The Constitution of the IBRP: An Opportunist Bluff, Part 2

Printer-friendly version

IR-41, 2nd Quarter 1985


Our intention in the first part of this article (see IR 40) was to show that the formation of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party by the PCInt (Battaglia Comunista) and the Communist Workers’ Organisation is in no way positive for the workers’ movement. This, not because we enjoy playing the part of the “eternal disparager”, but because:

-- the IBRP’s organisational practice has no solid basis, as we have seen during the International Conferences;

-- BC and the CWO are far from clear on the fundamental positions of the communist programme – on the trade union question in particular.

In this second part, we return to the same themes. On the parliamentary question, we shall see that the IBRP has ‘resolved’ the disagreements between BC and the CWO by ‘forgetting’ them. On the national question, we will see how BC/CWO’s confusions have led to a practice of conciliation towards the nationalist leftism of the Iranian UCM [1].


As with the union question, BC’s 1982 platform is neither different nor clearer on the parliamentary question than the Platform of 1952: BC has simply crossed out the more compromising parts. In 1982, as in 1952, BC writes:

“From the Congress of Livorno to today, the Party has never considered abstention from electoral campaigns as one of its principles, nor has it ever accepted, nor will it accept, regular and undifferentiated participation in them. In keeping with its class tradition, the Party will consider the problem of whether to participate on each occasion as it arises. It will take into account the political interests of the revolutionary struggle...” (Platform of the PCInt, 1952 and 1982).

But whereas in 1952, BC spoke of “the Party’s tactics (participation in the electoral campaign only, with written and spoken propaganda; presentation of candidates; intervention in parliament)” (1952 Platform), today, “given the line of development of capitalist domination, the Party recognises that the tendency is towards increasingly rarer opportunities for communists to use parliament as a revolutionary tribune.” (1982 Platform). When it comes down to it, this argument is of the same profundity as that of any bourgeois party which decides not to contest a seat for fear of losing its deposit.

For once, the CWO does not agree with its “fraternal organisation”:

“Parliament is the fig-leaf behind which hides the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The real organs of power in fact lie outside parliament... to the point where parliament is no longer even the executive council of the ruling class, but merely a sophisticated trap for fools... (...)... The concept of electoral choice is today the greatest swindle ever.” (Platform of the CWO, French version) [2].

If the CWO want to take BC for fools, fine. But they should not do the same with the rest of the revolutionary milieu nor with the working class in general. Here is the IBRP, the self-proclaimed summit of programmatic clarity and militant will, englobing two positions which are not only different, but incompatible, antagonistic even. And yet, we have never seen so much as a hint of a confrontation between these two positions. As we have already pointed out [3], the platform of the IBRP resolves the question, not by ‘minimising’ it, but by... ‘forgetting’ it. Perhaps this is the “responsibility” that we “have a right to expect from a serious leading force”.

It might be argued that parliamentarism is a secondary question. And it is indeed true that we will probably never have the pleasure of listening to the speech in parliament by an ‘honourable member’ from the CWO or BC. But to accept this kind of argument would mean fudging the fundamental issue. The abstentionist principle was one of the central positions which distinguished the left wing of the Italian Socialist Party, grouped around Bordiga (and which was called, precisely, the “Abstentionist Fraction”), from all the different varieties of reformists and opportunists. Today, BC does not even defend this initial position of Bordiga but the position he adopted in the Communist International “by discipline” (i.e. abstentionism as a tactic, not as a principle).

As for the CWO, the casual way in which they go back on their own declaration that “no theoretical aspect should remain in the dark, within an organisation as much as between organisations” (CWO Platform) only confirms that their position on the parliamentary question (as on so many others) is born of mere empirical observation. In fact, the anti-parliamentary position must spring from a profound understanding of the implications of capitalist decadence on the bourgeois state’s mode of organisation – state capitalism. Not understanding the parliamentary question means being incapable of understanding the political manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie’s different factions. For the latter, parliamentary power has become a perfectly secondary problem in relation to the demands of social control and mystification. It is thus hardly surprising that the CWO has consistently admitted its “inability to understand” our analyses of the ‘left in opposition’ [4].

But their incomprehension of the implications of capitalist decadence, and so of the material bases of their own positions, is no excuse for the CWO’s practice on the parliamentary question. In an article published in Workers’ Voice no. 19 (‘Capitalist Elections and Communism’, Nov/Dec 1984), the CWO achieves the extraordinary feat of writing a long article on parliamentarism, quoting the positions of the Abstentionist Fraction (ie. the revolutionary left organised around Bordiga) of the Italian Socialist Party, without saying one word about the positions of their “fraternal organisation”, Battaglia Comunista. This kind of practice, which consists of ‘forgetting’ or hiding divergences of principle in the interests of superficial unity, has a name in the workers’ movement: that name is opportunism.


We have already seen that for the IBRP the difference between ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ is the same as that between a closed door and an open window. The IBRP’s platform begins by closing the door on national liberation movements:

“The era of history in which national liberation was progressive for the capitalist world ended a long time ago. Therefore, all theories which consider the national question to be still open in some regions of the world – and thus relegate the proletariat’s principles, tactics and strategy to a policy of alliances with the national bourgeoisie (or worse, with one of the opposing imperialist fronts) – are to be absolutely rejected.” (Communist Review no. 1, p.9, April 1984). No sooner said, that it opens the window to conciliation in practice with leftism: “Though demands for certain elementary freedoms might be included in revolutionary agitation, communist party tactics aim for the overthrow of the state and the installation of the dictatorship of the proletariat” (Ibid, p.10, our emphasis).

This ambiguity comes as no surprise to us, since Battaglia Comunista in particular has never been capable of carrying its critique of the CI’s positions on the national question through to their conclusion. In their interventions at the 2nd International Conference (November 1978), BC speaks of “the need to denounce the nature of so-called national liberation struggles as props for an imperialist policy”, but immediately follows this up by saying: “if the national liberation movement does not pose the problem of the communist revolution, it is necessarily and inevitably the victim of imperialist domination” (2nd Conference Proceedings, Vol. 2, p. 62 – these quotes are all taken from the French version). With this little “if”, BC stops half-way. This “if” expresses BC’s inability to understand that the “national movement” can never pose “the problem of the communist revolution”.  Only the proletariat’s independent struggle, on the terrain of the defence of its class interests, can pose this problem. As long as the proletariat struggles on the national terrain it is doomed to defeat since, in the period of decadent capitalism, all fractions of the ruling class are united against the working class, including the so-called ‘anti-imperialist fractions’. And as soon as the proletariat struggles on its own ground, it must fight the nationalism of the bourgeoisie. i.e. Only on its own ground of the international, and therefore anti-national, class struggle can the proletariat give a lead to the struggles of the poverty-stricken masses of the underdeveloped countries. And while the outcome of the workers’ struggle in these countries will indeed be determined by the struggle in capital’s industrial heartlands, this in no way diminishes their responsibility as a fraction of the world proletariat – and this includes the revolutionaries within that fraction. Because BC has not understood this, because they remain incapable of pushing their critique of the CI’s positions right to the limit, they end up by affirming that it is necessary to “lead the movements of national liberation into the proletarian revolution” (2nd Conference, Vol. 2,  p.62), and to “work in the direction of a class cleavage within the movement, not by judging it from the outside. Now, this cleavage means the creation of a pole of reference linked with the movement” (Ibid, p. 63, our emphasis).

Hardly surprising then, that when the UCM states: “We reject the idea that the movements (i.e. of national liberation – ICC note) are unable to attack capitalism in a revolutionary manner... We say these movements failed because the bourgeoisie had the leadership of them... It is possible for communists to take the leadership” (4th Conference  (September 1982), Proceedings,  p. 19), they add: “We agree with the way Battaglia approach the question” (Ibid).

Undoubtedly, it was the desire to “create a pole of reference linked with the movement” that led BC and the CWO to invite the UCM to the “Fourth International Conference of the Communist Left”. As far as the class nature of the UCM is concerned, we have little to add to the denunciation of the Communist Party of Iran (formed by the fusion of the UCM and Komala) published in the Communist Review no.1 (April 1984). This article shows us that “there exists no difference between the state capitalist vision of the left in Europe and that of the CPI”, and that the CPI is “communist in name only”. But the fact that the IBRP writes these words in 1984 puts us in mind of the young lover, who only realises that his loved one is religious... when she runs off with the vicar. The IBRP would like us to believe that the CPI’s programme dates from 1983, and did not exist “when we were carrying on a polemic with them (the UCM); i.e. before the UCM accepted the programme of the CPI” (Communist Review, no. 1, French edition p. 10). Nothing could be further from the truth. The CPI’s programme was published in English in May 1982, and a ‘note’ added by Komala shows that the two organisations had been holding discussion with a view to unification from 1981 onwards. Five months later, the UCM, which explicitly bases itself on the “Programme of the CPI”, is “seriously selected” by BC and the CWO, to “begin the process of clarification of the tasks of the Party” at the “Fourth International Conference”.

Better still – how gently, how circumspectly, ‘understandingly’ BC and the CWO answer the UCM!

“We agree generally with the SUCM’s intervention (on ‘bourgeois democratic revolutions’ – ICC note)” (BC). “The UCM’s programme appears to be that of the proletarian dictatorship” (BC again). “The term “democratic revolution” is confusing” (CWO); “we feel it is an idea (the “uninterrupted revolution” – ICC note) that has long been superseded (BC) (all quotes from proceedings of the Fourth Conference).

Even in 1984, the IBRP is not yet ready to denounce the CPI for what it is – an ultra-radical faction of the nationalist bourgeoisie. No, for the IBRP, “the CPI and the elements that gravitate in its orbit” are still “interlocutors”, while participation in imperialist war is no more than “the serious practical errors to which a political line lacking in coherence on the historical level may lead” (Communist Review no. 2, French edition, p.2).

BC and the CWO would do better to reappropriate in practice, and not in their present platonic manner, these words of Lenin :

“The person who now speaks only of a “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” is behind the times, consequently, he has in effect gone over to the petty bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle” (Letters on Tactics, published with the April Theses). “Only lazy people do not swear by internationalism these days. Even the chauvinist defencists, even Plekhanov and Potresov, even Kerensky, call themselves internationalists. It becomes the duty of the proletarian party all the more urgently, therefore, to clearly, precisely, and definitely counterpoise internationalism in deed to internationalism in word” (Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution).

Instead, here is where BC and the CWO’s desire to be “linked with the movement” leads: to holding ‘conferences’ with a bourgeois organisation that participates in imperialist war. “Linked with the movement”, fine – but which movement?

This attitude, this behaviour in practice, of the CWO and BC, and now of the IBRP, is not new in the workers’ movement. It is that of “the ‘Centre’ (which) consists of people who vacillate between the social-chauvinists and the true internationalists... The ‘Centre’ is for ‘unity’, the Centre is opposed to a split” (which today, the CWO “Second Series” [5] describes as our “sectarianism” towards the UCM);  “The ‘Centre’ is a realm of honeyed petty bourgeois phrases, of internationalism in words and cowardly opportunism and fawning on the social-chauvinists in deeds” (Lenin, op. cit.). Although today, the 57 varieties of leftism, mouths full of “internationalism in words”, have taken the place of the out-and-out social-chauvinists, the centrist behaviour that Lenin denounced remains the same.


If BC and the CWO have such difficulty in “counter-posing internationalism in deeds to internationalism in words”, this is also because they are seriously weakened by their incredible vision of the emergence of revolutionary groups, in particular in the under-developed countries. This in Revolutionary Perspectives no. 21 (1983), the CWO explains that there are only three possibilities for “the development of any political clarification”:

“1) The formation of a communist vanguard in these areas is irrelevant, since their proletarians are irrelevant to the revolution. We reject this as a conception verging on chauvinism... (...) ...

2) ... a communist party will emerge spontaneously out of the class struggle in these areas. That is, without any organic contact with the communist left... the proletariat of these areas will create a vanguard directly, which, out of the material of its own existence will formulate a global communist outlook. Such a view is spontaneism gone mad...

3) ...certain currents and individuals will begin to question the basic assumptions of leftism, and embark on a criticism of their own positions...” (p.7).

The first “possibility” is supposedly the position of the ICC, which allows the CWO to denounce us for “Euro-chauvinism”. Once again, the CWO reveal themselves as past-masters in the polemics of innuendo: not one of our texts is quoted to support this ludicrous accusation, and the supposed words of one of our militants (quoted in the same article) must have been gathered one day when the CWO had forgotten to wash their ears. Suffice it to say, here, that if we have, for ten years, constantly worked at contacts and discussion in Latin America, Australia, India, Japan and in the Eastern bloc... it is certainly not because we consider “the proletarians of these areas” as “irrelevant for the revolution”.

The second position is also supposed to belong to us. We would point out, first of all, that this vision – that sees the party emerging on a national basis and not internationally right from the start – belongs not to the ICC but to Battaglia (but then, contradictions have never bothered the CWO!). Moreover, it is obvious that the emergence of groups based on class positions can only be the fruit of a bitter struggle against the dominant ideology, all the more so in the underdeveloped countries, where militants must confront the full weight of prevailing nationalism as well as the extremely minoritarian situation of the proletariat. The survival of these groups thus depends on their ability to raise the lessons of the workers’ struggles against “their” supposedly “anti-imperialist” bourgeoisie to the theoretical and militant level, by establishing contact with the political organisations of the world proletariat’s most advanced and experienced fraction – at the heart of the capitalist world, in Europe.

The third position – that of the IBRP – boils down to this: the emergence of proletarian groups is to be sought within the enemy class itself, amongst the leftist organisations whose function is precisely that of diverting, deceiving and massacring the working class, in the name of ‘socialism’. The IBRP demonstrably understands nothing of the dialectical movement of political groups. Whereas proletarian organisations are constantly subjected to the influence of the dominant ideology – which may eventually corrupt them to the point where they pass over into the bourgeois camp – the opposite is not the case. Bourgeois organisations, from the very fact that they belong to the ruling class, undergo no “ideological pressure” from the proletariat, and it is unheard of for a leftist organisation to pass over, as such, to the working class.

Moreover, the IBRP’s perspectives are founded on a false assumption: that groups like the UCM, originating in the Maoist movement, appear isolated from each other, each in its own country. The real world is quite different – which only goes to show the IBRP’s naivety. In fact, the life of these groups is concentrated in various countries of exile as much as in their “countries of origin” – above all among political refugees, heavily infiltrated by ordinary ‘European’ leftism. A quick glance at their press reveals, for example, the UCM’s Bolshevik Message publishing greetings from the one-time El-Oumami [6] , or the Maoist group Proletarian Emancipation (India) publishing – without a word of criticism – the ‘Programme of the CP of Iran’. Our combat against these organisations is the same as our combat against leftism in the developed countries – and too bad for ‘Euro-chauvinism’.

Without a doubt, the organisations that have emerged from the working class in Europe, where the class has the greatest political and organisational experience, have an enormous responsibility towards the proletarian groups of the under-developed countries, who must fight often in difficult conditions of physical repression, and constantly under the pressure of the surrounding nationalist ideology. They will not fulfil these responsibilities by blurring the class line that separates leftism from communism; a striking example of this kind of ‘blurring’ is the publication side by side (in Proletarian Emancipation) of an article by the CWO on class consciousness, and the ‘Programme of the CP of Iran’.


We are not against the regroupment of revolutionaries: the ICC’s existence, and our work since the ICC’s foundation ten years ago is there to prove it. But we are opposed to superficial regroupments which depend on opportunism as regards their own disagreements, and on centrism and conciliation as regards bourgeois positions. The history of the PCI (Programma Comunista) has shown that this kind of regroupment inevitably ends up by losing, not winning, new strength for the proletarian camp. This is why we call on BC and the CWO to conduct a merciless criticism of their present positions and practice, so that they may truly take part in the work that must lead to the worldwide Party of the proletariat.


[1] It is not the aim of this article to demonstrate in detail the bourgeois nature of the “Unity of Communist Militants” or of its groups of sympathisers abroad (SUCM) (see our articles in WR nos. 57 & 60). Suffice it to say here that the UCM’s initial programme is essentially the same as that of the "Communist Party of Iran” (which “is communist in name only” according to the IBRP), and that Komala – with whom the UCM published the Programme of the CPI in May 1982 – is a Maoist guerrilla organisation, a military ally of the openly bourgeois Kurdish Democratic Party, with its training camps established in Iraq. The UCM and Komala are thus direct participants in the imperialist Iran/Iraq war.

[2] It may be said in passing that we entirely share this vision of the “democratic” bourgeois parliament.

[3] See the article in IR 40 (1st Quarter, 1985).

[4] Without going into details, our analysis of the ‘left in opposition’ is based:

-- on the fact that in decadent capitalism there no longer exist any “progressive factions” of the bourgeoisie; whatever its internal quarrels, the whole ruling class is united against the working class (see IR nos. 31 & 39);

-- on the fact that within the apparatus of state capitalism the essential function of its left factions is to divert and derail the proletarian class struggle.

Given this basis, we consider that the bourgeoisie, since the opening of the second wave of class struggle in 1978, has consciously adopted the policy of keeping its left parties in opposition, to avoid their being discredited in the eyes of the workers by the austerity that they would be obliged to enforce in government.

[5] In RP 20 (April 1983) the CWO are so proud of their “more dialectical method... which sees events in their historical context, as a process full of contradictions, and not in an abstract, formal way”, that they decide to call their review “Revolutionary Perspectives Second Series”. With RP 21, the “Second Series” has already disappeared; apparently the CWO’s dialectics didn’t last long.

[6] El-Oumami, once an organ of the PCI (Programma Comunista) in France, was founded as a group on the basis of openly nationalist positions after a split in the PCI in France. The splitters made off with equipment and a large part of the PCI’s funds, using the usual methods of nationalist gangsters.


Political currents and reference: 

General and theoretical questions: