Address to Proletarian Political Groups: In answer to the replies

Printer-friendly version

At its Fifth Congress, the ICC made an appeal to the proletarian political milieu (International Review no. 35) to face up to its respons­ibilities in the context of today's serious world situation. The destructive contradic­tions of the capitalist system, exacerbated by the world crisis, reveal all the more starkly the alternative facing the working class: war or revolution. "But instead of serving as a reference point, a beacon in the emerging social storms, the political vanguard of the proletar­iat frequently finds itself buffeted and shaken by events ... incapable of overcoming its dis­persion and divisions which are an inheritance of the counter-revolution."

The ICC Address does not pretend to offer any miracle solutions to this problem. We essentially wanted to insist on our conviction that intervention in struggles and above all, the preparation for future decisive encounters "can­not be carried out by the mere efforts of each group taken individually. It is a question of establishing a conscious cooperation between all organizations, not in order to carry out hasty and artificial regroupments but to develop a will, an approach, which centers attention on a systematic work of fraternal debate and confrontation between proletarian political forces."

We clearly stated in the Address: "The time has not yet come for calling for new conferences of communist groups". The lessons of the breakdown of the previous cycle of International Confer­ences (1977-80) must first be drawn and the deb­ate seriously taken up again on questions still left unclarified. This is particularly true of the question which provoked the dislocation of the Conferences: the role, the function, of the future party of the proletariat.


In this article we intend to answer the differ­ent letters and proposals we received from the groups which responded to our Address. The very fact that various organizations felt the need to answer and explain their positions is, in itself, a positive sign. At least it can be said that the political organizations of the proletariat are not deaf and dumb.

But although revolutionaries are by nature opti­mistic, we could not help getting the distinct impression that the answers to the Address were often less the result of a profound conviction than a knee-jerk reflex: how to save face by answering while in fact washing one's hands of the real problems of the milieu by not going to the heart of the issues. Reading between the lines, one sees that groups continue to think: if other organizations are in difficulty, all the better! It gets rid of the competition! Each group builds ‘its' party and defends ‘its' territory. Is the confrontation of political positions a necessity? ‘Sure', each group writes. But in fact this answer is no more than a half-hearted ‘why not?'. The basic needs of the class are not understood and thus, this activity is not seen as a vital necessity.

The desire to think, much less act, collectively only appears when some particular event rouses the milieu from its sectarian torpor, but it is far from being a constant concern, a systematic process. ‘Intervention in the class' and ‘int­ervention in the political milieu of the class' are still being played off against each other. The latter is still seen as an afterthought if not an outright sterile exercise. But if poli­tical groups were really convinced:

-- that class consciousness cannot come from out­side the working class itself and that it is not injected into the class as the Leninist position in What is to be Done? Claimed;

-- that the political milieu of the proletariat exists for a purpose: so that the goals and means of the class can be expressed and clarified;

all groups would understand in practice and not just in words that the debates in the milieu are the reflection of the needs of the class. They would see that discussions are not superfluous and that the themes of debate are not just fortuitous choices. They would see that the vital process of clarification within the international working class as a whole must be expressed by a movement towards clarification in its political milieu. It is futile to just keep a scorecard of groups disappearing or splitting as though the milieu were a boxing ring. Without a thorough clarification in the milieu, any errors will simply be perpetuated and this would inevitably be detrimental to the possibility of a victorious revolution.

Today, most groups recognize that a major dec­antation is taking place in the political mil­ieu; they can hardly do otherwise. But they are still basically passive in this situation. There is no understanding of the urgency invol­ved in the need for active, conscious clarifica­tion without which this dislocation will merely be a dead loss. They do not recognize that sectarianism and fear of debate doomed the International Conferences and hindered the poli­tical milieu from consciously assuming its tasks. Only a confrontation of positions can help us all to evolve towards political coherence and assure an intervention appropriate to the needs of our historical situation.

We have so far received letters from the Commu­nist Bulletin Group (Britain), the Groupe Comm­uniste Internationaliste (Belgium), the Commu­nist Workers Organisation (Britain) and the ICP/Battaglia Comunista (Italy). The Fomento Obrero Revolucionario promises an answer in December 1983. Elements of the Groupe Volonte Communiste (ex-Pour Une Intervention Communiste) (France) are working on a balance sheet of their political trajectory. To begin with the basics ...

Communist Bulletin Group

How can one tell the difference between hot air and sincere conviction? By seeing whether words get translated into actions. Talk is cheap. The CBG writes:

"We want to express our solidarity with the approach and concerns expressed in the Address ... open, fraternal and continuing debate is a material necessity for the revolutionary milieu ... We have to fight for the recognition of the existence of a proletarian political milieu ..."

Fine! There is only one problem -- but a big one. The founders of this group are the same ex-mem­bers of the ICC section in Aberdeen (and ex-CWO section in Aberdeen) who covered up, participa­ted in and justified the taking of material and money from the ICC when they played around in the troubled waters of the Chenier affair (see IR no 28). These ‘comrades' knew about Chenier's maneuvers for months beforehand and said noth­ing to their own comrades. They later justified stealing from us by saying this "was normal in the case of splits". Our indignation was to them the proof of our "petty bourgeois ownership attitude". The CBG as a whole still politically justifies these acts and positions. They still refuse to give back what they took. In the first issues of the Bulletin they covered all this up with baseless personal attacks against the ICC of the vilest and most stupid sort. To­day, (probably because this attitude did not bring the results they counted on) they have changed their tune and hypocritically discovered "the need for healthy polemic". Whether the tone is hysterical or sickly sweet the result is the same: nowhere in the CBG press is there any disavowal of the actions or position of stealing as the origin for a group.

How can they talk about ‘solidarity' and the ‘rec­ognition of a political milieu of the proletariat' when the very basis for this doesn't exist for them? The CBG actually put pen to paper to write: "The existence of the milieu engenders a community of obligations and responsibilities". But who is to say that these words do not actu­ally mean: watch out the day after we disagree with you, because stealing, or whatever else comes into our head, will then automatically become ‘anti-petty bourgeois' activity. Or perhaps their view can be formulated as foll­ows: when one splits, one can take whatever is at hand but when, at last, one is one's own master, with one's ‘own' little group, the ex-highwayman joins the circle of property owners. Or maybe because they have some new members, the old ones hope to hide behind their new name. New name, new game?

The CBG's letter cannot be taken seriously. If there are any sincere comrades in this group, the least they can do is to make an effort to understand this problem and act accordingly. It is impossible to talk about the existence of a milieu in words and do the opposite in deeds.

When El Oumami split from the ICP/Programma ste­aling material in France, we showed our solida­rity on this elemental level. We will have the same attitude in the future: defending the pro­letarian political milieu against destructive attacks whatever the group concerned. At least it can be said that El Oumami's actions went along with their leftist platform. But what about the CBG?

What are its positions? The same (more or less) as the ICC! Another group whose existence is politically parasitical. What does it represent in the proletariat? A provincial version of the ICC platform minus the coherence and plus the stealing. But there is probably an evolution in the air. Most little circles which split be­fore first clarifying their positions follow the path of least resistance at first and adopt the same platform as the group they left. But quite soon, to justify their separate existence once the drama has died down, all kinds of secondary differences are discovered and before you know it, principles are changed. This was the case for the PIC, and to a certain extent, the GCI (which both left the ICC), and the CBG is already following the same route by rejecting any coherence on the organization question.

However, this has never prevented us from pole­micising with these other groups, nor from con­sidering them as a part of the proletarian mil­ieu in general or even inviting them to International Conferences. But this is not true for the CBG. A political group which does not resp­ect the ‘community of obligations and responsibilities' to a point where they participate in acts aiming to injure, or destroy other organizations of the proletariat, puts itself out­side the political milieu and deserves the ostracism it gets. Until the fundamental ques­tion of the defense of the political organizations of the proletariat is understood, we are obliged to consider the CBG's letter as null and void. They got the wrong Address.

Groupe Communiste Internationaliste (Belgium)

The GCI has written us:

"We agree with the principle of the need for regroupment and the world centralization of communist forces on the basis of a program. But for us this means not the primacy of consciousness over existence (discussion and ex­change of ideas as a precondition) but the need for a real practical-theoretical convergence as a basis, a cement for the development of debate and polemic. That is why we are formulating real proposals for work and not the endless talk in a vacuum which characterizes, for the moment, your public meetings.

1. We think it vital that the few workers' gro­ups that do exist develop elementary measures and practices of security and solidarity toget­her so as to oppose a compact front against the increasingly virulent attacks of state or para-­state repression. What do you think?

2. Concerning the recent important wave of struggles and the fact that unions have once again acted as strike-breakers, we feel that it is fundamental and necessary to develop a campaign of propaganda, agitation and actions centered around the question: unions equal strike-break­ers; autonomous organization outside and against them; solidarity with the victims of repression, etc. We think that it is on this terrain and only on this terrain that groups can show their will to struggle." (GCI letter to ICC, 29.9.83)

We are not against joint actions if the situa­tion requires them. We share the GCI's concern for the defense of proletarian organizations; this has always been our practice (the position taken by the ICC section in Belgium against Amada/Maoist calumnies on the GCI; the position on Chenier; against the attacks of El Oumami in France). Other occasions can arise. But for us the effectiveness of this ‘type of action' does not flow from a preparation against rep­ression ‘in itself' (defense groups? mili­tary training?) nor from unprincipled fronts for the defense of victims in general, but from solid, principled agreement on the existence of the proletarian milieu and the need to defend it. This cannot be accomplished ‘only on the terrain of actions' but must necessarily involve what the GCI sees as ‘endless talk' -- discuss­ions, debate, public statements at our meetings, in the press, etc. The same thing is true for the denunciation of the unions: this cannot be reduced to painting up slogans or launching ‘propaganda campaigns'. We know these kinds of campaigns only too well; the PIC was very fond of them for years. They only hide confusion and an inability to carry out real revolutionary work. The denunciation of unions is a long-­term work requiring a whole framework so that intervention is not just a one-off agitation but part of a constant activity in the press, leaf­lets, strikes, demonstrations, etc, on an international level. Putting forward ‘projects for joint actions' as a basis is turning revolu­tionary activity on its head and leading it to disaster.

The GCI seems to be falling into the trap of seeing agitation as the ‘only terrain' for confrontation. This approach creates a separation between ‘theory' and ‘action' which can only make theory into sterile academicism and action into a no less sterile activism. In the end, this logic leads to depriving the class struggle of its consciousness, it's crucial element.

The GCI accuses us of idealism and Hegelianism, of giving ‘primacy to consciousness rather than existence'. In the answer to the GCI letter written by the section in Belgium (see Internationalisme, Dec. 1983), the ICC wrote:

"Just as a man breathes in order to live and not just to exercise his lungs, the ICC exists and discusses not for tea room chats but to develop a clear intervention in the class struggle. The alternative is not theory or practice; the ques­tion is what intervention, on what basis, with what positions?

It was in the name of the primacy of existence over consciousness that the Communist Interna­tional imposed the policy of the united front. It was in the name of the same argument that the PCI (Programma) forbade any discussion and political intervention in the immigrants' strug­gle; that the GCI made a mountain out of a molehill with their phantom workers' committees (France) which evaporated as fast as they arose, and it was with the same reasoning that the GCI expelled the ICC from an unemployed committee in Brussels because according to the GCI the choice was between pasting up posters or discus­sing decadence.

We have seen the result of this sort of approach in the degeneration of the CI, the break-up of the PCI (Programma), the disappearance of all the GCI committees, a split in the GCI ... This logic which seeks at all costs to make agitation the only terrain of confrontation leads only to apoliticism and activism."

We do not reject joint actions; we can even add that the strike movement in Belgium in September 1983 would have required such actions. But they cannot be improvised. They call for a certain common analysis and political agreement which must be worked out through what the GCI calls ‘endless talk'!

We have gone into the implications of the GCI's approach because this kind of reasoning is not limited to them. Far from it. How many times have we heard groups say: "each group has its positions; no one is going to change -- so why bother talking". And to the extent that politi­cal groups do not try to defend their positions through rational arguments within a principled framework but try to ignore each other and avoid debate, discussion in the political milieu in­deed stagnates. Some, like the GCI then con­clude that rapprochement can only come from ‘one-off actions' (the GVC/ex-PIC text promised for the future will be interesting on this point) while others are glad to polemicise as long as it leads to nothing, as long as no com­mon statement results. This was the case with the ‘dumb' International Conferences (see IR no.17). Either way the result is a dead-end.


With its roots in the Italian Left and with its platform, this revolutionary group represents a serious current in the political milieu. It's will to polemicise, to confront political posi­tions in the press and in public meetings is an indisputable reality. Battaglia participated in a public meeting of the ICC in Naples on the theme ‘Crisis in the Revolutionary Milieu: What is to be Done?' and later answered our address with a letter sent to all the groups which par­ticipated in the International Conferences.

Battaglia begins its response by criticizing the ICC: "We reject the ICC conception of the revolutionary camp itself. The ICC is unclear because it does not distinguish between the revolutionary camp and the camp of proletarian political forces."

If ‘revolutionary organizations' mean those gro­ups with a coherent political platform, an organizational structure and a systematic and regular intervention in class struggle, and if ‘proletarian political camp' includes revolutio­nary groups but also groups without a platform or coherence or historical roots and which, on an unstable basis, claim to want to be part of the proletariat, then we can agree with this definition. Despite some occasional errors in vocabulary, we have always defended the need for this distinction. This is why in 1977 we insis­ted so much that Battaglia agree to define the International Conferences with clear political criteria.

Unfortunately, Battaglia uses this distinction for its own purposes:

"Who is in crisis? Certainly the ICC is. Cer­tainly the PCI (Programma) is. Certainly not the (numerically small) forces which knew how to evaluate the situation and the problems of the Polish experience, which did not fall victim to mechanistic or idealistic positions and which benefit from solid doctrinal positions[1]. There is no crisis in the revolutionary milieu; it is a purging of the proletarian camp."

So which are the organizations of the true revo­lutionary camp? The CWO? If we judge from its over-estimation of the class struggle in Poland (when they called the workers to insurrection ‘now'), the CWO is not of the chosen either. But Battaglia keeps a discrete silence on this issue. The only group left is ... Battaglia! This sort of reasoning only makes us think that the sad result of Programma's megalomania has taught Battaglia nothing.

But wait. The rehabilitation of the CWO is com­ing. The object of the exercise is to justify the elimination of the ICC from the Internatio­nal Conferences. Polemics in the press are for the "vast and agitated" milieu but the Conferen­ces are "for work towards the formation of the party". According to Battaglia and the CWO, as the three Conferences wore on they realized that the ICC did not have the same position as they did on the party. Appalled by this sudden rev­elation, BC "assumed the responsibility that is expected of a serious, leadership force" (BC letter) by introducing on this question an add­itional selective criterion unacceptable to the ICC. This is a pretty story. The ICC never ever had a Leninist position on the party, from way before the Conference in 1977. If that is what prevented the Conferences from continuing in 1980, it should have stopped them right from the beginning. So far as ‘taking up its res­ponsibilities', we can quote an extract from our letter to BC in June 1980:

"Are we to think that your decision wasn't taken until during the conference itself? If that was the case, we can only be flabbergasted by your irresponsible underestimation of the importance of such a decision, by your improvised and pre­cipitous behavior, which completely turned its back on the demands of the patient and systema­tic work which is so indispensable to revolu­tionaries.

But at the Conference, you said that this was in no way an improvised decision, but that you had previously talked about the necessity for a ‘selection'. Do we have to remind you, comrades, that during the meeting of the technical committee of November 1979 we clearly asked you about your intentions towards the future of the Conferences and about your apparent desire to exclude the ICC, and that you responded equally clearly that you were in favor of continuing them with their participants, including the ICC?

If, in fact, you felt that it was time to intro­duce a new, much more selective criterion for the calling of the future conferences, the only serious, responsible attitude, the only one compatible with the clarity and fraternal discus­sion that must animate revolutionary groups, would have been to have explicitly asked for this question to have been put on the agenda of the Conference and for texts to have been writ­ten on this question. But at no point in the preparation for the third Conference did you explicitly raise such a question. It was only after negotiations in the corridor with the CWO than you dropped your little bomb at the end of the Conference." (Proceedings of the Third Conference of Groups of the Communist Left)

And having rid themselves of the ICC, BC and the CWO held a fourth Conference, the culmina­ting point in the decantation of the ‘proletar­ian camp' towards the ‘revolutionary camp' and the formation of the party -- with the SUCM, Sup­porters of the Unity of Communist Militants, a group which was just about to form ‘the Party' in Iran along with Komala, which is engaged in armed struggle for the liberation of Kurdistan in alliance with the Kurdish Democratic Party.

What is this group with whom BC "assumed its responsibilities"? According to the letters which BC sent to the SUCM in July and September 1983, the UCM "underestimates revolutionary def­eatism", and its position of "defending the gains of the (Islamic) revolution does not exc­lude participating in the Iran/Iraq war". The UCM defends "just" wars and BC spends three pages of its letter giving lessons to its supp­orters on how to understand the falling rate of profit. To be sure, BC protests against the UCM's ‘social chauvinism' -- but ever so politely and it whispers to the SUCM that it really shouldn't go so far as to defend the state.

To the ICC, BC writes about our "congenital incapacity", our "theoretical inconsistency", saying that "only incompetent and incurable mil­itants" could have our ideas. To the SUCM, it writes in the following style "allow us to say, dear comrades, that the organization of which you are the supporters can be said to have, dare we say it, a clear Stalinist leaning". What sweetness for our brothers ‘in evolution' from the third world! But for the ICC, any old insult will do. The only time BC loses its cool is when it learns that the UCM held a meeting of the ‘Internationalist Committee for Iran' to celebrate the constitution of a committee for the construction of the Communist Party of Iran, a meeting that took place in Italy with the Nuclei Leninisti Internazionalista, the Lega Leninista and others, but without BC!

In reality, the problem with BC and the CWO (which follows BC faithfully) is not that they have established a distinction between the proletarian camp and the revolutionary camp, but that they don't see the difference between the proletarian camp and the bourgeois camp. The SUCM, at least, seems more clear; it writes to BC: "either you are with the ICC, or you're with us". Now BC seems to want to distance itself somewhat from the SUCM and it has sent to different organizations the recent correspondence it's had with this group. But in the let­ter replying to the ICC's Address, it obstin­ately defends what it has done on this issue. One step forward, two steps back.

How is it that a political organization like BC, with all its experience, could have allowed itself to be drawn into a flirtation with the SUCM, a support group for bourgeois, Stalinist-type organizations?

It's true that political organizations are not infallible. But this isn't an error of enthus­iasm about an unknown group. For over a year we've been warning BC and the CWO about the bourgeois content of the SUCM's political posi­tions. Today, the fusion between the UCM and Komala, the military communiqués that we get from the SUCM on the armed struggle in Iran (how many tanks destroyed, how many people kill­ed for the liberation of Kurdistan), as well as the Stalinist language of their documents and leaflets, can leave no doubt about what these groups are, at least for militants who aren't ‘incompetent and incurable'. The only doubt about the SUCM is knowing exactly who's behind them. BC has never posed the question about the origins of the enormous funds at the disposal of this group of Iranian dissidents, which in a year and a half has been able to cover all the main countries of Europe with its propaganda. Why does it have such an interest in penetrating the small groups of the present proletarian mil­ieu, who can't offer anything material to the objectives of Komala? The SUCM is a very skil­ful group which knows how to talk the language of everyone in the milieu, which knows how to flatter the flatterers.

It's not as BC still claims, a ‘group in evolu­tion'. How can a group coming from Stalinism, in alliance with the bourgeoisie, ‘evolve' to­wards the proletariat? A political organization can't cross this class frontier. If they keep slopping about in this muck, it's BC and the CWO who will evolve towards the bourgeoisie. "To know how to draw a clear line of demarcation vis-a-vis groups infested with social patriotism is the least we can demand of organizations as serious and as important as BC and the CWO." Rivoluzione Internazionale, no.33)

BC has allowed itself to be led by the nose be­cause the SUCM, UCM and Komala talk about the party, and BC and the CWO have their vision clouded by the word ‘party'. They have turned away from the ICC under the pretext that we're ‘against the party'. It seems quite secondary whether we're talking about the bourgeois party of Kurdish nationalism.

BC has made this mistake because it has a penchant (one might say a ‘congenital' one) towards opportunist operations. According to their res­ponse to the Address, BC and the CWO are "the only ones to carry out this work towards the proletariat of the third world". If BC had re­ally done its work towards the proletariat of the third world, it would have been quite intr­ansigent in its denunciation of nationalism, as was the ICC in its interventions on the ‘gueri­lleros' in Latin America and elsewhere. This whole condescending attitude towards the mili­tants of the third world (who are, it seems, so backward that you have to judge their positions with the indulgence of a Battaglia) is nothing less than an insult to the anti-nationalist com­munists of the third world, and a pure and sim­ple alibi for Battaglia. Battaglia is no more clear on the program to be followed in Europe itself. This isn't a question of geography and it doesn't begin in 1983. In IR no.32, we pub­lished the documents of the ICP of Italy in 1945 when Battaglia and Programma were both in the ICP. Their ambiguities about the partisans, those ‘forces in evolution' during the ‘libera­tion' of Italy speak for themselves. Battaglia replied to us that one has to know how to get one's hands dirty. Well then, the flirtation with the SUCM is not surprising.

But the main reason behind Battaglia's wavering and contradictory policies towards the proleta­rian political milieu, towards the definition of this milieu and of Battaglia's own responsi­bility within it, is the inadequacy of their platform, full of ‘tactical' loopholes on unio­nism, electoralism and national liberation.

Battaglia boasts about having ‘solid doctrinal positions'. But where are they? Certainly not in the new edition of their platform. The ICC must haunt BC's dreams because they keep attri­buting their own weaknesses to us. According to BC, the ICC suffers from a surfeit of ‘open questions'. What exactly this refers to, we do not know. What we do know is that BC has, not ‘open questions', but gaping holes, so much so that it prevents them from seeing class lines. On all the main issues, including the question of the party, BC merely repeats the errors of the Communist International, but makes them worse with vague and contradictory formulations.

Examine the positions of the ICP/Battaglia; there is never an honest, clear rejection of the errors of the CI on the union question, electoralism or national liberation. There is not even a clear rejection of the errors of their own party, the ICP, since 1943. Just a little attenuation here and there, a fudge of formula­tions when the situation requires it. If Batt­aglia occasionally asserts the opposite of the IIIrd International's positions, it is only paying lip-service, enveloping; it in so many ‘diplomatic' and ‘tactical' ambiguities that everything is fundamentally back to square one. BC continues to twist around, equivocating; all the way.

Marx wrote that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

At the beginning of the twenties, the centrist majority of the Communist International, led by the Bolsheviks chose to eliminate the Left to join with the Right (the Independents in Germany, etc). This was a fatal move, a tragedy for the communist movement.

In 1945, the newly created ICP of Italy, chose to eliminate the Gauche Communiste de France (see the article on the Second Congress of the ICP (1948) in this issue of the Review), in order to join with the survivors of a voluntary participation in the imperialist war in Spain in 1936, with the remnants of those who participa­ted in the Anti-Fascist Committee of Brussels and with those who flirted with the Resistance and national liberation. This again was a trag­edy for the communist milieu but it already had something of a farce played out by megalomaniacs.

In our period, the International Conferences were sabotaged to eliminate the most intransigent communist current in order to run after all­iances with the UCM and other defenders of nati­onal liberation in Iran and Kurdistan. The rem­nants of sixty years of Stalinism were taken for ‘embryos of the future communist party' in the Third World.

This time it was a complete farce! All the more so because at least Lenin's concern was the mass unity of the proletariat, and not, as in BC's more prosaic case, the defense of a little group.

The ‘juniors' of today are no different from their ‘seniors' of 1945. The same approach, the same positions. Perhaps a bit watered down but with a good dose of hypocrisy added on. Altho­ugh history repeats itself as farce, opportunism always remains the same.

Communist Workers Organization (Britain)

In its open letter of September 1983, the CWO writes:

"We agree that the working class and its mino­rities are in an extremely difficult and dangerous situation at the moment, though when you speak of ‘the crisis in the revolutionary mili­eu' it is not the one we have in mind ... More significant of the real crisis is our continued isolation as communists from the working class." (‘Reply to the "Address" of the International Communist Current')

But isolation as such isn't what provoked the crisis. For the CWO, the loss of revolutionary energies today can be put at the same level as in the past. Are we then still in the middle of the counter-revolution?

The CWO considers that the Address is "an expr­ession of the crisis in the ICC". Does it therefore reject discussion? In the end, no: "though it is not possible to carry on rela­tions between our tendencies at the level of the international conferences, this does not ex­clude debate." Thus, the CWO proposes a public meeting between the ICC and the CWO "on the top­ic of the present situation of the class strug­gle and the responsibility of revolutionaries". We have accepted this perfectly valid proposal.

But in its letter, the CWO makes a number of reproaches against the ICC and we want to deal with some of them here (to deal with all of them would be too much even for a Hercules).

* According to the CWO's letter, the ICC is not ‘serious' because "the CWO offered the ICC the opportunity to solidarise with our international intervention on the Iran/Iraq war, the ICC ref­used on the most ridiculous grounds." (For our response to this proposal, see World Revolution no.59.)

In the framework of the International Conferen­ces, the CWO refused to take up a common posi­tion against imperialist war and the inter-imperialist tensions because, as it says in the same letter, these were "vague and meaningless joint positions on self-evident banalities".

But did the CWO want the ICC to rubber-stamp its dangerous ambiguities about the UCM? The CWO doesn't bring out a leaflet for every local war in the world, only for the Iran-Iraq war. And although the leaflet did take a position on those ‘self-evident banalities' it must be seen as part of the rapprochement between the UCM and the CWO.

* Also, in their response to the Address, the CWO reproaches us for not inviting them to ICC Congresses whereas they invite us to theirs.

For some years, we invited BC and the CWO to our different Congresses and they came along, together with delegations from other political groups. But after the breakdown in the Inter­national Conferences, after being pushed out by the maneuvers of BC and the CWO, we consider that it would be nonsense to invite these groups to our internal meetings. The CWO does not want the ICC to participate in conferences between groups, but it wants to come to our Congresses? It kicks us out of the conferences, but invites us to its Congresses? Is that a logical approach? Does the CWO understand the significance of its own actions?

In the article ‘On the so-called Bordigism of the CWO' (Revolutionary Perspectives, no.20, second series), the CWO doesn't want to talk about that exactly. It prefers to defend its elder brother Battaglia against a sinister plot: the ICC has called BC ‘Bordigist'. If the word bothers you, comrades, let's drop it. It does not change the basic issue. The truth is that, in this article and in the letter, the CWO is furious with the ICC because we have published documents about the ICP's opportunism towards the partisans. In fact, these articles were aimed mainly at Programma, but the hat burns on the heads of Battaglia and the CWO. And with good reason. Between 1945 and 1952, BC was at the helm of the ‘united' ICP. But what is the CWO's reply: it wails ‘mummy' and stamps its foot. ‘Lies!' it says. But it explains nothing and justifies everything.

* According to the CWO, "before 1975, the ICC never mentioned the PC Int (Battaglia)" as tho­ugh we'd ‘hidden' the existence of BC from the CWO, for fear that these two titans might meet up. We did talk about Battaglia, but the CWO had its ears closed at the time. In the early seventies, the group was emerging out of the libertarian milieu and considered the Russian Revolution to be a bourgeois revolution, the Bolshevik party a bourgeois party. But when it finally recognized the October revolution and the Communist International, it was only paying lip-service. For the CWO, the counter-revolu­tion was definitive by 1921 (it didn't say whe­ther this was in January or December) and this fateful date was a sufficient basis to denounce the ICC as a ‘counter-revolutionary group'. At the time, we were Leninists because we talked about Bilan, but today we are called councilists because the CWO has discovered Battaglia. The CWO has gone through so many zig-zags in its life that you never know how long the latest zig will last. The CWO is reduced to polemics of the kind that appear in RP no.20 because it was born in ignorance of the history of the workers' movement, and because it has never sought for a real coherence in its attitude towards proletarian political groups.

* We can't reply to everything here, but we do want to deal with one final important point. In RP no.20 the CWO accuses us of condemning its rapprochement with BC. This is wrong. We are always for the regroupment of organizations as soon as they find themselves on the same basic political positions. We would never have con­demned a BC/CWO regroupment within the Inter­national Conferences. We followed the same path ourselves with the formation of our section in Sweden in the same period. We are against the perpetuation of little sects. If groups agree, they should unite. This helps to clarify things for the proletariat.

We would go further. We have known the CWO for a long time, and comparing its present rapprochement with BC to the strange alliances its anti-ICC reactions have produced in the past (with the PIC, the Revolutionary Workers' Group of Chicago, etc) we say: much better!

The question we must ask the CWO is this: why do you maintain a separate existence? Either one thing or the other: either you agree with the platform of BC, and that means that its ambiguities on the electoral, union and national questi­ons are shared by you; or you don't agree -- in which case, where are the discussion texts between your groups?

The CWO wants to wait and see whether the ICC is ‘really serious', whether its Address is ‘sincere'. Our Address expresses the position we have always had on the necessity for a dialogue in the political milieu of the proletariat. For more than fifteen years, we haven't shifted one iota on this point. We aren't chameleons like the CWO which changes color every two or three years. If the CWO has a short memory, we're happy to refresh it for them.


The groups write to us: your suggestions are vague. What do you want exactly with this Addr­ess?

We want to call for a change of heart in the pol­itical milieu of our class: the end of pretensions and of arrogance in a state of magnificent isolation; the end of evasions, of dangerous ac­tivism, of poetic licence on questions of principle.

First, to the basics. It's time to stop making the question of the party an alibi. It's time to discuss it seriously without anathemas, without going around in circles about empty formulae. It's time to respond clearly on some elementary questions before the debate can really go deeper:

-- does class consciousness come from outside the class as Lenin wrote in What is to be Done?

-- either in the past or tomorrow, is the class party the sole crucible or depository of class consciousness?

-- is it the party that takes power?

-- can the party impose itself on the class through the use of force, as in Kronstadt in 1921?

-- what criticisms, modifications, and elaborat­ions on the question of the party can we draw from the Russian Revolution, the experience of the first revolutionary wave, and the degenera­tion in Russia, and in the Communist Internatio­nal?

These are the fundamental question which have to be answered by pushing forward the criticism of the errors and insufficiencies of the past, and by benefitting from the contribution of the en­tire international communist left, without any ‘Italian', ‘German' or other exclusiveness.

Even Programma, after thirty years of being clo­sed and self-sufficient, is today being compelled by events to open a debate inside itself on the party, its function and mode of organization. But why only an internal debate? Can you catch some shameful disease by taking part in the poli­tical discussion going on in the proletarian mil­ieu? Is the confrontation of political positions a luxury, an annexed to ‘normal' activities, something you do if there's time, or is it a necessity, the only way to verify the premises of our political contribution to the decisive struggles of our class?

It's undeniable that the absence of the International Conferences is a real problem today, that ­ it makes it even more difficult to respond to the acceleration of history, to ensure that militant energies aren't lost in the convulsions of the political milieu, to present a principled framework for the newly-emerging elements of the class, to assist clarification in all countries, especially those which haven't had the time to develop marxist traditions. And it is also undeniable that the International Conferences were dislocated because of the sectarianism in the milieu: the PIC which rejected a ‘dialogue of the deaf'; the FOR which didn't want to discuss the economic crisis and which loudly with­drew from the Second Conference; the actions of Battaglia and the CWO which we have criticized; Programma which saw in the conferences only the ‘fuckers' and the ‘fucked'.

To create a new spirit is the only way to make it possible to hold new conferences in the future, the only way to ensure a conscious decanta­tion in the milieu, to work towards new and absolutely necessary efforts of regroupment.

For who dares to look at the political milieu of the proletariat and say that it will never be anything else but what it is today?


[1] In Battaglia, crisis is never expressed clearly and openly through opposition and confrontation of political divergences for the simple reason that there is not much of a political life of discussion within the organization. There is no real confrontation; one votes with one's feet by discretely, in silence, leaving the organization, one by one. This is not so immediately visible to the eye but just as important.

As to its ‘solid doctrinal positions', we refer the reader to the article in this IR on the Second Congress of the PCI/Italy in 1948. A reading of this report can help give the reader a more exact idea of Battaglia's ‘solid positions'.

Life of the ICC: 

Heritage of the Communist Left: