International Review 17, 2nd Quarter 19791) Since the beginning of the workers’ movement, one of the most fundamental concerns of revolutionaries has been for unity in their own ranks. This need for unity among the most advanced elements of the class is an expression of the profound, historic and immediate unity of interests in the class itself, and is a decisive factor in the process leading to the world-wide unification of the proletariat, to the realisation of its own being. Whether we are talking about the attempt, in 1850, to constitute a ‘World League of Communist Revolutionaries’ regrouping the Communist League, the Blanquists, and the left-wing Chartists; or the foundation of the International Workingmen’s Association in 1864; of the Second International in 1889, or the Communist International in 1919, itself the result of the efforts towards regroupment at Zimmerwald and Kienthal in 1915-16, every important step in the evolution of the workers’ movement has been based on this quest for the worldwide regroupment of revolutionaries.
2) Although it corresponds to a fundamental necessity in the class struggle, this tendency towards the unification of revolutionaries, like the tendency towards the unification of the class as a whole, has constantly been held up by a whole series of factors, such as:
- the effects of the framework in which capitalism itself has developed, with all its regional, national, cultural and economic variations. Although the system itself tends to overturn this framework, it can never really go beyond it and it is something that weighs heavily on the struggle and consciousness of the class.
- the political immaturity of revolutionaries themselves, their lack of understanding, the insufficiency of their analyses, their difficulties in breaking out of the spirit of sectarianism, of the shopkeeper mentality, and all the other influences of petty bourgeois and bourgeois ideology in their own ranks.
3) The capacity for this tendency towards the unity of revolutionaries to overcome these obstacles is, in general, a fairly faithful reflection of the balance of forces between the two major classes in society: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Periods of reflux in the class struggle generally correspond to a movement of dispersal and mutual isolation among revolutionary currents and elements; whereas periods of proletarian upsurge tend to see the concentration of this fundamental tendency towards the unification of revolutionaries. This phenomenon manifests itself in a particularly clear way at the time of the formation of proletarian parties. This has always taken place in the context of a qualitative development of the class struggle, and has in general been the result of the regroupment of the different political tendencies of the class. This was notably the case with:
- the foundation of German Social Democracy at Gotha in 1875 (Lassalleans and marxists)
- the constitution of the Communist Party in Russia in 1917-18 (Bolsheviks and other currents like Trotsky’s group and Bogdanov’s group)
- the foundation of the Communist Party in Germany in 1919 (Spartacists, ‘Left Radicals’, etc)
- the foundation of the Communist Party in Italy (the Bordiga current and the Gramsci current).
Whatever the weaknesses of certain of these currents, and although in general, unification has taken place around one current that is politically more solid than the others, the fact remains that the foundation of the party has never been the result of a unilateral proclamation, but is the product of a dynamic process of regroupment among the most advanced elements of the class.
4) The existence of this process of regroupment in moments of historic development in the class struggle can be explained by the fact that:
- the unifying dynamic going on in the whole class has its repercussions on revolutionaries themselves, pushing them to go beyond artificial and sectarian divisions
- the growing responsibility facing revolutionaries as active, influential factors in the immediate struggle obliges them to concentrate their forces and their means of intervention
- the class struggle tends to clarify problems which had been at the basis of divergences and divisions among revolutionaries.
5) The present situation of the revolutionary milieu is characterised by an extreme degree of division, by the existence of important differences on fundamental questions, by the isolation of its different components, by the weight of sectarianism and the shopkeeper mentality, by the sclerosis of certain currents and the inexperience of certain others. All these are expressions of the terrible effects of a half-century of counter-revolution.
6) A static approach to this situation can lead to the idea, defended notably by Fomento Obrero Revolucionario, that there is no possibility, either in the present or the future, for a rapprochement between the different positions and analyses which exist at the present time, for the kind of rapprochement which alone can allow for the shared coherence and clarity indispensable to any platform for the constitution of a unified organisation.
Such an approach ignores two essential elements:
- the ability of discussion, of confrontation between positions and analyses, to clarify questions, if only because they allow a better understanding of respective positions and the elimination of false divergences.
- the importance of the practical experiences of the class as a factor in going beyond misunderstandings and divergences.
7) Today, capitalism’s dive into acute crisis and the worldwide resurgence of the proletariat has put the regroupment of revolutionary forces on the agenda in a most pressing way. All the problems that, along with the class as a whole, revolutionaries will have to draw out of its concrete experience
- constitute a favourable terrain for such a process of regroupment
- will allow for clarification of the essential questions which currently divide the vanguard of the proletariat – perspectives for the crisis of capitalism, the nature of the trade unions and communists’ attitude towards them, the nature of national struggles, the function of the proletarian party, etc.
But while the demand for unity and, in the first instance, the opening up of debates between revolutionaries are absolutely necessary, they will not be translated into reality in a mechanistic way. They must be accompanied by a real understanding of this necessity and a militant will to carry it through. Those groups who, at the present time, have not become aware of this necessity and refuse to participate in the process of discussion and regroupment are doomed, unless they revise their positions, to become obstacles to the movement and to disappear as expressions of the proletariat.
8) All these considerations animate the ICC’s participation in the debates that have developed in the framework of the Milan conference May ’77 and the Paris conference of November ’78. It is because the ICC analyses the present period as one of historical resurgence of the working class that it attaches so much importance to this effort, that it strongly condemns the attitude of groups who neglect or reject such efforts, and considers that this sectarian attitude is itself a political position, the implications of which hamper the communist movement. The ICC therefore considers that these discussions are a very important element in the process of regroupment of revolutionary forces, which will lead to their unification in the world party of the proletariat, that essential weapon in the revolutionary struggle of the class.