Notes towards a history of the Communist Left (Italian Fractions 1926-1939)

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The text we are publishing here was part of the introduction to the selection of artic­les from Bilan on the war in Spain, publis­hed by the ICC’s section in Italy (‘Bilan 1933-38, Articoli sulla Guerra di Spagna’, Rivista Internazionale, no.1, November 1976). Thus it doesn’t attempt to present all the positions of the Italian Left (which are developed in the articles themselves) but rather aims to define the historical con­text in which these positions evolved.

We are publishing it here not only because the texts it introduces are the ones that appeared in the International Review, nos. 4, 6, and 7, but also because they enable us to see the main stages of the struggle of the Italian communist left to keep alive the revolutionary theory of the proletariat during the period between the wars, a time when the counter-revolution was exerting a terrible weight on the workers’ movement after the crushing of the great revolutionary wave of 1917-23. It thus gives us an invaluable insight into one of the most crucial qualities that a proletarian revo­lutionary can have: to know how to hold onto and clarify the historical experience of the class without falling under the ideological influence of the ruling class.


I am going to speak briefly, fully cons­cious of my responsibilities. What I have to say is extremely serious for the party and for us all, but the development of this painful situation has forced me to speak out. Independent of any consid­eration of the greater or lesser sincer­ity and purity of individuals, I have to declare, in the name of the Left, that the proceedings taking place here have not shaken our opinions, but on the con­trary have, together with the organization and preparation of the Congress and the programme being presented, served simply to strengthen our argument and reinforce the correctness of our judgment. I must state that sadly we consi­der the method employed here is a method harmful to the interests of our cause and to the proletariat. (...) We believe it to be our duty to state without hesi­tation and fully conscious of our respon­sibilities, this important fact: that no solidarity can unite us to people who independently of their intentions and their psychological characteristics, we judge now to be the representatives of an opportunist orientation within our party. (...) If I am a victim, if we are all victims, of a terrible error in our evaluation of what is happening, then I must be and we all must be considered as unworthy to be in the party and we will disappear in the eyes of the working class. But if this unrelenting opposi­tion that we have outlined is correct and has vital implications for the future, then we can at least say that we fought to the end against the pernicious methods which have been used to attack us, and that by resisting each threat, we brought a little clarity to the murky confusion created here. Now that I have had to speak, judge me as you wish.”

This is ‘Bordiga’s Declaration’ at the Lyon Congress in 1926 (which was reported in Prometeo, 1 June 1928) and it put the final stamp on the exclusion of the Left by the Communist Party of Italy. In fact it had been the Left which had founded and led the party during its early years and which had then carried out the arduous task of oppo­sition within it up until the Lyon Congress. The enlarged Sixth Executive of the Commu­nist International in February 1926 also finally sanctioned the defeat of the Ital­ian Left on an international level in a direct confrontation between Stalin and Bordiga.

It appears necessary to give some ‘dates’ and reference points regarding the process of degeneration of the CI; we are conscious, however, of their inevitable deficiencies and limitations in only being able to pro­vide a very pallid idea of the whole uphea­val experienced by the proletarian movement during those years. Then again the aim of this history is not to deal with the period, however rich and fertile it is in lessons; a great deal of documentary evidence exists on the subject, even though much has been produced by the counter-revolution. Our aim is to look at the organized activity of those communist groupings who, in the years following 1926, and despite almost unbearable conditions, could stand firm and continued a desperate and unequal struggle while being hunted down throughout Europe by Nazi fascism and Stalinist killers, viewed by both sides as the very worst enemies that had to be eliminated at all costs. Their activity and achievements have gone completely unrecognized and unknown, even by those all too few elements who feel the need to identify with this revolutionary tradition.

In 1921 at the Third Congress of the CI, the theory of the ‘United Front’ was put forward; the validity of the Livourne split was dis­cussed; and the KAPD in Germany already pushed to the sidelines, broke with the CI.

The Communist Left seemed to be defeated. Following the work of the Essen tendency of the KAPD, the ephemeral KAI formed. Their founding Manifesto stated, amongst other things: “Nothing can stop the flow of events, nor obscure the truth. We are saying this without useless reticence, without senti­mentalism: proletarian Russia of red October is becoming a bourgeois state.”

In 1922 the Second Congress of the Communist Party of Italy took place, and saw the proclamation of the Rome Theses. Also, the Fourth Congress of the CI occurred, at which the Italian Left opposed fusion with the socia­lists; the Left also made an analysis of fascism.

In 1923 Bordiga and other leaders of the Communist Party of Italy were arrested. The Bolshevization of the Communist Parties took place and the opposition between the Italian Left and the CI continued to develop.

In 1924 the magazine Prometeo appeared Bor­diga refused to stand for election, declaring that: “I will never be a delegate, and the more you make plans without me, the less time you will waste.” The Come Conference took place as well as the Fifth Congress of the CI.

In 1925 Bordiga wrote, The Trotsky Question and The Danger of Opportunism and the International. The ‘Comite d’Entente’ was formed and dissolved.

In 1926 the Left was excluded from the Party and the International. The period of emigration began; Bordiga wrote his letter to Korsch.

The letter sent by Bordiga from Naples to Karl Korsch (dated 28 October 1926) was in response to an attempt made by Korsch to implement a programme of international unification of what remained of the Communist Left. This is the sole remaining document from the correspondence Bordiga engaged in with other revolutionaries during those years (it seems that all the rest have dis­appeared without trace) and because of its particular interest we will quote below some passages which appear to be fundamental:

. .., The way you express yourself (Bord­iga addressing Korsch) does not seem good to me. One cannot say that the “Russian Revolution is a bourgeois revolution”. The Revolution of 1917 was a proletarian revolution, although it would be an error to generalize ‘tactical’ lessons from it. Now the problem being posed is what happens to the dictatorship of the proleta­riat in one country when the revolution does not spread to other countries. A counter-revolution can take place; a process of degeneration can occur and the question is to discover and define the symptoms of such a degeneration, and its reflection within the communist party. One cannot simply state that Russia is a country where capitalism is expanding.

Our search is for the construction of a left orientation that is truly general and not circumstantial, which analyzes the phases and developments of different past situations from a sound revolution­ary basis and certainly not by ignoring their objective and distinctive charac­teristics.

In a general sense, I think that today the first task must be the preliminary work of the elaboration of a political ideology of the international Left based on the eloquent experiences of the Comin­tern, rather than organization and manoeuvring. Unless one holds this posi­tion, any international initiative re­mains difficult.

There is no need to try to split the (communist) parties and the International. We should allow their artificial and mechanical discipline to reach its logi­cal conclusions simply by going along with the absurdities of their procedure, without ever compromising our critical ideological and political positions and without ever joining the prevailing leadership.

I believe that one of the faults of the present International has been that it was based on a bloc of ‘local and natio­nal’ oppositions. We must reflect on that, not of course to exaggerate the situation, but to draw the lessons. Lenin carried out a large amount of ‘spontan­eous’ elaboration, reckoning on first of all materially regrouping different groups in order to fuse them later into one organization during the heat of the revolution. To a great extent this did not succeed.”

Thus, there appears in the letter a defence first of all of the proletarian nature of the Russian Revolution against the facile and simplistic assertions of its ‘bourgeois nature’ by those who suddenly discovered that ‘something was wrong’ in Russia. Then the crucial problem is clearly posed: what becomes of the dictatorship of the prole­tariat if the revolution does not spread to other countries, and above all how to confront this question outside of a purely organizational solution based on alliances or various blocs, but within the context of the historic period, which was seen to be one of deepening counter-revolution; such questions were at the root of the difficult task of analysis, study and understanding of past errors, for the sake of the future upsurges in class struggle.

Amongst the intransigent positions defended there is one phrase in Bordiga’s letter that stands out: “There is no need to try to split the (communist) parties and the International”. Yet at that time the Left had already been put outside the Interna­tional. The Left was defending here the idea of remaining linked to what had, only five years before, been the real vanguard of the world proletariat. They thus wanted to hold on to the hope that the revolution was not truly finished for decades to come; that in the mortal crisis of capitalism, the working class, finding itself trapped in the terrible vice of the crisis, would still be able to raise its head; and that with a push from ‘below’ the positions defended by the Left could still triumph in the party and the International. But the class had been decapitated; the physical defeat of the proletariat in the struggle it had engaged in was reflected in the degeneration and betrayal of the communist parties and the International. The upsurge could not take place while the class was unable to secrete its vanguard, the party, which now no longer existed.

Bordiga also held the view that the Inter­national was in effect the world party of the proletariat. At the Fifth Congress of the CI (July 1924) he said:

What I really mean is that in the pre­sent situation, it is the International of the world revolutionary proletariat which must repay a part of the many ser­vices it received from the Communist Party of Russia.”

According to this then, Bordiga was proposing that the International set itself in opposi­tion to the Russian party and not become an instrument of it -- to do so would spell the end of all hope. But this is what happened.

With this basic framework and preoccupation, the Italian Left began and continued its work in exile:

In some ways we play an international role because the Italian people are a people of emigrants in the economic and social meaning of the word, and, after the birth of fascism, in a political sense as well. We have become a little like the Jews; if we were beaten in Italy, we can console ourselves with the thought that the Jews too are strong not in Palestine but elsewhere.” (Interven­tion by Bordiga at the Sixth Enlarged Executive of the CI.)

The whole emigration of communist militants from Italy did not take the same path. While the majority of them had to leave Italy after being pitilessly hunted down by the fascists and excluded from the Communist Party at the Lyon Congress (depriving them thus of any organized help and refuge), some elements had already gone to Austria and later in 1923 they went to Germany where revolutionary fighters experienced the tra­gic events of that year. They had been opposed to the decisions of the CI and had left the Communist Party of Italy. They represented, in practice, the first Left opposition to organize themselves in exile. They kept contact with the Entschiedene Linke1 and with Karl Korsch in Germany, as well as with comrades of the Left in Italy who formed the ‘Comite d’ Entente’. It was after this period that there was an attempt at contact between Bordiga and Korsch, and the letter quoted before was written.

This group of exiles then left Germany and met up again in France having travelled through Switzerland. While maintaining contact all the time with their German comrades, they joined a communist opposition committee (nothing to do with the Trotskyist Opposition) but did not in any sense lose the autonomy of their group.

In 1927 at Pantin, a Parisian suburb, the refuge for emigrants, the homeless, the hopeless and those driven from civil society, the Left Fraction of' the Communist Party of Italy was formed, but without Vercesi (Ottorino Perrone, later one of the main figures in Bilan) who had been expelled from ‘democratic’ France. There is all too much to say about the vicissitudes experien­ced by these comrades as they searched for work and for shelter, persecuted and unwan­ted in the democracies and tracked down by the Stalinists, and yet throughout it all continuing their intransigent struggle, defending and diffusing communist positions without fear or compromise. To exemplify the nature of the ‘relations’ existing with the Stalinists we will quote a part of a letter (dated 19 April 1929) from a certain Togliatti to Iaroslaysky:

The struggle that our party must wage against the debris of the Bordigist oppo­sition which is,trying to organize all the malcontents into a fraction, is very difficult. We must struggle against these people in every country where the Italian emigration exists (France, Belgium, Switzerland, North America, South America etc). It is very difficult for us to wage this struggle if our sister parties do not come to our aid. The Communist Party of Italy asks the Communist Party of Russia for help in continuing this already difficult struggle, which can only be made more difficult by the exis­tence of any weaknesses. Our party has nothing more to say. It asks only that the greatest severity be meted out.”

We do not know if the scission which split the emigration in France into two parts, in­to a very reduced minority and a majority, had taken place before or after Pantin, al­though the information we have at our dis­posal makes us incline towards the second alternative. The first group, which repre­sented the continuity with the small nucleus whom we have already seen in Germany, brou­ght Le Reveil Communiste into being and appeared between 1928 and 1929. This publi­cation opened up its pages to Left groups in Germany (to Korsch from Kommunistische Politik and to what remained of the KAPD in those years) and also to the Russian Left in the person of Miasnikov.

The central point characterizing tale position of Reveil Communiste was the denial of any proletarian character in the Russian state -- a point which Bilan during the same years was much more cautious about -- and an open and manifest support for the posi­tions of the KAPD. Reveil Communiste was succeeded by L’Ouvrier Communiste based on openly councilist positions.

The second group was what was properly known as the Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy; it published Prometeo, written in Italian from June 1928 to 1938, sometimes every fifteen days, sometimes every month, and Bilan from 1933 to 1938. The first years of their existence witnes­sed the debate with Trotsky, exiled from then on in Prinkipo, and with groups who claimed to be linked to Trotsky and who were organizing themselves mainly in France.

In November 1927 Contre Le Courantorgan of the Communist Opposition” appeared in Paris; it tried to put itself forward as a catalyst to the various small Trotskyist groupings and to encourage, or at least initiate, a process of regroupment of the whole left opposition, ‘An Open Letter to the Communists of the Opposition’ appeared in Contre Le Courant, no.12, June 1928, and was sent to the following organizations: the Marx-Lenin Circle which published Bulletin Communiste; the Italian Left Fraction; the Barre-Treint group which pub­lished Redressement Communiste; the Lutte de Classe group whose leader was Naville and Le Reveil Communiste, which has already been mentioned.

Nothing came of this project (it was only in 1930 that La Verite, with the direct support of Trotsky, became the mouthpiece of the whole Trotskyist opposition) but it is interesting to see how the Political Bureau of the Italian Fraction responded to this in a letter written by Vercesi:

Many opposition groups believe they must limit their role to that of a sort of tribunal which records the progress of the course of degeneration and pres­ents to the proletariat only evidence of the truth that they presume to have dis­covered. We think that we must prepare our own future, and that the most impor­tant thing is to establish an orientation for communist activity.

We believe that the crisis of the Inter­national has very profound causes: its apparently uniform foundation, which was really heterogeneous; the absence of a solid body of politics and communist tac­tics, and, flowing from this, an adulter­ation of marxist principles that led to a series of revolutionary disasters.

Apart from the Russian Opposition, only our Fraction has elaborated in a Platform a course of systematic action, and this has been due to comrade Bordiga.2

There are many oppositions. That is bad; but there is no other remedy than con­frontation with their respective ideolo­gies, to engage in a polemic in order to finally reach what you are suggesting to us. If so many oppositions exist, it is because there are several ideologies whose actual substance must be made clear. And this cannot just be done through a simple discussion in a common organiza­tion. Our watchword is to take our eff­orts to their ultimate conclusion with­out being derailed into a ‘solution’ that would in reality be a new failure.

We believe that if the International, having officially altered its programme, has failed in its role of leader of the revolution, the communist parties have done no less. In view of the situation we are living in, these are the organs we must work within in order to struggle against opportunism, and even to trans­form these organs into a revolutionary vanguard.”

This letter (published in Contre le Courant, no.13, August 1928) ends finally by refusing the invitation to regroupment for the rea­sons given before. We can see how Vercesi’s response recalls the letter from Bordiga to Korsch, and shows the same emphasis on the necessity to examine the past in a critical way and to draw the lessons from the degen­eration and the counter-revolutionary wave which had crushed the proletarian movement; and again we see a confidence in an autono­mous, intransigent and principled struggle within the communist parties. More impor­tant still was the written correspondence between Prometeo (which first started to appear in June 1928) and Trotsky. (A good documentation of this correspondence appears in a book entitled Trotsky and Italian Communism by Corvisieri.)

In its first letter to Trotsky, Prometeo gave a brief outline of its history: the break with Reveil Communiste; its constitu­tion into a Fraction; the analysis of the international situation, whose main charac­teristic was the capitalist offensive; the analysis of Russia which had divided them into a majority which saw Russia as a pro­letarian state and a minority which “denied the proletarian character of the Russian state”; the Italian question, on which the Fraction refused to recognize that Social Democracy or the democratic forces of opposition could lead a struggle against fascism and affirmed that “only the working class had the possibility of leading the struggle on the basis of the communist programme”.

Following the non-participation of the Fraction at a conference of the ‘opposition’ in Paris, relations with Trotsky became more strained and the Russian revolutionary wrote a letter which posed the following questions to Prometeo:

1. Do you consider yourselves as a national movement or part of an interna­tional movement?

2. What tendency do you belong to?

3. Why don’t you consider creating an international fraction of your tendency?

Prometeo answered:

Fundamentally, you are inviting us to tell you if we consider ourselves to be communists. (...) We will now answer your questions:

1. We consider ourselves to be part of an international movement.

2. We belong, since the foundation of the Communist International, and even before, to the tendency of the Left.

3. We are not considering the creation of an international fraction of our ten­dency because we believe as marxists that the international organization of the proletariat is not an artificial sum of groups and individuals from every country around a given group. On the contrary, we consider that this organiza­tion must be the result of the experience of the proletariat in every country.”

Thus there were opposing positions on ques­tions of method and principle between Prometeo and Trotsky: on the part of Prome­teo there wasn’t total acceptance of the first four Congresses of the CI, but a crit­icism of the ‘United Front’ tactic “which (wrote Prometeo) led to the peasants’ and workers’ government, to the Anglo-Russian Committee, to the Kuomintang, to the proletarian anti-fascist committees”. The events in Spain in 1930-1 led to a split and a definitive break in contact. On Trotsky’s part:

The slogan of the Republic is naturally also a slogan for the proletariat. But for the proletariat it is not only a question of changing a king for a presi­dent, but also a purging of the debris of feudalism.”

and he also asserted:

The separatist tendencies pose the democratic duty of national self-deter­mination to the Revolution ... Separatism for the workers and peasants is a way of expressing their social indignation.” (Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution and the Duty of Communists)

Prometeo’s response to this could only be: “It is obvious that we cannot take the same path and we reply to him (Trotsky) as much as to the anarcho-syndicalist leaders of the CNT by denying most vehe­mently that communists must stand in the forefront of the defense of the Republic. For any Republic and least of all for the “Spanish Republic”.” (Prometeo, 22 August 1931)

The split was therefore definitive and could only become more marked on questions such as the social nature of the USSR, Trotsky’s analysis of the bureaucratic leadership in Russia, and the defense of Russia in case of imperialist war.

In November 1933 there appeared the first issue of Bilan, “the monthly theoretical bulletin of the Left Fraction of the Commu­nist Party of Italy”. A historic framework was immediately defined in the ‘Introduction’ and this underlined precisely what the work of the bulletin was and what tasks this group of revolutionaries was proposing to assume.

It is not a change in the historic sit­uation which has allowed capitalism to weather the storm of post-war events, in 1933 as in 1917 capitalism stands con­demned definitively as a system of social organization. What changed between 1917 and 1933 are the relations of force between the two basic classes, between the two historic forces which confront each other in the present period: capitalism and the proletariat.

We have today reached a culminating point in this period: the proletariat is perhaps no longer able to oppose the outburst of a new imperialist war with the triumph of the revolution. Nevertheless if any possibility of an immediate revolutionary upsurge still remains it lies only with the understanding of past defeats. Those who prefer the catch-phrase of immediate mobilization of the workers to this indis­pensable work of historical analysis create only confusion and prevent the real upsurge of proletarian struggles.

The framework of the new parties of the proletariat can only arise on the basis of a profound understanding of the causes of the defeat. This understanding can brook neither censorship nor ostracism.

To draw up a balance-sheet (bilan) of the post-war events is therefore to establish the conditions for the victory of the proletariat in all countries.”

With this as their axis Bilan could make pro­gress and continue its work by coming to grips with all the fundamental questions of the revolutionary movement, from the analysis of the crisis of capitalism (decadence) to the criticism of national liberation move­ments, from the defining of those moments when the upsurge of the proletarian class would once more be possible, to the unrelen­ting criticism of the ‘communist parties’ and Russia. The social nature of Russia was still not clear, but its political role as an imperialist power which the working class must refuse to support in any way, especial­ly in view of the impending world war, was made clear. As a fundamental moment in revolutionary work Bilan also encouraged debate with other political groupings and published texts from other comrades.

In 1935 Bilan changed from being the “monthly theoretical bulletin of the Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy” to become “the monthly theoretical bulletin of the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left”, a change which represented both the final split with a party which was from now on a tool of the capitalist counter-revolution, and the affirmation of the international nature of its tasks.

In 1936 divergences started to appear on the question of the Spanish war and these divergences provoked a split in Bilan. At the same time the links with the Ligue des Communistes Internationalistes de Belgique which had been established at the end of 1932 were broken. This group had come out of Trotskyism and had immediately afterwards become subject to a strong councilist influence. In 1932, Bilan and the League took up the same positions in criticizing the International Left Opposition (Trotsky­ist) which when faced by the fascist attack in Germany launched an appeal for a united front for the defence of ‘democratic demands’, considering them to be stages in the struggle for the communist revolution.

The agreement between the two groups meant that they both refused the solution proposed by the Trotskyist Opposition for the recon­stitution of a communist party; this agree­ment also strengthened the possibility of contact and debate between the two organiza­tions, the aim of which had to be the recon­struction of the theoretical heritage of the proletariat, in order to provide an analysis of and a political response to the events of those years.

The Spanish war signaled the break-down of a debate which had been pursued for six years and which Bilan had greatly contribu­ted to. The majority of the League chose to give support to the anti-fascist war in an analagous form to the minority of Bilan and the French group L’Union Communiste.

In fact, Hennaut, a very important represen­tative of the League, wrote the following in a document sanctioning the break in February 1937:

We know that the defense of democracy is only the formal aspect of the struggle; the antagonism between capitalism and the proletariat is its real essence. And on the basis of not abandoning the class struggle under any circumstances, the duty of revolutionaries is to participate in it.”

A substantial expression of the struggle of capitalism against the proletariat is here considered as a formal expression of the proletarian struggle against capitalism. ... But the whole League did not take this position. A small minority, but the major­ity in Brussels, defended the position of Bilan. It was expelled from the organiza­tion and formed the “Belgian Fraction of the Communist Left”. From 1937 to 1939 it published Communisme, a duplicated monthly magazine.

In 1938, Bilan ended and Octobre took its place, “the monthly organ of the Internatio­nal Bureau of the Communist Left”. Five issues of Octobre were published, the last in August 1939. A month later the second world carnage began.

What links do the groups who claim contin­uity (more or less organic) with the Ital­ian Left have with the work of the Fraction in exile? Let us examine the position of the International Communist Party (PCI) who publish Programme Communiste. Programme Communiste always claims, in words at least, to come from the work of Bilan and Prometeo -- perhaps to fill the gap existing between 1926 and World War II. It has never attemp­ted to clarify the work of Bilan for its militants and readers (except for some short articles in one issue of the magazine in 1957 when Ottorino Perrone (Vercesi) died) and so Bilan remains merely a name and not a very important one at that. To read Bilan would have been traumatic for those who then followed a diametrically opposed path to that laid down by the Ital­ian Fraction in exile. Today there doesn’t even appear to be any trace of this false modesty, for although no-one would say openly that they have nothing to learn from the work of Bilan, this is implicitly under­stood in certain articles which touch on the question of the workers’ movement in the thirties. Although in one article in Programma Comunista, no.21, 1971 there is still a criticism of Trotsky when he called for “a whole series of hybrid coalitions amongst the international opposition”, and goes on to say that “in the end this pot­pourri of opposition joined together to form the still-born IVth International”, in 1973 Programma Comunista could write:

When Trotsky affirmed the prime necessity of forming a nucleus based solidly on revolutionary positions as an indispensable but not exclusive or sufficient condition for a revolutionary upsurge in the short-term or long-term and as the means by which the next conflict will become revolutionary, he was simply articulating a basic marxist truth, a truth all the more important when it is not so clear and can be ignored and even laughed at by the right, the ‘left’ and even the ‘extreme left’.”

Perhaps Programma Comunista mean by “based solidly on revolutionary positions” entrism into the social democratic parties, or even the defense of Russia during World War II? What other meaning can there be to the phrase “the means by which the next conflict become revolutionary” when those ‘means’ are the tactics of Trotskyism? Further on we find:

If Trotsky was mistaken, it was not because he put forward the necessity of a IVth International, nor that he believed such a necessity to be the aim of his work, as opposed to those who abstractly recognized the necessity but sought ref­uge in the protected atmosphere of the libraries - like the Korschs and the Pannekoeks of this world.”

And why not write here ‘the Vercesis and the Bordigas’ etc? But the article continues:

Only mindless sectarians could rejoice and mock the tragedy of the so-called IVth International, which fell because it became the prey of the most hetero­geneous forms of opportunism.”

and finally the article reaches its climax: “The IVth International remains to be built!” At last! What can a group which wants to “work today with patience, tenacity and modesty to make the day possible when the cry of the revolutionary vanguard will be: Long Live the IVth International” have to do with the Communist Left and Bilan?

Gentlemen, you have had to wait for the burial of their bodies before being able to write such things, which can’t be attributed to the madness of an imbecile writing under the anonymity of your magazine but are the ‘collective’ work of the ‘Party’.

The Internationalist Communist Party who publish Battaglia Comunista also claim origins in Bilan. One issue of Prometeo, the theoretical organ of Battaglia Comunista, was entirely dedicated to the theoretical and political work of Vercesi. We quote below some passages from this text:

The Spanish events, superior by far to their protagonists, also brought to light the strong points as well as the weaker points of our analysis: the majority of Bilan held to a formulation which was theoretically impeccable but which had the fault of remaining a simple abstrac­tion; the minority on the other hand took the position of participation at all costs, and did not seem to be always aware of avoiding the antics of bourgeois jacobinism, even when on the barricades.

Given the objective possibilities, our comrades in Bilan had to pose the problem, the same one our party had to pose later on when faced with the question of the partisans, of calling on the workers who were fighting not to fall into the trap of the strategy of imperialist war.” (Prometeo, Series II, no.10, March 1958)

Exactly, Battaglia Comunista defended the same position in the immediate period after World War II as the minority of Bilan during the Spanish war (not to mention its electo­ral participation in 1948). The minority of Bilan did not go to Spain to defend the Republic against fascism (as is shown else­where in the texts we have published) but to defend communist principles and tactics within the militias.

But the problem does not rest there, be­cause the pivotal issue is that what Battaglia calls our ‘formalism’ or ‘abstrac­tions’ is for us a principle, a class line.


1 The Entschiedene Linke was a group formed by elements expelled from KPD and was very close to KAPD (in Berlin). It was led by Schwartz but Korsch also participated in its activity. A short time before this the Spartacus League no. 2 was also formed. It regrouped the AAUE, the group around Iwan Katz and other elements. Later on Korsch has divergences with the KAPD and had to detach himself from the organization and brought Kommunistische Politik into being.

2 In all probability this is a reference to the theses presented by the Left at the Lyon Congress.

Heritage of the Communist Left: 

Political currents and reference: 

Development of proletarian consciousness and organisation: