The function of revolutionary organizations: The danger of councilism

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The task of this article is to put forward the position of the ICC on the danger of councilism. It brings to the outside the fruits of our int­ernal discussion, for the clarification of the revolutionary milieu.

The principle of the ICC has always been to express towards the outside its own internal debates from the moment when sufficient clarification has taken place to be able to put forward the point of view of the organization as a whole. Theoretical and political debate is not reserved for internal usage, any more than we pursue reflection for its own sake. A revolutionary organization worthy of the name rejects both the monolithism which bottles up and stifles debate, as well as the spirit of the circle which sees debate in a casual, undisciplined way. The militant organization of the proletariat is a political body secreted by the class, so that the latter is not only interested in but directly involved in the theoretical and political struggle of the organization it calls into being. The debates of a revolutionary organization cannot be kept secret from the class, since a revolutionary org­anization does not have secrets to withhold from the class. The politics of secrecy was that of the Bakuninist sects in the 19th century, but never that of marxist organizations. The ‘secret' character of these sects led inevitably to the politics of the maneuver. The secret organization of the Democratic Socialist Alliance of Bakunin in the First International could only express an attitude foreign to the proletariat.      

Marxist organizations have always allowed internal divergences to be expressed in their publications in order to work towards an ever sharper consciousness of the proletariat regarding its struggle for emancipation. The Bolsheviks, before they forbade fractions in their organization in 1921, the KAPD and the Italian Communist Left always pursued this objective. Not in order - in the manner of the degenerated ‘councilists' - to put over ‘points of view' for the proletariat to passively take account of, but in order to orientate and outline the debates in a firm manner so that the praxis of the class can be free of error and hesitation.

This mode of functioning of the marxist organization flows quite naturally from its function in the class; to be an active factor in the praxis of the class. The ICC rejects both the notion of the ‘opinion groups' of councilism, which end up in eclecticism and the dissolution of the organization in passivity, as well as the monolithic organizations of ‘Bordigism', in which internal life is stifled and paralyzed by the outlawing of any minority position. In both cases, the incom­prehension of the function of the organization can only lead to its disintegration. The disap­pearance of the main councilist organizations, as well as the break-up of the ICP, is the price paid for this incomprehension.

The ICC is not councilist

The ICC - contrary to the gratuitous assertions of Battaglia Comunista, or of the CWO which has recently thrown the acquisitions of the KAPD into the dustbin and discovered Bordigist sympathies (after the ICC went to great pains to draw it out of the councilist-libertarian swamp of Solidarity) - does not come from councilism. It was formed against councilism. The existence of Internacionalismo in Venezuela was made possible, and was consolidated at the end of the ‘60s, by a theoretical and political struggle against the councilist tendency of Proletario[1]. RI in France was born by demonstrating, in the face of a councilist milieu that was particularly prevalent at the time, the necessity for a militant revolutionary organization and therefore for the regroupment of revolutionaries. After some hesitations in recognizing the necessity for a revolutionary party[2]. RI did not cease to show the importance of regroupment, without which the basis for the party cannot be laid. The 1972 regroupment between RI, the Councilist Organization of Clermont Ferrand and Cahiers du Communisme des Conseils was not a 'councilist' regroupment       but a regroupment on the marxist basis of the recognition of the irreplaceable role of the organization in the class. It became possible after            long discussions, thanks to which the councilist confusions of the Clermont and Marseille groups were overcome. At the time, in the absence of an organic continuity with the German and Italian Left, it was inevitable that the groups coming out of the post-‘68 ferment would be looking for the principal acquisitions of the Lefts. In the face of Stalinism and leftism, and under the influence of the contestationist ‘anti-authoritarian' milieu, they were fully exposed to the effects of the councilist anti-organizational and anti‑Bolshevik ideology. In France, then in Britain and the US, RI (then the ICC after 1975) conducted patient work against this ideology which tended to penetrate the new discussion groups and which led, through a reaction against Stalinism, to the rejection of the entire history of the workers' movement. It was in recognizing the prol­etarian nature of the Russian revolution that in January 1974 the group World Revolution broke with councilism. The same goes for International­ism in the US, after discussing with RI and Inter­nacionalismo.

Certainly, the ICC has had to combat, even within its own ranks, Bordigist ideas on the role of the party and its relation to the state which arises in the revolution[3]. From the Parti de Classe group in 1972 to the tendency which went on to become the GCI in ‘79, the ICC has shown that its struggle against false conceptions of the organization was neither a regression towards councilism nor towards a ‘neo-Bordigism' in the manner of Battaglia Comunista and the CWO. If the political and theoretical combat in its press has above all been directed against Bordigism and neo-Bordigism, this is largely because the disappearance of the councilist milieu - which is anti-organizational by nature - cleared the deck for a current like the ICP, which developed directly as a result of its opportunist capitulations. In a certain way, the development of ‘Bordigism' was the price which the revolutionary milieu paid for the progressive disappearance of the councilist-oriented groups, who vanished in a swamp of confusion. But at the same time, the ICP's Bordigism acted as a real repellent for the new elements and discussion groups springing up. Its conception of a monolithic party ("compact and powerful" according to its own terminology), which will exercise its dictatorship and the "red terror" in the revolution, had the effect of discrediting the party. Incapable of making, as Bilan had done, a balance sheet of the counter-revolution to draw out its implications for the function and the functioning of the organization, preferring instead a dialogue ‘with the dead" and "with Stalin"[4], the ICP and the sub-products of Bordigism have added grist to the anti-organizational mills of councilism. Bordigism, as a current, is the vehicle of old substitutionist conceptions which were prevalent in the revolut­ionary movement of the past. The ICC has always combatted these conceptions and will combat them again tomorrow. Now councilism, at the theoretical level at least, since it does so politically in an organized manner, is against "substitutionism", but this in no way signifies that the ICC is on the side of councilism.

The ICC, in fact, has had occasion enough to combat councilist errors and aberrations, includ­ing those within its own ranks. In the face of activist-ouvrierist conceptions, expressed in particular in its section in Britain, the ICC was forced to call an extraordinary conference of the entire organization in January 1982, in order to re-affirm, not to establish, the ICC's conception of the evolution and the functioning of the revolutionary organization.

Unfortunately, councilist ideas continued to be expressed in an indirect manner - and that is all the more dangerous - within our organization. At the beginning of 1984, a debate was opened up on the role of class consciousness outside of open struggles. There were hesitations in recognizing the end of the reflux after Poland (1981­82), with the resurgence of the class struggle in the Autumn of 1983. This resurgence clearly illustrated a maturation of consciousness in the class, which had taken place in a subterranean manner outside of a period of open struggle[5].

Although the question was not new for the ICC, a debate was opened up in our organization on class consciousness. This continued in a milit­ant manner the work already accomplished in the pamphlet Class Consciousness and Communist Organizations. Taking up the classic distinction of marxism[6], the ICC distinguishes two dimensions of consciousness: its depth and its extension. In this manner, the ICC underlines several fundamental points:

- the continuity and the development of consciousness in extension and in depth which manifest themselves through a subterranean maturation and                                        is explained by the existence of a collective consciousness;

- class consciousness necessarily has a form (political and unitary organizations) and a content (program and theory); it finds its most elaborate - though not ‘perfected' - expression in the revolutionary organizations secreted by the class;

- this consciousness does not develop among the workers taken individually but collectively; it doesn't manifest itself in an immediate manner but historically;

- contrary to the megalomaniac assertions of Bordigism, class consciousness is not the exclusive property of the party; it exists necessarily in the class, since without its existence the revolutionary organization could not exist;

- against the ‘ultra-democratic' demagogy of councilism, the ICC affirms that the highest expression of consciousness is not the workers' councils - which develop in a difficult manner and through a great many errors - but the revol­utionary political organization, which is where the treasures of the entire historical experience of the proletariat are crystallized. It is the most elaborated, most concentrated form of the collective memory of the proletariat, which exists only in a diffused state in the class before the revolutionary period, the moment when the class reappropriates it most strongly.

­During this debate, the ICC had to fight positions which either rejected the idea of a subterranean maturation, or (while recognizing this process) underestimated the indispensable role of revolutionary organizations, in rejecting the dimensions of class consciousness[7].

Reaffirming that without the party there can be no revolution, since the revolution necessarily engenders revolutionary parties, the majority of the ICC reaffirms that these parties do not tail the workers' councils but are their most conscious avant-garde. To be an avant-garde does not bestow it with any rights, but the duty of being equal to the responsibilities that flow from its more elevated theoretical and programmatic conscious­ness.

In the wake of this debate - which is not yet finished - the ICC has seen a tendency among the comrades with minority positions towards concil­iation to councilism,(‘centrist' oscillations in relation to councilist ideas). Although these comrades claim the contrary, we think that counc­ilism constitutes the greatest danger for the revolutionary milieu of today. And, much more than substitutionism, it will become a very great danger for the intervention of the party in the future revolutionary struggles.

Will substitutionism be the greatest danger tomorrow?

a) The Objective Basis of Substitutionism

When we speak of substitutionism, we mean the practice of revolutionary groups who seek to direct the class and take power in its name. In this sense, the leftists are not substitutionist organizations: their activities do not aim at substituting for the action of the class, but at destroying them from within, in order to preserve the domination of the capitalist class. As such, they do not commit the errors of substitutionism,        but aim at taking control of the class struggle in order to derail it and submit it to the bourgeois order (parliamentarism, trade unionism).

Substitutionism is in fact a mortal error which developed in the workers' camp, before 1914, then after 1920 within the Communist International. From the pretension of directing the class in a military manner (cf. the "military discipline" proclaimed at the Second Congress), it was only one step to the conception of a dictatorship of the party, emptying the workers' councils of their real substance. But this step, which progressively led to the counter-revolution, could only be taken under determined historical conditions. To ignore and forget that such conceptions existed even in the German Left is not to understand the roots of substitutionism as a specific phenomenon:

a) The heritage of the social democratic conception of the party - the party as the unique carrier of consciousness which is injected from the outside by "bourgeois intellectuals" (cf. Kautsky and the Lenin of What is to be Done?), into the "disciplined army" of the proletariat - weighed heavily on the entire revolutionary movement at the time of the revolutionary wave. And it weighed all the more heavily where it struck a fertile soil in the underdeveloped countries - such as Russia and Italy - where the party was conceived as a kind of 'general staff', representing the interests of the class and therefore entrusted with taking power in its name.

b) Such errors could only take root in a period of numerical growth of the proletariat, when the latter - emerging with difficulty from petty bourgeois rural and artisanal illusions - was politically educated by the action of political organizations of the proletariat. In the absence of a rich revolutionary tradition that could politically mature the class and give it a true political culture, the tasks of organization and education occupied an important place in the work of proletarian parties prior to 1914. The conception that the party is the ‘general staff' of the class and brings political consciousness to the class found an echo essentially in those countries where the revolutionary movement still lacked maturity, and all the more so where its action unfolded in the strictest clandestinity, which called for extremely tight discipline and centralization.

c) Substitutionist ideas, before 1914, still constituted an error within the revolutionary movement. Already, the events of 1905, which revealed in an incredibly rapid way the spontan­eous creativity of the proletariat, in the mass strike, also showed the falsehood of such concep­tions. Lenin himself wasn't long in abandoning the theses which he had defended in What is to be Done? The revolution of 1905 led, within the Communist Left in Europe, and particularly on the part of Pannekoek, to a questioning of the Kautskyite conception; it showed the decisive importance of the self-organization of the prol­etariat, which in no way could be called into being by the social democratic ‘general staff', or the unions. The change of tactic noted by Pannekoek vis-a-vis parliamentary and trade union work, which from now on became secondary, showed a profound change in the function of the revol­utionary organization.

d) It is wrong to see Lenin and the Bolsheviks as the theoreticians of substitutionism before 1917, or even in 1920. The Bolsheviks were   brought to power in 1917 - with the Left Social Revolutionaries - by the workers' councils. The insurrection, in which many anarchists participated in the Red Guards, was made under the direction and control of the workers' councils. It wasn't until much later, with the isolation of the Russian revolution and the beginning of the civil war, that the theory of a dictatorship of the party began to be theorized - in the name of "Leninism". Substitutionism in Russia, where the councils were emptied of all life and vampirised by the single party, is less the result of a pre-existing will of the Bolsheviks than of the isolation of the Russian revolution from the revolution in western Europe.

e) The Italian left communist current - contrary to the assertions of the councilists who make an amalgam of ‘Leninism' and ‘Bordigism' (‘Bordigo-Leninism) - had always, even in 1920, with Bordiga, rejected the conception of consciousness coming from outside the proletariat via "bourgeois intellectuals". For Bordiga, the party is part of the class; the party is the result of an organic growth out of the class, in which the program and a militant will are fused into a single totality. During the ‘30s, Bilan always rejected the conception defended at the Second Congress of the CI of a dictatorship of the party. It took the profound regression of the Italian Left after 1945, under the influence of Bordiga, to return to the theory of substituteionism, codified after 1923 under the label of "Leninism". It was precisely the rejection of the conception of a ‘dictatorship of the party' which in Autumn 1952 was one of the reasons for the split which gave rise to the present group Battaglia Comunista.

b) A Lesser Danger

Today, substitutionist conceptions present a lesser danger than in the past, because of:

- the profound theoretical reflection within the German, Italian and Dutch Lefts during the 1930s, even if this was done in a partial manner within each Left. This reflection gave rise to a balance-sheet of the Russian revolution and made it possible to understand the roots of the count­er-revolution;

- the Stalinist counter-revolution, which gave rise, particularly in the proletariat of the advanced countries, to a more acute spirit of criticism towards the political organizations which arise within its ranks but which can come to betray it. The proletariat, on the strength of its historical experience, will in the future no longer have a blind and naive confidence in organizations which claim to be part of it;

- the impossibility of a revolution in the back­ward countries until the epicenter of the world revolution has manifested itself at the heart of the industrial countries of western Europe. The schema of an isolated revolution coming out of an imperialist war in a country where the bourg­eoisie finds itself in a position of weakness, as in Russia in 1917, will not reproduce itself. Coming out of an economic crisis affecting every country - not just the defeated ones - and centered around the most concentrated and most politically educated sectors of the class, the communist revolution of tomorrow will emerge in a much more conscious manner than before. The proletariat can only organize itself internationally, and will only recognize itself in its parties to the extent that they will be part of the internation­al workers' councils, which will have emerged not out of a ‘French' or a ‘German' revolution, but a really international revolution. The geograph­ical isolation of the revolution in a single the objective condition for substitutionism, is no longer possible. The real danger will be isolation at the level of a single continent. But even in this case, there wouldn't be the predominance of a national party, as in Russia: the International (the world communist party) will fully develop itself within the international workers' councils.

­This does not of course mean that the substitut­ionist danger disappears forever. In the moments of decline in a revolutionary period - which will be extended in time, as the example of the German revolution shows - the inevitable hesitations and even temporary exhaustion of the proletariat in the course of a long and devastating civil war, can be the fertile soil where the poisonous weeds of substitutionism, putschism and blanquism can germinate. On the other hand, the maturity of the revolutionary milieu, within which there will already have been a ruthless weeding out of organizations pretending to be the ‘brain' or the ‘general staff' of the class, will be a decisive factor in the energetic struggle against this danger.

The conditions of the appearance and the characteristics of councilism

But if substitutionism constitutes a danger above all in periods of reflux in the revolut­ionary wave, councilism is a much more formidable danger, above all in an ascendant period of the revolutionary wave, and all the more so at its point of culmination when the proletariat needs to act rapidly and with the greatest possible decision. This rapidity in its reactions, this acute sense of decision, culminates in the con­fidence which it reveals in the programs and slogans of its parties. This is why the councilist spirit of indecision and tail-endism, which flatters the least action of the workers, is particularly dangerous in this period. The councilist tendencies which appeared between 1919 and 1921 within the German proletariat were not an expression of the proletariat's strength. If they were not directly responsible for the defeat, they expressed a great weakness in the class. To make a virtue out of these weaknesses, as the councilists do, is the surest means to lead the revolution to defeat tomorrow. The councilist type of reaction in the German proletariat during these years must be understood in order to avoid a repetition of this weakness.

Contrary to appearances, councilism did not arise as a variety of anarchism, which found its privileged terrain in the underdeveloped countries where the proletariat was painfully emerging from a rural and artisanal state. Councilism arises within a long established proletariat, already sharpened by the class struggle and strongly politicized, acting collectively and freed of petty bourgeois individualism.

Councilist tendencies arose in the KPD (Spartakus), then in the KAPD which was formed in April 1920. Whereas Ruble (ex-IKD), the spokesman for these tendencies, finally became well and truly isolated in the KAPD outside of Saxony, the echo of councilist ideas finally resounded throughout   the radical German proletariat in all regions. The exclusion of Ruhle and of his Saxon partisans by the KAPD in 1920 did not prevent the rapid development of councilist theses which came to be adopted by the unitary ‘unionen' (AAU-E), regrouping at one time several hundred thousand workers.

The characteristics of German councilism, which to a large extent are reproduced today, are:

- the rejection of any political party of the proletariat as "bourgeois". According to Ruhle: "The party is in its essence bourgeois. It rep­resents the classic organization for the representation of the interests of the bourgeoisie. It is born of the epoch in which, the bourgeois class came to power. It arises precisely with parliamentarism..." (Von der Btrgerlichen zur Proletarischen Revolution, 1924). Here, Ruhle expresses the legitimate hatred of the proletar­iat for parliamentarism, without understanding that the function of the party changes in decad­ence, which by contrast the KAPD understood perfectly;

- the rejection of centralism as the expression of the dictatorship of a class: "The bourgeois essence is organizationally represented by cent­ralism" (Otto Ruhle, op.cit.). The councilists here attack forms in themselves, believing that they are able in this way to avoid the appearance of a "caste of leaders". In propagating decentralization and in cultivating ‘anti-authoritarian­ism' they could not but favor the absence of effective control by the workers of the organization they formed. The anti-centralism put forward by the ‘unitary' partisans of Ruhle didn't prevent the AAU-E falling under the sway of intellectuals and artists of Die Aktion (Franz Pfemfert in par­ticular) who were true self-proclaimed leaders;

- localism, the corollary of anti-centralism, led necessarily to workerist factoryism. The factory became the tiny universe of the unionists (the AAU which was close to the KAPD as well as the AAU-E), and thus a fortress against the influence of the parties. The cult of the worker in his enterprise went with an anti-intellectualism; the non-worker ‘intellectual' militants of the KAPD were suspected of aspiring to the role of ‘leaders' in substituting themselves for the spontaneous initiative of the workers;

- the confusion between workers' councils and political organizations set back the workers movement several decades - back to the First International in which there were unions, parties, cooperatives, etc. Thus, the Unionen had a revolutionary program inspired by the KAPD but were a strange mixture, half political and half trade unionist. Such a degree of confusion led inevitably to a neo-revolutionary syndicalism. It's not by chance that the AAU-E - close to Ruhle and to Pfemfert - rapidly came to collaborate with the an archo-syndicalists of the FAUD;

- finally, political councilism slid towards a semi-anarchism in its worst form - individualism. Ruhle himself slid progressively towards an anarchistic anti-marxism, seeing in Marx an irascible obduracy towards Bakunin. His cult of individualism led to the pedagogy of the individual worker, the spirit of which was that of ‘the factory chimney stack', to use the ironic exoression of the KAPD in defining Saxon individualism.

The ‘councilist' danger in the revolution

Councilism does no more than express the weakness of the working class. It is first of all a negative reaction, in which the class goes from a blind confidence in its old organizations - progressively gripped by opportunism and finally sinking into the counter-revolution - to a pos­ition of defiance towards every political organization. The councilist tendencies in Germany during the revolution were in direct proportion to the naive confidence which the German workers organized in councils in November 1918 bestowed on social democracy which went on to massacre them over the next three meetings. In the face of what the workers believed to be simply the treas­on of ‘leaders' - with every organization secret­ing this ‘poison' of leaders - anti-party and ‘anti-authoritarian' (anti-‘'top brass') tenden­cies inevitably developed. The tendency for the industrial workers to fall back into local enter­prise organizations (Betriebsorganisationen of the Unionen) and corporative unions (miners' union, marine workers' union in 1919) was not the expression of the growing force of a class recov­ering after the massacre of January 1919, but the product of an enormous weakness of a terrible disorientation.

Because it unfolded in a highly-developed industrialized country, the key to the world revolution, the class struggle in Germany is much more characteristic of the communist revolution of to­morrow than what took place in Russia. Council-type reactions, where the proletariat in the councils will manifest the greatest possible sus­picion regarding all revolutionary organizations, will have to be fought by the revolutionary party with the greatest firmness.

These reactions will be all the more powerful since the Stalinist counter-revolution and the image of the single party in the Eastern count­ries - alongside a healthy suspicion of the workers for the political parties of the left ‑ have rendered the class deeply suspicious towards any revolutionary organization. Such reactions - along with state totalitarianism which makes any revolutionary mass organization impossible - exp­lain the lack of militant political engagement in the class. Despite the growing resonance which their positions and their interventions find, revolutionary militants inevitably come up against such prejudices as: "the revolution with parties, even revolutionary ones, leads to dic­tatorship". It is also true that Bordigism, with its conception of a sole party exercising the ‘Red Dictatorship' through violence in the class, with its odious support for the massacre of the workers and sailors of Kronstadt, cannot but reinforce such councilist reflexes within the class. One can even say that Bordigism and neo­Bordigism are the best recruiting officers for councilism.

Revolutionary organizations and the ICC in particular, must be conscious of the fact that their organized action in the councils of tomorrow will not be easy. It will happen often enough at the beginning that they will be forbidden to sneak on account of being organized in parties. The bourgeoisie for its part, via its most dangerous agents, its rank and file trade unionists, will not be slow to encourage the anti-organization sentiments of the workers, their workerist re­flexes, in presenting revolutionary organizations as being organizations of ‘intellectuals' who want to ‘direct' the class in order to take pow­er. As with Rosa Luxemburg in 1918, the non-wor­ker militants of the party may well be excluded from speaking to the councils on the pretext that they are not workers. The danger of councilism during the revolutionary events must not be underestimated - it may even be a mortal one. To the extent that anti-organization ideas predomin­ate, the proletariat will be prone to the most deliberate provocations of the bourgeoisie. The cult of ‘anti-authoritarian' minorities can lead to the most disastrous putschism for the class. The suspicion of the program and of revolution­ary theory, seen as violating the consciousness of the individual worker, cannot but favor the penetration of petty-bourgeois individualist ideology which will be carried by the innumerable battalions of petty-bourgeois proletarianized by the crisis and unemployment. Worse still, this suspicion favors the penetration of bourgeois ideology which is the dominant ideology.

A real danger today in the revolutionary milieu

The danger of councilism - even if it fully man­ifests itself in the revolutionary events - is a danger today. It threatens essentially the weak revolutionary milieu as a result of the lack of organic continuity with the revolutionary organizations of the past (communist lefts). It presents itself in many equally negative forms:

- immediatist activism which leads fatally to the libertarian swamp, if not to leftism. The ICO in France, Arbetarmakt in Sweden finally dis­appeared as a result of their ouvrierist activ­ism which took them to leftism. Arbetarmakt ended up falling under the pressure of petty-bourgeois, then bourgeois, ideology and slid towards a neo-­rank-and-filism.

- the conception of work and study groups leads to putting the militant role of revolutionaries in question; circles from which one observes the class struggle from the grandstand. Such groups finally put the revolutionary role of the prol­etariat in question, falling very easily into pessimism or modernism. The adventures of the Barrot circle (‘Le Mouvement communiste') bear witness to this. Such circles have nothing to do with the revolutionary milieu; they are sim­ply submerged in the confusion distilled by the petty-bourgeoisie in full decomposition.

- the ‘anti-Bolshevik' ideology - with which the entire revolutionary past of the Bolsheviks is denied - can only lead to putting in question the entire history of the workers' movement and of marxism. The evolution of the group Pour une Intervention Communiste (PIC) in France is sympt­omatic. From primitive activism, it glided to­wards becoming a circle of academic study. Soon - with the exception of the ‘Polish Left'[8], the hobby-horse of certain militants of the PIC - the entire revolutionary movement was considered to be sullied by the spirit of the party. Marx himself becomes the main culprit for all the sins of the workers' movement in ‘inventing' the con­cept (sic) of the party. Worse still, this whole'anti-Bolshevik' reaction cannot but lead to com­promises with left socialism. (Thus, the final dissolution of the members of the PIC into the Cahiers Spartacus, editors of the most diverse socialist pamphlets);

- the underestimation of the role of the organization, based on a view which sees the consciousness of the workers to be as developed - if not more so - than the consciousness of .the organization, leads to the negation of the organization as a militant part of the class. This underestimation is a veritable suicide for the militants who defend councilist positions within organizations or circles. This is the danger menac­ing all groups basing themselves on ‘council communism'.

Even if today councilism is disintegrating, principally in Western Europe, leaving a jumbled collection of circles based on unclear, profoundly anti-organizational positions, its ideology survives. The discussion groups which have appeared in Scandinavia (Denmark) and Mexico these past few years are particularly vulnerable to such conceptions. It is evident that the ICC does not ignore such groups, leaving them to wallow in their confusion. It is conscious that the organic rupture with the organizations of the communist left means that more and more, very confused groups will arise, adhering to council communism and marked by a petty-bourg­eois, individualist, councilist ideology. The ICC has an enormous responsibility - having become, ­with the break-up of the ICP the sole revolutionary pole at the international level - weighing on ­its shoulders to make such circles evolve towards a militant marxist conception. Such circles, which often enough come from the petty-bourgeoisie with its prejudices and its academic preoccupations, are particularly vulnerable to councilist ideology. The ICC can only lead these elements, as it has done in Sweden and Holland, to a revolutionary proletarian conception, when it remains intransigent in its conception of a centralized and militant organization and combats councilist conceptions without the slightest hesitation and oscillation.

The councilist danger does not only threaten the confused groups or discussion .circles; it can appear even in the ranks of the groups claiming the heritage of the Italian Left such as Battaglia Comunista and now that political eel called the CWO. Their conception of a double political organization, the ‘party' (the obligatory megalomania) alongside the (phantom) ‘factory groups', can't fail to recall the conceptions of the KAPD with its factory organizations, except that if one retains any sense of proportion, we can see that these are dwarfs compared to the giant which was the KAPD. Tomorrow, the logic of the bluff of' ‘factory groups' could lead them to dissolve their political organization through pure suivism, to turn them into simple appendages of these groups for the sake of having a little echo in the class. Despite being hostile in principle to the KAPD - out of ignorance or opportunism, the former being the case for Battaglia Comunista and the latter for the CWO as the all-round champion of political about-faces - these two small groups, full of their own importance, would be well advised to modestly study the history of the KAPD. By virtue of the double organization, the KAPD finally began to disintegrate in 1929, the larger part organizing itself in an activist union (the KAU), whereas what remained of the KAPD - from now on hostile to every double organization - didn't make up any more than a small group. The tail-endism of Battaglia Comunista and the CWO in relation to Iranian nationalist organizations such as Komala or the ‘Communist Party of Iran', doesn't speak very much for the capacity of these organizations to firmly maintain an intransigent programmatic and organizational framework.

The danger of councilism therefore does not confine itself to the negators of the party; it can even menace an organization as well armed as the ICC. What is all the more dangerous is that councilism often does not announce itself by its name and hides itself behind a formal recognition of a programmatic framework and centralized organization.

The ICC must be more vigilant than ever in order to fulfill its militant function in the class. It is convinced that its function is irreplaceable          and that it is the highest expression of class consciousness. Its centralized functioning is          decisive in order to maintain its programmatic framework handed down by the communist left.

The ICC, like the KAPD and Bilan, is convinced of the decisive role of the party in the revolution. Without a revolutionary party, the fruit of a long work of regroupment and of political combat, there cannot be a victorious proletarian revolution. Today, any underestimation of the role of the organization can only contribute to the disintegration of an already particularly weak revolutionary milieu.

The councilist danger is a menace against which the ICC must be particularly armed, right into its own ranks. In underlining the danger of councilist vacillations which don't announce themselves by their names, the ICC is not falling into or regressing towards a kind of  ‘Bordigism' or ‘Leninism'.

The existence of the ICC is the fruit of all the communist fractions of the past. It defends their positive acquisitions against both the groups of the councilist tendency and the Bordigist groups,           without taking over their negative sides: substitutionism in the Russian left, negation of the party in the Dutch left, double organization in the German left, The ICC is not an organization of the past. The ICC is neither ‘councilist' nor ‘Bordigist', it is the latter-day product of the         long history of the international communist left. It's through a political struggle, without concessions, against every hesitation regarding its function and its place in the class struggle that the ICC will be worthy of its predecessors and even go beyond them in the fire of combat.


[1] See the ‘Bulletin d'Etudes et de Discussion', 1974.

[2] The first number of RI manifested councilist tendencies. But in 1969 a very clear text on the necessity of the party was presented to the national conference of ICO (see RI old series no 3).

[3] See the pamphlet, ‘Communist Organizations and Class Consciousness'.

[4] ‘Dialogue with the dead' and ‘Dialogue with Stalin' (sic) are titles of pamphlets by Bordiga.

[5] Resolution of the ICC of January 1984: "There exists between moments of open struggle a subterranean maturation of consciousness (the ‘old mole' dear to Marx), which expresses itself both through the deepening of and the clarifications of the political positions of revolutionary organizations, and by a reflection and a decantation within the class as a whole, a disengagement from bourgeois mystifications."

[6] See Marx, ‘The German Ideology'. Marx speaks of the "consciousness of the necessity of a revolution". This communist consciousness is produced "massively" by a transformation "which touches the mass of humanity which can only be realized in a practical movement, in a revolution." 

[7] We give here extracts of the resolution adopted in January 1984 (and which provoked certain ‘reserves' and disagreements on the part of certain comrade):

"Even if they form part of a single unity and act upon one another, it is wrong to identify class consciousness with the consciousness of the class or in the class, that is to say its extension at a given moment ... It is necessary to distinguish between that which expresses a continuity in the historical movement of the proletariat: the progressive elaboration of its political positions and of its program, from that which is linked to circumstantial factors: the extension of their assimilation and of their impact in the class."

[8] These militants only go to prove that they don't know much about history. The Bolshevik Party, which they accuse of being too centralized, was much less so than the party of the party of the polish left, the SDKPiL.

Life of the ICC: 

Heritage of the Communist Left: 

Political currents and reference: