100 issues of the International Review

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The rather neat fact that the 100th issue of the International Review coincides with the beginning of the year 2000 is not entirely fortuitous. The ICC was formally constituted in early 1975 and the first issue of the Review appeared soon after as an expression of the international unity of the Current. From the start it was envisaged as a theoretical quarterly published in the three main languages of the ICC - English, French, and Spanish, although less frequent supplements have appeared in a number of other languages - Italian, German, Dutch and Swedish. Four times a year over 25 years makes 100 issues. This itself is a fact of some political significance. In the article we published on the 20th anniversary of the ICC (International Review 80), we noted that very few international proletarian organisations had lasted so long. And this �longevity� has to be recognised as a particular achievement in a period in which so many of the groups that emerged from the revival of the class struggle at the end of the 60s have since vanished into the void. We have made no secret of our agreement with Lenin�s view that the commitment to a regular press is a sine qua non of a serious revolutionary organisation; that the press is in fact a key �organiser� for any group that is motivated by the party spirit as opposed to the circle spirit. The International Review is not the ICC�s only regular publication; it publishes 12 territorial papers or reviews in 7 different languages, as well as books, pamphlets and various supplements, and the territorial papers themselves have also appeared with consistency and regularity. But the Review is our central publication; the organ through which the ICC most obviously speaks with one voice and which provides the basic orientations for all the more local publications.

In the final analysis, however, the most important thing about the International Review is not so much its regularity nor its internationally centralised character, but its capacity to act as an instrument of theoretical clarification. "The Review will be above all the expression of the theoretical endeavours of our Current, since only this theoretical endeavour, based on a coherence of political positions and orientation, can serve as the basis for the regroupment and real intervention of revolutionaries" (Preface to the first issue of the International Review, April 1975). Marxism, as the theoretical viewpoint of the revolutionary class, is the most advanced point of human thinking about social reality. But as Marx insisted in Theses on Feuerbach, the truth of a method of thought can only be tested in practice; marxism has demonstrated its superiority over all other social theories by being able to offer a global understanding of the movement of human history and to predict the broad lines of its future evolution. But it is not enough to claim to be marxist to really assimilate this method, to bring it alive and apply it correctly. If we feel that we have succeeded in doing so during the last three decades of accelerating history, it is not because we think such an ability has been granted to us by divine right, but because we feel that we have taken our inspiration throughout this period from the best traditions of the international Communist Left. At least, this has been one of our constant objectives. And in making this claim, we can offer no better supporting evidence than the body of work contained in the 600-odd articles of 100 issues of the International Review.

Continuity, enrichment, and debate

Marxism is a living historical tradition. On the one hand this means that it is deeply aware of the necessity to approach all the problems it confronts from a historical starting point; to see them not as entirely �new� but as products of a long historical process. Above all, it recognises the essential continuity of revolutionary thought, the need to build on the solid foundations of previous revolutionary minorities. For example, in the 1920s and 30s the Italian left fraction, which published the review Bilan during the 1930s, was faced with the absolute necessity to understand the nature of the counter-revolutionary regime that had arisen in Russia. But it rejected any precipitous conclusions, especially those which, while in hindsight developing quicker than the Italian left a correct characterisation of the Stalinist power (ie that it was a form of state capitalism), only did so at the price of casting aside the whole experience of Bolshevism and the October insurrection as being �bourgeois� from the beginning. There was absolutely no question of Bilan calling into question its own continuity with the revolutionary energy that the Bolshevik party, the soviet power, and the Communist International had once embodied.

This capacity to maintain or restore the links with the past revolutionary movement was especially important in the proletarian milieu which emerged out of the resurgence of class struggle at the end of the 1960s, a milieu largely made up of new groups which had lost organisational and even political links to the previous generation of revolutionaries. Many of these groups fell prey to the illusion that they had come from nowhere, remaining profoundly ignorant of the contributions of this past generation, which had been almost obliterated by the counter-revolution. In the case of those influenced by councilist and modernist ideas, the �old workers� movement� was indeed something that had to be left behind at all costs; in fact, this was a theoretical apology for a break that had actually been imposed by the class enemy. Lacking any anchor in the past, the great majority of these groups soon found that they had no future either, and disappeared. It is therefore not surprising that today�s revolutionary milieu is almost entirely made up of groups which have in one way or another descended from the left current which was clearest in its understanding of this question of historical continuity - the Italian fraction. We should add that the historical anchor is today more important than ever, faced as we are with the culture of capitalist decomposition, a culture which more than ever before seeks to erase the historical memory of the working class and which, itself lacking any sense of the future, can only attempt to imprison consciousness in a narrow immediacy in which novelty is the only virtue.

On the other hand, marxism is not merely the perpetuation of a tradition; it is geared towards the future, towards the final goal of communism, and therefore must always renew its capacities to grasp the direction of the real movement, of the ever-shifting present. Inment, of the ever-shifting present. In the 1950s the Bordigist offshoot of the Italian left tried to take refuge from the counter-revolution by inventing the notion of �invariance�, opposing all attempts to enrich the communist programme. But this approach was very far from the spirit of Bilan which, while never breaking the link with the revolutionary past, insisted on the necessity to examine new situations "without any taboos or ostracism", without fear of breaking new programmatic ground. In particular, the fraction was not afraid to question the theses even of the Second Congress of the Communist International, something which latter day �Bordigism� has been incapable of doing. In the 1930s Bilan was faced with the new situation created by the defeat of the world revolution; the ICC has been compelled to analyse the equally new conditions created first by the end of the counter-revolution in the late 60s, and more recently, by the period inaugurated by the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. Faced with such changing circumstances, marxists cannot limit themselves to the repetition of tried and trusted formulae, but have to submit their hypotheses to constant practical verification. This means that marxism, as with any branch of the scientific project, is in fact constantly enriching itself.

At the same time marxism is not a form of academic knowledge, of learning for the sake of learning; it is forged in unrelenting combat against the dominant ideology. Communist theory is by definition a polemical and combative form of knowledge; its aim is to advance proletarian class consciousness through exposing and expelling the influences of bourgeois mystifications, whether these mystifications appear in their grossest form within the broad mass of the class, or in a more subtle guise in the ranks of the proletarian vanguard itself. It is therefore a central task of any serious communist organisation to carry out a constant critique of the confusions that can develop in other revolutionary groups and within its own ranks. Clarity can never be advanced by avoiding debate and confrontation, even if this is all too often the case in today�s proletarian political milieu, which has lost its grip on the traditions of the past - the tradition defended by Lenin, who never shirked from any polemic whether with the bourgeoisie, confused groupings within the worker�s movement, or his own revolutionary comrades; the tradition defended as well by Bilan which, in its quest to elaborate the communist programme in the wake of past defeats, engaged in debate with all the different currents within the international proletarian movement of the day (the groups coming from the International Left Opposition, from the Dutch and German lefts, n, from the Dutch and German lefts, etc etc).

In this article we cannot attempt a complete survey of all the texts that have appeared in the International Review, although we do intend to publish a complete list of contents on our web site. What we will try to show is how the International Review has been the main focus of our effort to carry out these three key aspects of marxism�s theoretical struggle.

Reconstructing the proletariat�s revolutionary past

Given the endless campaigns of defamation against the memory of the Russian revolution, and the efforts of bourgeois historians to conceal the international scope of the revolutionary wave launched by the October insurrection, a large amount of space in our Review has necessarily been given over to reconstructing the real story of these events, to affirming and defending the proletariat�s experience against the bourgeoisie�s outright lies and lies-by-omission, and to drawing their authentic lessons against both the distortions of the left wing of capital and the erroneous conclusions drawn within the revolutionary movement today.

To cite the major examples: International Review 3 contained an article elaborating the framework for understanding the degeneration of the Russian revolution, in response to confusions within the proletarian milieu of the time (in this case the Revolutionary Workers Group from the USA); it also contained a long study of the lessons of the Kronstadt uprising, that key moment in the revolution�s decline. International Review nos. 12 and 13 contained articles re-affirming the proletarian character of the Bolshevik party and the October insurrection against the semi-Menshevik ideas of councilism; these articles originated in a debate in the group that most directly prefigured the ICC - the Internacialismo group in Venezuela in the 1960s, and have been republished as a pamphlet 1917, start of the world revolution. Following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes, we published in International Review nos. 71, 72 and 75 a series of articles in response to the vast torrent of propaganda about the death of communism, focusing in particular on refuting the fable about October being no more than a coup d�Etat by the Bolsheviks, and showing in some detail how it was above all the isolation of the Russian bastion that led to its demise. We took these themes further in 1997 with another series which looked more closely at the most important moments between February and October 1917 (see International Review nos. 89, 90, 91). From the beginning the ICC�s position was one of militant defence of the Russian revolution, but there is no doubt that as the ICC matured it progressively threw off the councilist influences that had been strongly present at its birth, and lost any apologetic note in its approach to the question of the party or of seminal historical figures like Lenin and Trotsky.

The International Review also contained an examination of the lessons of the German revolution in one of its first issues (no. 2) and a further two articles on the 70th anniversary of this crucial event which has been so carefully obscured by bourgeois historiography (International Review nos. 55 and 56). But we returned to the German revolution in much more depth in our series published in International Review nos. 81-83, 85, 88-90, 93, 95, 97-99). Here again we can see a definite maturation in the ICC�s approach to its subject, one more critical of the political and organisational lacunae of the German communist movement and based on a more profound understanding of the question of building the revolutionary party. A number of articles have also dealt with the 1917-23 revolutionary wave in a more general sense, notably the articles on Zimmerwald in International Review 44, on the formation of the Communist International in no. 57, on the extent and signif in no. 57, on the extent and significance of the revolutionary wave in no. 80, on the ending of the war by the proletariat, in no. 96.

Other key events in the history of the workers� movement have also been allotted particular articles in the International Review: the Italian revolution (no. 2); Spain 1936, especially the role of anarchism and of the �collectives� (no.15, 22, 47, etc); the struggles in Italy in 1943 (no.75) and more generally, articles denouncing the crimes of the �democracies� during the Second World War (no. 66, 79, 83,); a series on class struggle in the Eastern Bloc which deals with the massive class movements in 1953, 1956, and 1970 (no. 27, 28, 29); a series on China which exposes the mythology of Maoism (81,84, 94, 96); reflections on the meaning of the events in France in May 1968 (14, 53, 74, 93, etc ), and so on.

Closely tied to these studies has been the constant effort to recover the almost lost history of the communist left within these gargantuan episodes, a reflection of our understanding that without this history we could not have come into being. This effort has taken the form both of republishing rare texts, often translated for the first time into other languages, and of developing our own research into the positions and evolution of the left currents. We can mention the following studies, although again the list is not complete: of the Russian communist left, whose history is evidently directly linked to the problem of the degeneration of the Russian revolution (International Review nos. 8 and 9); of the German left (series on the German revolution, already mentioned; republication of texts of the KAPD - Theses on the Party in International Review 41 and its programme in International Review 94); of the Dutch left, with a long series (nos. 45-50, 52) which was the basis for the book which has appeared in French, Spanish and Italian and will shortly come out in English; of the Italian left fraction, particularly through the republication of texts on the Spanish civil war (International Review nos. 4, 6 and 7), fascism (no. 71), and the Popular Front (no. 47); of the French communist left in the 1940s through the republication of its articles and manifestos against the Second World War (nos. 79 and 88), its numerous polemics with the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (nos. 33, 34, 36), its texts on state capitalism and the organisation of capitalism in its decadent phase (nos. 21, 61), and its critique of Pannekoek�s book Lenin as Philosopher (nos. 27, 28, 30); of the Mexican left (texts from the 1930s on Spain, China, nationalisations in IRs 19 and 20), the �Greek left� around Stinas (no. 72).

Also inseparable from this work of historical reconstruction has been the energy put into texts which seek to elaborate our position on the fundamental class positions which derive both from the raw experience of the class combat and from the theoretical interpretation of this experience of the communist organisations. In this context, we should cite issues such as:

- the period of transition, in particular the lessons to be drawn from the Russian experience about the relationship between the proletariat and the transitional state. This was a major debate in the proletarian milieu at the time of the foundation of the ICC, a fact reflected in the publication of a number of discussion texts from different groups in the very first issue of the International Review. This debate continued within the ICC and a number of texts for and against the position of the majority position within the ICC were published (eg nos. 6, 11, 15, 18);

- the national question: a suite of articles examining the way this question was posed in the workers� movement in the first two decades of the 20th century was published in International Review nos. 37 and 42. A second series appeared in nos. 66, 68 and 69, covering a broader sweep from the revolutionary wave to the fate of �national� struggles in the phase of capitalist decomposition;

- the economic foundations of imperialism and of capitalist decadence. In a number of texts, in response to the criticism of other proletarian groups, we have argued for the essential continuity between Marx�s theory of crisis and the analyses developed by Rosa Luxemburg in her Accumulation of Capital and other texts (see for example nos. 13, 19, 16, 22, 29, 30). Parallel to this we have devoted a whole series to defending the basic concept of capitalist decadence against a number of its �radical� detractors in the parasitic camp and elsewhere (nos. 48, 49, 54, 55, 56, 58, 60);

- other such general issues we have covered include the union question in the Communist International (nos. 24 and 25); the peasant question (no. 24); the theory of the labour aristocracy (no.25 ); the capitalist threat to the natural environment, ie �ecology� (no 63); terror, terrorism and class violence, the latter also being the fruit of an important debate within the ICC, in particular over whether the petty bourgeoisie could have any political expressions in the period of decadence. The ICC in the period of decadence. The ICC�s distinction between state terror and petty bourgeois terrorism, and between both and proletarian class violence amply answered this question (nos. 14 and 15).

This is perhaps the most suitable place to refer to the series on communism which has been running regularly in the International Review since 1992 and still has quite along way to go. Originally this project was conceived as a series of four or five articles clarifying the real meaning of communism in response to the bourgeoisie�s lying equation between Stalinism and communism. But in seeking to apply the historical method as rigorously as possible, the series grew into a deeper re-examination of the evolving biography of the communist programme, its progressive enrichment through the key experiences of the class as a whole and the contributions and debates of the revolutionary minorities. Although the majority of articles in the series are necessarily concerned with fundamentally political questions, since the first step towards the creation of communism is the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it is also a premise of the series that communism will take humanity beyond the realm of politics and release his true social nature. The series thus poses the problem of marxist anthropology. The interweaving of the �political� and �anthroaving of the �political� and �anthropological� dimensions of the series has in fact been one of its leitmotifs. The first volume of the series began (from International Review 68) with the precursors of marxism and with the young Marx�s grandiose vision of the ultimate goals of communism; it ended on the eve of the mass strikes of 1905 which signalled that capitalism was moving into a new epoch where the communist revolution had graduated from being a global perspective of the workers� movement to placing itself urgently on the agenda of history (International Review 88). The second volume has so far largely focussed on the debates and programmatic documents emanating from the great revolutionary wave of 1917-23; it still has to traverse the years of counter-revolution, the revival of debate about communism in the period after 1968, and to clarify the framework for a discussion about the conditions of tomorrow�s revolution. But in the end it will have to return to the question of what the species will be in the future realm of freedom.

Another very important component of the Review�s effort to give greater historical depth to the class positions defended by revolutionaries has been its constant commitment to clarifying the question of organisation. This has certainly been the most difficult question of all for the generation of revolutionaries that emerged in the late 60s, above all because of the trauma of the Stalinist counter-revolution and the powerful influence of individualist, anarchist and councilist attitudes on this generation. Later on we will mention some of the many polemics the ICC has had with other groups of the proletarian milieu on this question, but it is also the case that some of the most important texts in the Review on matters of organisation are the direct product of debates within the ICC itself, of the often very painful combat the ICC has had to wage within its own ranks to fully reappropriate the marxist conception of the revolutionary organisation. Since the beginning of the 80s the ICC has passed through three major internal crises, each one of which has resulted in splits or departures but through which the ICC has also emerged strengthened politically and organisationally. To support this conclusion we can point to the quality of the articles which emerged from these struggles and encapsulated the ICC�s improved grasp of the organisation question. Thus in response to the split with the Chenier tendency in the early 80s we published two major texts � one on the role of the revolutionary organisation within the class (no. 29), the other on its internal mode of functioning (no. 33). The latter in particular was and remains a key text, since the Chenier tendency had threatened to throw overboard all the basic conceptions contained in our statutes, our internal �rules� of functioning. The text in International Review 33 was a clear restatement and elaboration of those conceptions (here we should also point to a much earlier text on the statutes, in International Review 5). In the mid 80s, the ICC took a further step in settling scores with the remaining anti-organisational and councilist influences in its midst, through the debate with the tendency which went on to form the �External Fraction of the ICC�, now �Internationalist Perspective�, a typical element of the parasitic milieu. The main texts published in the International Review around this debate illustrate its key issues: the assessment of the danger posed by councilist ideas to the revolutionary camp today (nos. 40-43); the question of opportunism and centrism in the workers movement (nos. 43 and 44). Through this debate � and through working out its ramifications for our intervention in the class struggle � the ICC definitely adopted the notion of the revolutionary organisation as an organisation of combat, of militant political leadership within the class. The third debate, in the mid 90s, returned to the question of functioning on a higher level, and reflected the determination of the ICC to confront all the vestiges of the circle spirit which had presided over its birth � to aff had presided over its birth � to affirm the open, centralised, method of functioning, based on statutes accepted by all, against anarchist practices founded on friendship networks and clannish intrigues. Here again a number of texts of real quality express our efforts to re-establish and deepen the marxist position on internal functioning: in particular, the series of texts dealing with the struggle between marxism and Bakuninism in the First International (84, 85, 87, 88) and the two articles �Have we become Leninists?� in nos. 96 and 97.

Analysing the real movement

The second key task outlined at the beginning of this article � the constant evaluation of a constantly changing world situation � has also been a central element of the International Review.

Almost without exception, every issue of the Review begins with an editorial on the major events of international situation. These articles represent the ICC�s overall orientation on these events, guiding and centralising the positions adopted in our territorial publications. By going back through these editorials, it is possible to acquire a succinct picture of the ICC�s response to all the most crucial events of the 70s, 80s and 90s: the second and third waves of international class struggle; the offensive of US imperialism in the 1980s, the wars in the Middle East, the Gulf, Africa, the Balkans; the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the onset of the period of capitalist decomposition; the difficulties of the class struggle faced with this new period, and so on. A parallel feature has been the regular slot given over to the question �what point has the crisis reached?�, which again makes it possible to review the most important trends and moments in capitalism�s long descent into the quagmire of its own contradictions. In addition to this quarterly assessment, we have also published texts which take a longer term view of the development of the crisis since it came out into the open at the end of the 60s, most notably our recent series �30 years of open crisis� (International Review nos. 96-98). More long term analyses of all the aspects of the international situation are also contained in the reports and resolutions of our bi-annual international congresses, which are always published as fully as possible in the International Review (see nos. 8, 11, 18, 26, 35, 44, 51, 59, 67, 74, 82, 90, 92, 97, 98).

In fact, it is not possible to make a rigid separation between texts analysing the current situation and historical-theoretical articles. The effort of analysis inevitably stimulates reflection and debate which in turn give rise to major orientation texts defining the overall dynamic of the period and clarifying certain fundamental concepts. These texts are also often the product of international congresses or meetings of the ICC�s central organ.

For example, the third congress of the ICC, in 1979, adopted such orientation texts on the course of history and on the shift of the left parties of capital into an oppositional stance, providing the basic framework for understanding the balance of class forces in the period opened up by the resurgence of class struggle in 1968, and the bourgeoisie�s primary political response to the class struggle in the 70s and 80s (see International Review 18). Further elucidation of how the ruling class manipulates the election process to suit its own needs was provided by the article on the �machiavellianism� of the bourgeoisie in International Review 31 and in international correspondence on the same question in no. 39. Likewise, the bourgeoisie�s more recent return to the strategy of placing the left parties in government has also been analysed in a text of the ICC�s 13th Congress and published in International Review 98.

The 4th congress � held in 1981, in the wake of the mass strike in Poland � adopted a text on the conditions for the generalisation of the class struggle, stressing in particular that the spread of mass strikes towards the centres of world capital would be a response to capitalist economic crisis rather than to capitalist world war; a further contribution attempted a historical overview of the development of the class struggle since 1968 (International Review 26). Debates about Poland, and indeed about the whole second international wave of struggles of which it was the culminating point, gave rise to a number of other important texts on the characteristics of the mass strike (no.27), on the critique of the theory of the weak link (nos. 31, 37), on the significance of the struggles of the French steelworkers in 1979 and of the ICC�s intervention within them (nos. 17, 20), on workers� struggle groups (no. 21), the struggles of the unemployed (no. 14) and so on. Particularly important was the text 'The proletarian struggle in decadent capitalism' (International Review 23), which aimed to demonstrate why the methods of struggle that had been appropriate in the ascendant period (trade union strikes in single sectors, financial solidarity, etc), had to be superseded in the decadent epoch by the methods of the mass strike. The continual effort to follow and provide a perspective for the international class movement continued in numerous articles written during the third wave of struggles between 1983 and 1988.

In 1989, another major historical shift took place in the international situation: the collapse of the Eastern imperialist bloc and the definitive opening of capitalism�s phase of decomposition, an exacerbation of all the features of a decadent system marked in particular by the growing war of each against all at the imperialist level. Although the ICC had not previously expected this �peaceful� collapse of the Russian bloc, it was quick to see which way the wind was blowing and was already armed with the theoretical framework to explain why Stalinism could not reform itself (see the articles on the economic crisis in the Russian bloc - International Review nos. 22, 23, 43 - and in particular the theses on �The international dimension of the workers� struggles in Poland� in International Review 24). This framework formed the basis of the orientation text �On the economic and political crisis in the eastern countries� in International Review 60, which predicted the final demise of the bloc well before it was consummated by the fall of the Berlin wall and the break up of the USSR. Equally important as guides to understanding the characteristics of the new period were the theses entitled �Decomposition, final phase of the decadence of capitalism� in International Review 62 and the article �Militarism and Decomposition� in International Review 64. This latter text took further and made more precise our articles �War, militarism and imperialist blocs� which we had published in International Review nos. 52 and 53, prior to the collapse of the Russian bloc, and which developed the notion of the irrationality of war in capitalist decadence. Through these contributions it became possible to advance the framework for understanding the sharpening of imperialist antagonisms in a world without the discipline of blocs. The very palpable sharpening of inter-imperialist conflicts, of the chaotic struggle of each against all during this decade, has fully confirmed the framework developed in these texts.

Defending the principle of open debate between revolutionaries

At a recent public forum organised by the Communist Workers� Organisation in London, referring to the ICC�s appeal for common action between revolutionary groups faced with the war in the Balkans, a comrade of the CWO posed the question "what is the ICC up to?". He suggested that "the ICC has made more turns than the Stalinist Comintern" and that its �friendly� approach to the milieu is just the latest one of many. The Bordigist group Le Prolétaire described the ICC�s appeal in similar terms, denouncing it as a "manoeuvre" (see RI�.).

Such accusations make one seriously doubt whether these comrades have followed the ICC press over the last 25 years. A brief flick through the 100 issues of the International Review would be enough to refute the idea that calling for unity between revolutionaries is a �new turn� by the ICC. As we have already said, for us the real spirit of the communist left, and of the Italian fraction in particular, is the spirit of serious political debate and confrontation between all the different forces within the communist camp, and indeed between the communists and those who are struggling to reach the proletarian political terrain. From its inception - and in opposition to the very widespread sectarianism that prevailed in the milieu as a direct result of the pressures of the counter-revolution - the ICC has insisted on:

- the existence of a proletarian political camp made up of different tendencies which in one way or another are expressions of the class consciousness of the proletariat;

- the central importance, within this camp, of those groups which derive from the historic currents of the communist left;

- the necessity for the unity and solidarity between revolutionary groups in the face of the class enemy - its anticommunist campaigns, its repression, its wars;

- the necessity for a serious and responsible debate about the real divergences between these revolutionary organisations;

- the ultimate necessity for the regroupment of revolutionary forces as part of the process leading to the formation of the world party.

In defending these principles, there have been times when it was more necessary to confront differences, other times when unity of action was paramount, but this has never called any of the basic principles into question. We also recognise that the weight of sectarianism affects the whole milieu and we do not claim to be entirely immune from it - even if we are better placed to fight it by the mere fact that we recognise its existence, in contrast to most other groups. In any case, there have been occasions when our own arguments have been weakened by sectarian exaggerations: for example, an article published in both World Revolution and Révolution Internationale carried the title �The CWO falls victim to political parasitism�, which could imply that the CWO has actually passed into the parasitic camp and thus outside the proletarian milieu, whereas in fact the article was fundamentally motivated by the need to warn a fellow communist group of the dangers of parasitism. In a similar way the title of the article we published on the formation of the IBRP in 1985 - �The constitution of the IBRP, an opportunist bluff� (International Review 40 and 41) - could imply that this organisation has entirely succumbed to the virus of opportunism, whereas in fact we have always considered its component groups to be an integral part of the communist camp, even if we have always strongly criticised what we frankly see as its opportunist errors.

From the earliest issues of the International Review, it is easy to see to what our real attitude has been:

- the first issue contained discussion articles on the period of transition, reflecting the discussion both between the groups that formed the ICC and others who remained outside it; the same International Review also points out that some of these groups had been invited to or took part in the founding conference of the ICC; moreover the practice of publishing in the International Review contributions from other groups and elements has continued ever since (cf texts of the CWO, of the Mexican group the GPI; of the Argentinian group Emancipacion Obrera; of individual elements in Hong Kong, Russia, etc);

- in International Review 11 we published a text voted by our second congress in 1977, defining the basic contours of the proletarian political milieu and the �swamp� and outlining our general policy towards other proletarian organisations and elements;

- in the late 70s we gave our wholehearted support to Battaglia Comunista�s proposal for an international conference between groups of the communist left, participated fully in all the conferences that followed, published their proceedings and articles about them in the International Review and, within the context of the conferences, defended the need for the groups involved to make common statements on the central issues of the day (such as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan). By the same token we severely criticised the decision of Battaglia to abort these conferences (See International Review nos. 10, 16. 17, 22) and also the two pamphlets �Texts and proceedings of the international conferences of the communist left�;

- in the early 80s we published a number of articles analysing the crisis which hit a number of groups within the proletarian milieu (International Review nos. 29, 31);

- International Review 35 contains the appeal to proletarian groups launched by our 5th international congress in 1983. This appeal does not propose the immediate re-convocation of international conferences but seeks to establish more �modest� practices such as attendance at the public meetings of other groups, more serious polemics in the press, etc;

- in International Review 46, towards the end of 1986, we express our support for the �international proposal� issued by the Argentine group Emancipacion Obrera in favour of greater co-operation and more organised discussion between revolutionary groups

- in International Review 67 we published a further appeal to the proletarian milieu, this time issued by our 9th congress in 1991.

Thus, the ICC�s policy since 1996 of1>Thus, the ICC�s policy since 1996 of calling for a common response to such events as the bourgeoisie�s campaigns against the communist left, or the war in the Balkans, by no means represents a new turn or some underhand manoeuvre but is fully consistent with our whole approach towards the proletarian milieu since before the ICC was formed.

The numerous polemics we have published in the International Review are equally part of this orientation. We cannot list them all here, but we can say that through the International Review we have carried on a continuous debate on virtually every aspect of the revolutionary programme with all the currents of the proletarian milieu and quite a few on its margins.

Debates with the IBRP (Battaglia and the CWO) have certainly been the most numerous, indicating the seriousness with which we have always taken this current. Some examples:

  • on the party: the problem of substitutionism (International Review 17); the subterranean maturation of consciousness (International Review 43); the relationship between the fraction and the party (nos. 60, 61, 64, 65);
  • on the history of the Italian left and the orin the history of the Italian left and the origins of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (nos. 8, 34, 39, 90, 91);
  • on the tasks of revolutionaries in the peripheries of capitalism (no. 46, and this issue);
  • on the union question (no. 51);
  • on the historic course (nos. 36, 50, 89);
  • on crisis theory and imperialism (nos. 13, 19, 86 etc);
  • on the nature of wars in decadence (nos. 79, 82);
  • on the period of transition (no. 47)
  • on idealism and the marxist method (no 99).
Not to mention numerous articles dealing with the IBRP�s position on more immediate events or interventions (eg on our intervention in the class struggle in France in 1979 or 1995, on the strikes in Poland or the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the causes of the Gulf war, etc etc).

With the Bordigists, we have debated above all the question of the party (eg nos. 14, 23), but also the national question (no. 32), decaarty (eg nos. 14, 23), but also the national question (no. 32), decadence (no. 77 and 78), mysticism (no. 94), etc.

We should also mention polemics with the latter-day descendants of councilism (eg the Dutch groups Spartakusbond and Daad en Gedachte in International Review 2, the Danish group Council Communism in International Review 25;) and with the current animated by Munis (nos. 25, 29, 52). Parallel to these debates within the proletarian milieu we have written a number of critiques of the groups of the swamp (Autonomia in no. 16, modernism in no. 34, Situationism in no.80), as well as waging the combat against political parasitism which in our opinion is a serious danger to the proletarian camp, posed by elements who claim to be part of it but who play an entirely destructive role against it (see for example the Theses on Parasitism in International Review 94, articles on the EFICC (nos. 45, 60, 70, 92, etc), on the CBG (no. 83,etc).

Even when we have polemicised very sharply with other proletarian groups, we have always tried to argue in a serious manner, basing ourselves not on speculation or distortions but on the real positions of other groups. Today, given the huge responsibilities that weigh on a still tiny revolutionary camp, we have tried to make an even more stringent effort to argue in an accurate and fundamentally fraternal manner. Our readers can go through our polemical articles in the International Review and form their own judgement about how well we have succeeded in this regard. Unfortunately however, we can point to very few serious replies to most of these polemics, or to the many orientation texts which we have explicitly offered as contributions for debate within the whole proletarian milieu. Far too often our articles are either ignored or dismissed as the ICC�s latest hobby-horses, with no real attempt to engage the arguments we have put forward. In the spirit of our previous appeals to the proletarian milieu, we can only call on the other groups to recognise and thus begin to overcome the sectarian barriers that prevent real debate between revolutionaries - a weakness that can only benefit the bourgeoisie in the end.

Comrades! Help us distribute the International Review!

It seems to us that we can be proud of the International Review and are convinced that it is a publication that will stand the test of time. Although situations have shifted profoundly since the International Review began, although the ICC�s analyses have matured, we do not think that the I00 issues of the International Review we have published so far, or the many issues we will publish in future, will become obsolete. It is no accident, for example, that many of our new contacts, once they become seriously interested in our positions, begin to build up collections of back issues of the International Review. But we are also only too aware that our press, and the International Review in particular, still only reaches an extreme minority. We know that there are objective historical reasons for the numerical weakness of communist forces today, for their isolation from the class as a whole, but awareness of these reasons, while demanding realism on our part, is not an excuse for passivity. The sales of the revolutionary press and thus of the International Review can certainly be increased, even in only a modest way, by an effort of revolutionary will on the part of the ICC and its readers and sympathisers. This is why we want to conclude this article with an appeal to our readers to participate actively in an effort to increase the distribution and sale of the International Review - by ordering more back copies and complete collections (which we will be selling at an inclusive price of £50 sterling or its equivalent), by taking extra copies to sell, by helping to find and service bookshops and distribution agencies and so on. Theoretical agreement with the idea of the importance of the revolutionary press also implies a practical commitment to selling it, since we are not anarchists who disdain the grubby involvement with the process of selling and accounting, but communists who want to reach out to our class as widely as possible, but understand that this can only be done in an organised and collective way.

At the beginning of this article, we emphasised our organisation�s ability to publish a quarterly review for 25 years, without a break, when so many other groups have published irregularly or intermittently, or simply disappeared. One could of course point out that after a quarter-century�s existence, the ICC has still not increased the frequency of its theoretical publication. This is obviously the sign of a certain weakness, but not in our opinion a weakness in our political positions or analyses. It is a weakness common to the whole Communist Left within which, despite its meagre strength, the ICC is by far the biggest and most widespread organisation. It is a weakness of the whole working class, which although it has proved capable of emerging from the counter-revolution at the end of the 1960s, has encountered some formidable obstacles in its path, not the least being the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and the general decomposition of bourgeois society. A particular characterists society. A particular characteristic of decomposition, which we have pointed out in our press, is the development throughout society, including within the working class, of all kinds of superficial, irrational, or mystical viewpoints, to the detriment of a profound, coherent, and materialist approach, of which marxism is precisely the best expression. Today, books on esotericism encounter vastly more success than works of marxism. Even had we the capacity to publish the International Review more often, in three languages, its present level of distribution would not justify our making such an effort. This is why we call on our readers to help us in this effort of distribution. By taking part in this effort, they take part in the combat against all the miasma of bourgeois ideology and decomposition which the proletariat will have to overcome in order to open the way to the communist revolution.

Amos, December 1999

Heritage of the Communist Left: 

Development of proletarian consciousness and organisation: