreams of being able to put itself at the head:

"Having, instead, disregarded the task we indicated at the beginning of the restructuring crisis, of organising an orderly retreat to then be able to reorganise the recovery, the big union has ended up making entrepreneurs and rulers cry not because of its strength but because of its crisis of authority and confidence."[3]

Here are the mosquitos who advise - unheeded - the union on what to do. But the latter does not listen to them and goes into crisis, making entrepreneurs and rulers cry. And why would entrepreneurs and rulers cry over the union's crisis? Because those whose moral and material authority keeps the workers chained behind the wagon of capital are failing in their job. This is how base committees[4] come into being; if, on the other hand, the union had listened to LC's advice, it would not have to contend with the base committees, i.e. the workers' tendency to break free from the union prison and start organising themselves autonomously, forcing unionism to radicalise in an attempt to better contain the workers.

All of this produces a political practice whose objective is not to foster maturation in the working class, but only the strengthening of 'party' positions on the skin of the class itself. Here is an example of this policy with profoundly negative consequences. In the first half of 1987, when the school workers organised themselves into base committees, LC peeped into a few assemblies to proclaim that the problem was not to set up a new trade union organisation, but to take the political direction of the existing ones. This meant not abandoning the CGIL but leaving the leadership of the movement to LC itself, and everything would be fine. But the school workers' movement in 1987 was a movement that was beginning to organise on a class basis, albeit with all its weaknesses. Well, given that it was sent packing, LC subsequently preferred to denigrate it publicly by calling it a “southern' movement” (due to the fact that it was more developed in southern Italy, almost as if it were a regionalist movement), a “breeding ground for future leaders of parliamentary parties”, calling instead for an extraordinary congress of the CGIL. Put simply, the CGIL had to wake up and not let the struggling school workers slip through its fingers. Here are the 'revolutionaries' at work!

LC and bourgeois institutions

LC declares itself "against all parliamentary parties" and "against the state and democracy", but then signs a press release together with the main bourgeois parties - PCI, DC, PR, DP, PSI -  in which it unanimously reaffirms its "firm condemnation of terrorism and all those forces linked to it" and invites "all workers to reject the serious attack carried out by those economic and political forces that tend to destabilise democracy in our country".

As far as elections are concerned, LC declares that it does not believe in them and is abstentionist, except when abstentionism becomes too unpopular to be maintained, as in 1974 on the occasion of the referendum on the abrogation of the right to divorce, demanded by Fanfani's DC. LC then brought out an issue of its newspaper consisting of a single sheet, at half price, in which it denounced “petty-bourgeois mass-based state capitalism” and called for a 'no' vote. Of course, the whole thing was peppered with phrases like “the vote is not enough, we must continue the struggle”. In fact LC, like the extra-parliamentarians of those years, took sides for one bourgeois faction against another.

LC and the Resistance

The question of participation in imperialist war is a particularly loaded question because it acts as a watershed between the proletarian and bourgeois camps. Although LC claims to be internationalist, it appears particularly compromised on this level.

In a pamphlet of April 1975 it is explained to us that after 8 September 1943 “faced with the collapse of the bourgeoisie the first workers' nuclei spontaneously organised themselves: from strikes they moved on to armed struggle. IT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE RESISTANCE! The workers go to the mountains, organise themselves clandestinely in the cities and factories. The first obstacle to the construction of the new society is the presence of the fascists and Nazis. It is against these servants of capital that the partisans must begin to fight. But the workers know well that this cannot be the goal but only an obligatory step towards socialism”[5].

This discourse is completely on a bourgeois terrain. In fact the partisan bands are groupings at the service of 'democratic' imperialism, and even the organisations that acted in the city and in the factories, the GAP and the SAP[6], although formed by workers, were totally led by the PCI and the other bourgeois parties. The revolutionaries, on the other hand, had to denounce the fact that workers had allowed themselves to be caught up in a 'people's war' in the service of imperialism in which they were not defending their own interests but those of their class enemy. It is true that in March 1943 the workers went on strike with class-based and not anti-fascist demands, but it is equally true that these strikes and those that followed were distorted and diverted into an anti-fascist function. The proletarians in German army uniforms - either because of class instincts or because of memories of workers' struggles handed down to them by their parents - in some cases sought contact with the striking workers or showed their sympathy by throwing cigarettes at them,[7] but they were confronted by the Stalinist scum of the PCI who shot at them to prevent fraternisation between proletarians regardless of nationality and language. Italian workers and proletarians in German uniforms[8] were beginning to spontaneously put proletarian internationalism into practice. LC, on the other hand, saw these proletarians - defined as Nazis tout-court - as the first enemy to be put down.

Again in the same pamphlet we read that the workers will understand that power must be taken away from the bourgeoisie "and this is what they will try to do where they will succeed in seizing power, even if only for a short time: formation of new political structures in which the power to make laws and enforce them is unified, appointing mayors and officials directly; management of the factories; direct exercise of judicial power and liquidation of the fascists"[9]. Here LC's shamelessness has no limits. They would have us believe that the National Liberation Committees (CNL), referred to in the previous passage, were proletarian bodies, when it is well known that in the CLN there were only the parties of the bourgeoisie that subjected the workers to the demands of imperialist war.

The tragedy of the Resistance is that proletarians allowed themselves to be caught up in a 'people's war' in the service of imperialism for objectives that were not their own; and it is a further misfortune that groups like LC, passing themselves off as the heirs of the Communist Left and Lenin, come to exalt the Resistance by presenting it as a failed revolution. For revolutionary communists, on the other hand, the Resistance was the culmination of counter-revolution, the blackest period of counter-revolutionary stagnation, where true internationalists had to guard against both the Gestapo and the Stalinists, often being killed by the latter.

In the 1970s, when LC's pamphlet on the Resistance came out, anti-fascism - democratic or militant - was in fashion, and LC, in order to gain militants, adapted to the times. Thus, while other groups collected signatures to outlaw the MSI[10], Lotta Comunista, like the nascent 'workers' autonomy' current, opted for action in the streets. One was for democratic anti-fascism, the other for militant anti-fascism. The result does not change: both practices go against class interests.

In other cases, against fascism, LC preferred denunciation: in a 1976 pamphlet, it complained that the MSI received 4.5 billion in public funding. LC really has a delicate stomach: let them fund the DC, the PCI and all the other parties, but not the MSI, it just doesn't go down well. Of course this would be class-based, proletarian anti-fascism, as if the proletariat's historical task was to fight against a specific form of bourgeois rule and not against the bourgeoisie as a class and its state.

LC and internationalism

Finally, one has to ask: on what does a group like LC, which came out of the Resistance and has not made any attempt to separate itself from this experience with a minimum of criticism of its past, base its internationalism? On nothing, given that, again in homage to the idea of completing the bourgeois revolution before being able to put its hand to the proletarian one, LC has set itself the task of supporting all national struggles against particular countries defined as imperialist. It has never taken on board Rosa Luxemburg's lesson that shows how in the age of capitalism's decadence all states, big or small, strong or weak, are forced to pursue an imperialist policy.

Thus LC puts forward the idea that "to actively intervene against every manifestation of the predominant imperialist force in one's own country means to place oneself in the front line of the international class struggle. To participate in every struggle that directly or indirectly affects one or all sectors of imperialism, to participate by distinguishing oneself ideologically and politically with one's own theses, watchwords, resolutions and by denouncing the unitary dialectic of imperialism". And it sets as its task "in the colonies and semi-colonies to fight imperialism by all means by supporting all those actions and initiatives of the national bourgeoisies that actually concretely go against imperialist forces, foreign or local."[11]

LC has also republished all the articles of its historical founder Cervetto[12] where it defends, among other things, both the policy of support for Korea:

"... we consider it the task of the working masses to fight so that American and Chinese troops leave Korea and the Korean people are left free to conduct their national and social emancipation by the revolutionary path alone, without Soviet or Chinese or UN interference."[13]

And in favour of African independence:

"The anti-imperialist revolt of the African peoples in no way preludes the formation of socialist society on the continent. It is a necessary stage for the rupture of imperialist domination, for the disintegration of feudal stratification, for the liberation of economic forces and energies necessary for the establishment of a national market and an industrial capitalist structure, (...). For this reason alone we support the struggle for African independence."[14]

The logical consequence is feeling obliged to pay tribute to the personalities of the bourgeoisie, who fell in the struggle fought against other bourgeoisies:

"Lumumba is a fighter of the colonial revolution on whose grave the proletariat will one day lay the red flower. We who, as marxists, have criticised and criticise his confused political actions, defend him from insults (...). Lumumba knew how to die fighting to make his country independent. We internationalists defend his nationalism against those who make their (white!) nationalism a profession."[15]

LC also has flattering words for Castroism:

"Castroism becomes revolutionary despite its origin, that is, it is forced to make a decisive break with the past"[16].

and, of course, for Vietnam:

"For those who, like us, have always supported the struggle for state unification as a process of the Vietnamese bourgeois-democratic revolution, the historical significance of the political and military victory in Hanoi transcends the contingent fact."[17]

To conclude ...

There are many other critical points in LC's remote and less remote past that should be examined, such as the coexistence for about 10 years with Raimondi's Maoist-like current (which in 1966 would merge into the M-l Federation of Italy)[18] or with a character like Seniga, who had left Togliatti and Secchia's PCI taking the party's cash box with him[19], or the policy of forming power bases, often involving episodes of physical violence against unwelcome characters or ex-militants[20].

But concretely what emerges from what we have seen is that, faced with the class struggle and the problems of internationalism, fundamentally LC never takes the right position in the class confrontation and therefore, beyond all the goodwill and even good faith that LC militants may put into their work, this is destined to produce effects exactly opposite to those necessary for the triumph of the class struggle.

Ezekiel, 6 April 2010


[1] Lotta Comunista No. 123, Nov. 1980.

[2] Idem.

[3] Parodi, Criticism of the Subaltern Trade Union, Lotta Comunista editions.

[4] Parodi, op. cit., p. 30.

[5] Viva la Resistenza operaia, pamphlet of Lotta Comunista, April 1975, page 5.

[6] Patriotic Action Groups and Patriotic Action Squads.

[7] See Roberto Battaglia, Storia della Resistenza italiana, Einaudi.

[8] We are of course talking about the German army, formed for the most part by proletarians like all armies, not the Gestapo or the SS.

[9] Viva la Resistenza operaia, pamphlet of Lotta Comunista, April 1975, p. 5.

[10] Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), at the time a neo-fascist party later converted to ‘democracy’ under the direction of the current president of the Chamber of Deputies, Fini, with the name of Alleanza Nazionale and then merged into Berlusconi's Party of Liberties.

[11] From L'Impulso, 15 December 1954, now published in L'imperialismo unitario, p. 133, edizioni Lotta Comunista (emphasis ours).

[12] Arrigo Cervetto (1927-1995) was born in Buenos Aires to Italian emigrant parents. As a young worker in Savona he participated in the liberation with the partisans against fascism and militated in libertarian trade union organisations. He collaborated on the editorial staff of Prometeo and Azione Comunista until 1964, creating the LC group around him and working on the construction of the new 'revolutionary workers' party', founded on a 'daily work of organisation and education of the proletariat'.

[13] From Il Libertario, 13 December 1950, now published in L'imperialismo unitario, p. 70, edizioni Lotta Comunista.

[14] From Azione Comunista No. 44, 10 April 1959, now published in L'imperialismo unitario, p. 258, Lotta Comunista editions.

[15] From Azione Comunista No. 59, 25 March 1961, now published in L'imperialismo unitario, p. 326, Lotta Comunista editions.

[16] From Azione Comunista No. 54, 10 October 1960, now published in L'imperialismo unitario, p. 329, Lotta Comunista editions.

[17] From Lotta Comunista No. 57, May 1975, now published in L'imperialismo unitario, p. 1175, edizioni Lotta Comunista.

[18] The conception of the Party held by Cervetto and Lotta Comunista (Part 2), ICC Online

[19] Idem.

[20] Idem.


Internationalism against leftism