Valuation and perspectives
10 years of the ICC: Some Lessons
The International Communist Current is ten years old. Our international organization was formally constituted in January 1975. This experience of a decade of existence belongs to the world working class of which the ICC, like all revolutionary organizations, is a part, an active factor in the proletariat's historic struggle for emancipation. This is why, on the tenth anniversary of the foundation of our organization, we propose to draw for the whole of our class a number of the most important lessons of this experience, in particular those which serve to answer the question of how to build a revolutionary organization, how to prepare for the constitution of tomorrow's world communist party which will be an indispensable instrument of the proletarian revolution.
But before we can answer these questions we have to present a very short history of our organization, in particular of the period which preceded its formal constitution, because it was in this period that the bases for all our later activity were laid.
A short history of our Current
The first organized expression of our Current appeared in Venezuela in 1964. It consisted of very young elements who had begun to evolve towards class positions through discussions with an older comrade who had behind him the experience of being a militant in the Communist International, in the left fractions which were excluded from it at the end of the 1920s - notably the Left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy - and who was part of the Gauche Communiste de France until its dissolution in 1952. Straight away then, this small group in Venezuela - which, between 1964 and 1968 published ten issues of its review Internacionalismo - saw itself as being in political continuity with the positions of the Communist Left, especially those of the GCF. This was expressed in particular through a very clear rejection of any policy of supporting so-called ‘national liberation struggles', a myth that was very prevalent in Latin American countries and that weighed heavily on elements trying to move towards class positions. It was also expressed in an attitude of openness towards, and making contact with, other communist groups - an attitude which had previously characterized the International Communist Left before the war and the GCF after it.
Thus the group Internacionalismo established or tried to establish contacts and discussions with the American group News and Letters (to whose congress in 1965 it sent three representatives and submitted theses on ‘national liberation') and in Europe with a whole series of groups who were situated on class positions - such as Fomento Obrero Revolucionario (Spain), Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Battaglia Comunista - Italy), the PCI (Programme Communiste), Groupe de Liaison pour 1'Action des Travailleurs, Informations et Correspondences Ouvrieres, Pouvoir Ouvriere (France) as well as with elements of the Dutch left in Holland.
With the departure of several of its elements for France in ‘67 and ‘68, this group interrupted its publication for several years, before Internacionalismo (new series) began in 1974 and the group became a constituent part of the ICC in 1975.
The second organized expression of our Current appeared in France in the wake of the general strike of May ‘68 which marked the historic resurgence of the world proletariat after more than 40 years of counter-revolution. A small nucleus was formed in Toulouse around a militant of Internacionalismo. This nucleus participated actively in the animated discussions of Spring ‘68, adopted a ‘declaration of principles' in June (see RI no 2, old series) and published the first issue of Revolution Internationale at the end of that year. Straight away, this group continued Internacionalismo's policy of looking for contact and discussion with other groups of the proletarian milieu both nationally and internationally. It participated in the national conferences organized by ICO in 1969 and ‘70 as well as the international conference organized in Brussels in 1969. From 1970 onwards, it established closer links with two groups who managed to swim out of the general decomposition of the councilist milieu after May ‘68: the ‘Organisation Conseilliste de Clermont-Ferrand' and ‘Cahiers du Communisme de Conseils (Marseille)', following an attempted discussion with the GLAT which showed that this group was moving further and further away from marxism. Discussion with the former two groups, however, proved much more fruitful and after a whole series of meetings in which the basic positions of the Communist Left were examined in a systematic manner, RI, the OC of Clermont and CCC joined together in 1972 around a platform (see RI no 1, new series) which was a more detailed and precise version of RI's declaration of principles of 1968. This new group published the review Revolution Internationale as well as a Bulletin d'Etude et de Discussion and was to be at the centre of a whole work of international contact and discussion in Europe up until the foundation of the ICC two and a half years later.
On the American continent, the discussions that Internacionalismo had with News and Letters left some traces in the USA and, in 1970, a group was formed in New York around an orientation text with the same basic positions as Internacionalismo and RI (see Internationalism no 1). Part of the group was made up of former members of News and Letters, to whom this organization had responded with denigration and disciplinary measures rather than with a serious debate when these militants tried to raise questions about its political confusions. The new group began to publish Internationalism and like its predecessors set about establishing discussions with other communist groups. Thus it maintained contacts and discussions with Root and Branch in Boston, which was inspired by the councilist ideas of Paul Mattick, but these proved not to be fruitful since the Boston group was more and more turning into a club of marxology. In 1972, Internationalism sent a proposal for international correspondence to twenty groups, in the following terms (see RI no 2 and Internationalism no 4):
"In the past five years we have seen an eruption of working class militancy on a scale unprecedented in the post-war era. These struggles have often taken the form of illegal and wildcat strikes under the direction of rank and file committees...
These struggles have been particularly intense, and with the world-wide scope of the capitalist crisis they have taken on an international character....
Together with the heightened activity of the working class there has been a dramatic growth in the number of revolutionary groups having an internationalist communist perspective. Unfortunately, contact and correspondence between these groups has largely been haphazard and episodic.
Internationalism makes the following proposal with a view towards regularizing and expanding contact and correspondence between groups having an internationalist communist perspective...
The choice of the groups to receive this appeal and participate in an International Correspondence Network naturally reflects criteria of a political nature. The groups named below, while differing on many fundamental issues, in general have in common a recognition of the counter-revolutionary character of Russia, the Soviet bloc and China; an opposition to all forms of reformism, frontism and class collaboration including national fronts, popular fronts and anti-fascist fronts; a theory and practice rooted in a critique of the Third International; the conviction, which is the basis of our theoretical and practical activities, that only the proletariat is the historical subject of revolution in our time; a conviction that the overthrow of the capitalist system requires the abolition of' wage labor; and a thoroughgoing internationalism."
In its positive response, RI said:
"Like you we feel the necessity for the life and activities of our groups to have as international a character as the present struggles of the working class. This is why we have maintained contact through letters or directly with a certain number of European groups to whom your proposal was sent. We refer to Workers' Voice and Solidarity in the UK, Sociale Revolution and Revolutionarer Kamp f in Germany, Spartacus in Holland, Lutto de Classe and Bilan in Belgium.
We think that your initiative will make it possible to broaden the scope of these contacts and at the very least, to make our respective positions better known.
We also think that the perspective of a future international conference is the logical follow-on from the establishment of this political correspondence, and that this will allow a fuller knowledge of the positions of other groups as well as a decantation of points of agreement and disagreement."
In its response, RI thus underlined the necessity to work towards international conferences of groups of the Communist Left, without any idea of haste: such a conference should be held after a period of correspondence. This proposal was in continuity with the repeated proposals it had made (in ‘68, ‘69 and ‘71) to the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Battaglia) to call such conferences, since at the time this organization was the most important and serious group in the camp of the Communist Left in Europe (alongside the PCI - Programma Comunista, which was basking in the comfort of its splendid isolation). But despite Battaglia's open and fraternal attitude, these proposals had each time been rejected (see our article, ‘The Constitution of the IBRP: An Opportunist Bluff' in this issue of the IR).
In the end, Internationalism's initiative and RI's proposal did lead, in ‘73 and ‘74, to the holding of a series of conferences and meetings (see RI 4, 7; Bulletin d'Etude et de Discussion 5, 9; Internationalism 4) in England and France during the course of which a process of clarification and decantation got underway, notably with the evolution of the British group World Revolution (which came out of a split in Solidarity) towards the positions of RI and Internationalism. WR published the first issue of its magazine in May 1974. Above all, this process of clarification and decantation created the bases for the constitution of the ICC in January ‘75.
During this period, RI had continued its work of contact and discussion at an international level, not only with organized groups but also with isolated elements who read its press and sympathized with its positions. This work led to the formation of small nuclei in Spain and Italy around the same positions and who in ‘74 commenced publication of Accion Proletaria and Rivoluzione Internazionale.
Thus, at the January ‘75 conference were Internacionalismo, Revolution Internationale, Internationalism, World Revolution, Accion Proletaria and Rivoluzione Internazionale;, who shared the political orientations which had been developed since 1964 with Internacionalismo. Also present were Revolutionary Perspectives (who had participated in the conferences of ‘73-‘74), the Revolutionary Workers' Group of Chicago (with whom RI and Internationalism had begun discussions in ‘74) and Pour Une Intervention Communiste (which published the review Jeune Taupe and had been constituted around comrades who had left RI in ‘73 because they considered that it didn't intervene enough in the workers' struggles). As for the group Workers' Voice, which had participated actively in the conferences of the previous years, it had rejected the invitation to this conference because it now considered that RI, WR, etc were bourgeois groups (!) because of the position of the majority of their militants on the question of the state in the period of transition from capitalism to communism, though this position wasn't officially adopted by the ICC till four and a half years later (see the articles ‘Sectarianism Unlimited' in WR 3 and ‘An Answer to Workers' Voice' in International Review 2) .
This question was on the agenda of the January 1975 conference and numerous contributions were prepared on it (as can be seen from the contents of IR 1). However, it wasn't discussed at the conference which saw the need to devote the maximum of time and attention to questions that were much more crucial at that point:
- the analysis of the international situation;
- the tasks of revolutionaries within it;
- the organization of the international current.
Finally, the six groups whose platforms were based on the same orientations decided to unify themselves into a single organization with an international central organ and publishing a quarterly review in three languages - English, French and Spanish (the publication of selections from this review in Dutch, Italian and German would be attempted later on) - which took over from RI's Bulletin d'Etude et de Discussion. The ICC had been founded. As the presentation to number 1 of the International Review said, "a great step forward has just been taken." The foundation of the ICC was the culmination of a whole work of contacts, discussions and confrontations between the different groups which had been engendered by the historic reawakening of the class struggle. It testified to the reality of this reawakening which many groups still doubted at the time. But above all it lay the bases for even more considerable work to come.
This work can be seen by the readers of the IR and of our territorial press and confirms what we wrote in the presentation to IR 1:
"Some people will consider that the publication of the Review is a precipitous action. It is nothing of the kind. We have nothing common with those noisy activists whose activity is based on a voluntarism as frenzied as it is ephemeral."
You can get some idea of the work that has been done by noting that, since its foundation ten years ago, the ICC has published (not counting pamphlets) more than 600 issues of its various regular publications (whereas in the ten previous years, the six founding groups had only published 50 issues). Obviously, this is nothing if you compare it to the press of the workers' movement in the past, before the First World War and in the days of the Communist International. But if you compare it with what the various groups of the Communist Left were able to publish between the ‘30s and the ‘60s you get a fairly clear idea of the vitality of our organization.
But the publications of the ICC are only one aspect of its activities. Since its foundation, the ICC has been an integral part of the struggles of the working class, of its efforts to become conscious of itself. This has been expressed through an intervention as broad as its limited resources have permitted in the various combats of the class (distribution of the press, of leaflets, oral interventions in assemblies, meetings, at factory gates ...) , but also through an active participation in the international process of discussion and regroupment between revolutionaries and, as a precondition for all the other activities, through continuing the work of reappropriating and developing the acquisitions of the Communist Left, the work of politically reinforcing the organization.
The balance sheet
Throughout the ten years of its existence, the ICC has obviously encountered numerous difficulties, has had to overcome various weaknesses, most of which are linked to the break in organic continuity with the communist organizations of the past, to the disappearance or sclerosis of the left fractions who detached themselves from the degenerating Communist International. It has also had to combat the deleterious influence of the decomposition and revolt of the intellectual petty bourgeoisie, an influence that was particularly strong after 68 and the period of the student movements. These difficulties and weaknesses have for example expressed themselves in various splits - which we have written about in our press - and especially by the major convulsions which took place in 1981, in the ICC as well as the revolutionary milieu as a whole, and which led to the loss of half our section in Britain (see the article ‘Present Convulsions of the Revolutionary Milieu' in IR 28). In the face of the difficulties in 81, the ICC was even led to organize an extraordinary conference in January 82 in order to reaffirm and make more precise its programmatic bases, in particular concerning the function and structure of the revolutionary organization (see the report from this conference published in IR 29 & 33).
Also, some of the objectives the ICC had set itself have not been attained. For example, the distribution of our press has fallen short of what we had hoped for, which has led us to slow down the rhythm of the appearance of the IR in Spanish and to suspend its publication in Dutch (a gap partly filled by the review Wereld Revolutie).
However, if we draw up an overall balance sheet of the last ten years, it can clearly be seen to be a positive one. This is particularly true if you compare it to that of other communist organizations who existed after 1968. Thus, the groups of the councilist current, even those who tried to open themselves up to international work like ICO, have either disappeared or sunk into lethargy: the GLAT, ICO, the Situationist International, Spartacusbond, Root and Branch, PIC, the councilist groups of the Scandanavian milieu...the list is long and this one is by no means exhaustive. As for the organizations coming from the Italian left and who all proclaim themselves to be the Party, either they haven't broken out of their provincialism, or have dislocated and degenerated towards leftism like Programma, or are today imitating, in a confused and artificial way, what the ICC did ten years ago, as is the case with Battaglia and the CWO (see the article in this issue). Today, after the so-called International Communist Party has collapsed like a pack of cards, after the failure of the FOR in the USA (the FOCUS group), the ICC remains the only communist organization that is really implanted on an international scale. Since its formation in 1975, the ICC has not only strengthened its original territorial sections but has implanted itself in other countries. The work of contact, discussion and regroupment on an international scale has led to the establishment of new sections of the ICC:
- 1975: the constitution of the section in Belgium which published the review, now a newspaper, Internationalisme, in two languages French and Dutch, and which fills the gap left by the disappearance in the period after World War II of the Belgian Fraction of the International Communist Left.
- 1977: constitution of the nucleus in Holland, which began publication of the magazine Wereld Revolutie. This was particularly important in a country which has been the stamping ground of councilism.
- 1978: constitution of the section in Germany which began publication of the IR in German and, the following year, of the territorial magazine Welt Revolution. The presence of a communist organization in Germany is obviously of the highest importance given the place occupied by the German proletariat in the past and the role it is going to play in the future.
- 1980: constitution of the section in Sweden which publishes the magazine Internationell Revolution.
At present the ICC has therefore ten territorial sections implanted in countries inhabited by more than half a billion human beings and more than 100 million workers. It publishes its press in seven languages which are spoken by nearly a quarter of humanity. But, more important, the ICC has a presence in the biggest working class concentrations in the world (Western Europe, USA), which will play a decisive role at the time of the revolution. And even if our forces in these different countries are still very weak, they are a stepping stone, a bridge towards a much wider and more influential presence in the class struggle when it develops with the inevitable aggravation of the crisis of capitalism.
If we can draw a positive balance-sheet of the ICC's work and not the failure of other communist organizations, it's in no way to fill ourselves with self-satisfaction. In reality, we are not at all satisfied with the present weakness of the communist milieu as a whole. We have always said that any disappearance or degeneration of a communist group represents a weakening for the whole working class of which it is a part, a waste and dispersal of militant energies, which cease to work for the emancipation of the proletariat. This is why the main aim in our debates with other communist groups has never been to weaken them in order to ‘recuperate' their militants, but to push them to overcome what we see as their weaknesses and confusions so they can fully assume their responsibilities within the class. If we underline the contrast between the relative success of our Current and the failure of other organizations, it's because this demonstrates the validity of the orientations we have put forward in twenty years of work for the regroupment of revolutionaries, for the construction of a communist organization. It is our responsibility to draw out these orientations for the whole communist milieu.
Indispensable orientations for a communist regroupment
The bases on which our Current has carried out this work of regroupment even before its formal constitution are not new. In the past they have always been the pillars of this kind of work. We can summarize them as follows:
- the necessity to base revolutionary activity on the past acquisitions of the class, on the experience of previous communist organizations; to see the present organization as a link in a chain of past and future organs of the class;
- the necessity to see communist positions and analyses not as a dead dogma but as a living program which is constantly being enriched and deepened;
- the necessity to be armed with a clear and solid conception of the revolutionary organization, of its structure and its function within the class.
1. Being Based on the Acquisitions of the Past.
"The International Communist Current affirms its continuity with the contributions made by the Communist League, the First, Second and Third Internationals, and the left fractions which detached themselves from the latter, in particular the German, Dutch and Italian Left. It is these essential contributions which allow us to integrate all the class positions into the coherent general vision which has been formulated in this platform" (Platform of the ICC)
Thus, in the platform it adopted at its First Congress in 1976, the ICC reaffirmed what had already been an acquisition at the time of the constitution of Internacionalismo in 1964. In the post-68 period, as had already been the case during the degeneration of the CI (notably on the part of the Dutch left), there has been a strong tendency to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water', to put into question not only the organizations which had degenerated and gone over to the bourgeois camp, not only the erroneous positions of the revolutionary organizations of the past, but also the essential acquisitions of these organizations. Just as the councilist current in the 1930s ended up placing the Bolshevik Party, and thus the whole Communist International, in the bourgeois camp from the very beginning, so the ‘modernist' current, whose mentors were Invariance and Le Mouvement Communiste, went about ‘making all things anew', rejecting with a flick of the wrist and the self-satisfaction of the ignorant the past organizations of the proletariat, to whom they actually owed the little they did know about class positions. The incapacity to recognize the contributions of these organizations, notably of the Communist International, an incapacity shared by the whole current from Socialisme ou Barbarie to Pouvoir Ouvrier as well as the councilist trend from Spartacusbond to the PIC, was directly behind the disappearance of these organizations. In rejecting the whole of the past, these organizations denied themselves any future.
There is no ‘new' workers' movement that has to be opposed to an ‘old' workers' movement. The workers' movement is one, just like the working class itself which constitutes the same historic being from its appearance around two centuries ago to its disappearance in communist society. Any organization that doesn't understand this elementary point, which rejects the acquisitions of the organizations of the past, which refuses to see itself as being in continuity with them, ends up putting itself outside of the historic movement of the class, outside the class itself. In particular, to the extent that:
"Marxism is the fundamental theoretical acquisition of the proletarian struggle. It is on the basis of marxism that all the lessons of the proletarian struggle can be integrated into a coherent whole" (Platform of the ICC).
Any revolutionary activity today must necessarily be based on marxist analyses and positions. Any explicit (as was the case with Socialisme ou Barbarie and its successor Solidarity) or implicit (as with the GLAT and Pouvoir Ouvriere, who also came from Socialisme ou Barbarie) rejection of marxism condemns a group to becoming a vehicle for ideologies that are alien to the proletariat, in particular the ideology of the petty bourgeoisie.
2. A Living Program, not a Dead Dogma
"...although it is not a fixed doctrine but on the contrary undergoes constant elaboration in a direct and living relationship with the class struggle, and although it benefitted from prior theoretical achievements of the working class, marxism has been from its very inception the only framework from which and within which revolutionary theory can develop" (Platform of the ICC).
If the reappropriation of the acquisitions of the workers' movement and notably of marxist theory constitutes the indispensable starting point for any revolutionary activity today, it also has to be understood what marxism is, that it is not an immutable dogma, ‘invariant' as the Bordigists put it, but is a weapon of combat of a revolutionary class for whom "ruthless self-criticism is not only...a vital right" but also "the supreme duty" (Rosa Luxemburg). The loyalty to marxism which characterized great revolutionaries like Luxemburg or Lenin was never a loyalty ‘to the letter' but to the spirit, to the approach of marxism. Thus Luxemburg, in The Accumulation of Capital, used the approach of marxism to criticize certain of Marx's writings (in Book II of Capital), just as she used the marxist approach in her pamphlet The Mass Strike to combat the union leaders who stuck to the letter of Marx and Engels in order to reject the mass strike, or at the foundation of the Communist Party of Germany to criticize the parliamentary illusions that Engels displayed in his 1895 preface to The Class Struggles in France. In the same way, in order to demonstrate the possibility and necessity of the proletarian revolution in Russia, Lenin had to combat the ‘orthodox marxism' of the Mensheviks and of Kautsky, for whom only a bourgeois revolution was possible in that country.
Thus Bilan, in its first issue (November 1933) insisted on a "profound knowledge of the causes and of the defeats" which would "permit no censorship or ostracism". Bilan's whole approach was determined by these two preoccupations:
- starting off from and firmly basing itself on the acquisitions of the Communist International;
- subjecting the positions of the CI to the critique of historical experience, to take this critique forward prudently but resolutely.
It's this approach which enabled Bilan to make a fundamental contribution to revolutionary positions, to lay the bases of today's revolutionary program by criticizing the erroneous positions of the CI, which were to a large extent responsible for its degeneration.
And it's largely because it turned its back on Bilan's approach that the Bordigist current, in trying to hold on integrally to the positions of the first two congresses of the CI (like the Trotskyists who refer themselves to the first four), has in reality regressed well behind the errors of the CI. The same error on a position doesn't have the same value 40 years later. What might be an error of youth, an immaturity, is transformed, after a whole experience of the class, into a bourgeois mystification. An organization that tries today to keep to the letter of the positions of the 2nd Congress of the CI on the national question, ‘revolutionary parliamentarianism', or the unions condemns itself either to leftism or disintegration: two things which have happened to the Bordigist current.
But it's the approach of Bilan, then of the Gauche Communiste de France, that has always animated our Current. It's because the ICC sees marxism as a living theory that it has always sought to test and deepen the lessons of the past. This has been expressed in particular by placing on the agenda of each of its five congresses - alongside the examination of the international situation and of activities - questions that have to be deepened:
- 1st Congress (January 1976): thoroughgoing discussions of the totality of our positions in order to adopt a platform, statutes and a manifesto (see IR 5);
- 2nd Congress (July 1977): discussion on the question of the state in the period of transition; adoption of a resolution on proletarian groups in order to develop a clearer orientation towards the political milieu (see IR 11);
- 3rd Congress (July 1979): adoption of a resolution on the state in the period of transition and of a report on the historic course (see IR 18);
- 4th Congress (June 1981): report on ‘historic conditions for the generalization of the historic struggle of the working class', which demonstrates why the most favorable conditions for revolution are not provided by imperialist war (as in 1917-18) but by a world economic crisis, as is the case today (see IR 35) ;
- 5th Congress (July 1983): report ‘on the party and its relationship with the class' which, without introducing anything new on the question, makes a synthesis of our acquisitions (see IR 35).
The texts which have deepened and developed our positions aren't the only ones that have been prepared and discussed for our congresses. Others have included the texts on ‘The Proletarian Struggle in the Decadence of Capitalism' (see IR 23) and on the ‘critique of the theory of the weak link' (see IR 31) which have made precisions on our analysis of the present and future conditions of the proletarian struggle towards revolution.
It's also necessary to point to the advances that have been made in our pamphlets, Unions Against the Working Class, The Decadence of Capitalism, Nation or Class, Communist Organizations and Class Consciousness, The Period of Transition from Capitalism to Socialism.
Finally, it was the capacity of our Current to avoid being imprisoned in the schemas of the past, which allowed it to understand, well before 1968, the perspective in the present world situation. Whereas the Gauche Communiste de France only saw the possibility for a proletarian upsurge in and during a third world war (see Internationalisme no.46, summer of 1952, ‘The Evolution of Capitalism and the New Perspective' republished in Bulletin D'Etude et de Discussion no.8), Internacionalismo was led to revise this view and to put forward our analysis of a historic course towards class confrontation arising out of the economic crisis and preventing the bourgeoisie from imposing its own response to its insoluble contradictions: generalized war. Thus, in January 1968 (ie before the upsurge of May 68 and at a time when hardly anyone was evoking the possibility of a crisis): "The year 1967 brought us the fall of the pound sterling and 1968 the measures taken by Johnson....here we can see the decomposition of the capitalist system which, for many years, has been hidden behind the intoxication of ‘progress' which succeeded the second world war...
In the middle of this situation, slowly and sporadically, the working class is advancing through a subterranean movement which sometimes appears non-existent, then explodes with a blinding light, only to disappear just as suddenly and reappear somewhere else: this is the reawaking of the working class, of its open struggle... We are not prophets and we don't claim to be able to predict, when and how future events will unfold. But what we are sure of concerning the present process that capitalism has fallen into is that it's not possible to stop it... and that it is leading directly to a crisis. And we are also sure that the inverse process of the combativity of the class, which, we are now seeing in a general way, is going to lead the working class to a bloody and direct struggle for the destruction of the bourgeois state" (Internacionalismo 8: ‘1968: A New Convulsion of Capitalism Begins').
Thus, the whole effort of our Current towards the regroupment of revolutionaries has been based on granite foundations (and not on sand, as with Battaglia, for whom revolutionaries had to organize conferences because of the... ‘social-democratization' of the CPs). This granite base is the recognition of the end of the period of counter-revolution, of a new historic upsurge of the proletarian struggle which compels revolutionaries to orient their work towards the reconstitution of the world party.
But for revolutionaries to be able to work effectively in this direction they also need to be clear about their function in the class and their mode of organization.
3. Being Armed with a Clear and Solid Conception of the Revolutionary Organization
The primary necessity for a revolutionary organization is to understand its function in the class. This presupposes that it is aware that it has a function. This is why the almost complete disappearance of the councilist since 1968 was logical and predictable: when you theorize your own non-existence you have a good chance of ceasing to exist.
But recognizing that you have a function in the class, a fundamental role to play in the revolution, does not mean that you should see yourself as the ‘organizer of the class', its ‘general staff' or its ‘representative' in the seizure of power. Such conceptions, inherited from the 3rd International and characterized by the Bordigist current can only lead to:
- underestimating or even rejecting any class struggle on which you have no direct influence (it was no accident that the Bordigist current and even Battaglia were scornful about the historic resurgence of May 68);
- trying at all costs to have an immediate influence on the class, to get yourself ‘recognized' as its ‘leadership': this was the open door to opportunism which led to the dislocation of the PCI (Programma);
- in the final analysis, discrediting the very idea of a revolutionary party, thus giving an added boost to councilist ideas.
A clear conception of the function of the organization means seeing yourself as an integral part of the class struggle: this is why, from Internacionalismo to the ICC, we have always affirmed the necessity for a political intervention in the class against all tendencies which aim to transform the organization into a club for marxology, a ‘workshop' or ‘study group'. This is also why the ICC always fought for the three international conferences held between 1977 and 1980 not to be ‘dumb', to take a position on what's at stake in the present period.
Intervening in the class in no way means neglecting the work of clarification and theoretical-political deepening. On the contrary. The essential function of communist organizations, to contribute actively to the development of consciousness in the class, presupposes that they are armed with the clearest and most coherent positions. This is why the different groups who were to constitute the ICC all adopted a platform, and why the ICC did the same thing at its First Congress. This is why we have always fought against ‘recruiting' confused elements, against confused and hasty regroupments, for the maximum of clarity in debate. This is also why from the very beginning, notably in Internationalism's appeal in 72 and in our response to Battaglia in 76 (see the article on the constitution of the IBRP in this issue), we have defended the necessity to hold international conferences on the basis of political criteria.
We don't have the megalomaniac pretensions that we alone defend communist positions: those who accuse us of sectarianism don't know what they're talking about, as our whole history shows. On the other hand, we have always affirmed that the regroupment of revolutionaries, the creation of the future party, can only be based on the greatest clarity and programmatic coherence. This is why in 1975 we rejected Revolutionary Perspectives' proposal that they should join the ICC as a ‘minority', an idea they put forward before uniting with Workers' Voice in an ephemeral manner to form the CWO. This is why we didn't see the 1977-1980 conferences leading to an immediate regroupment, contrary to the view defended by Battaglia today (see the article on the IBRP), even if we were never opposed to the unification of certain of the participants at these conferences when they found that they shared the same political positions. Finally, this is why we consider that the present efforts of Battaglia and the CWO to set up a bastard international organization, half-way between a centralized political organization and a federation of autonomous groups in the anarchist tradition, have the best possible chances of creating not a pole of political clarity but a pole of confusion.
One of the essential preconditions for a communist organization being able to carry out its function is clarity on its structure. Since it's our Current has defended the necessity for an internationalized, centralized organization. This is in no way a ‘new' conception. It is based on the nature of the working class itself, which has to cement its unity on an international scale if it is to carry out the revolution. It is based on the whole experience of proletarian organizations, from the Communist League and the First International to the Communist International and the International Communist Left. This necessity was affirmed very clearly at the constitutive conference of the ICC in 1975 (see the report ‘On the Question of the Organization of our International Current' in IR 1), but it had always been the basis for our efforts towards international contact and discussion, as our whole history shows. We also affirmed this necessity in all our work as an integral part of the cycles of international conferences in 1973-74 and 1977-80, and at the conferences of the Scandinavian milieu in the late 70s (where we insisted that groups coming from the Italian Left like Battaglia should be invited). In these conferences, we fought against the idea of an international organization based on a sort of federation of national groups each with its own platform, as was defended by Battaglia in 1977 and which it is putting into practice today with the constitution of the IBRP.
Another lesson to be drawn from the experience of the ICC is that an organization of combat, which is what a communist organization is, is built through combat. This lesson isn't new either. Thus, the Bolshevik Party could only play its role in the October 1917 revolution and in the foundation of the CI because it had been tempered through a whole series of combats against populism and agrarian socialism, against ‘legal marxism', against terrorism, against ouvrierist economism, against the intellectual rejection of militant commitment, against Menshevism, against the liquidators, against national defense and pacifism, against any support to the provisional government in 1917. Similarly, our organization was founded and tempered through a series of combats against all sorts of deviations, including those in our own ranks:
- Internacionalismo's combat against the ouvrierist councilism of ‘Proletario' (cf. RI's Bulletin D'Etude et de Discussion no.10);
- RI's combat against the councilism of ICO (1969-70), against the academicism of the tendencies around ‘Parti de Class' (1971) and Berard (1974), against the activism of the tendency that was to form the PIC (1973);
- the ICC's combat against the activism and the substitutionist vision of the tendency that was to form the Groupe Communiste Internationaliste (1978);
- the ICC's combat against immediatism and the dilution of principles and for the defense of the organization against the ‘Chenier tendency' (1981).
The last lesson to be drawn from our experience is that you can't seriously work for the constitution of the future party if you don't know at what point in history it can arise - ie. during periods of historical advance in the class struggle. This was the view defended by the Italian Communist Left against the constitution of the Trotskyist ‘4th International', and by the GCF against the foundation of the PCI in Italy after the war. The organizations that proclaim themselves to be the ‘Party' today are not parties; they can't carry out the tasks of the party, but neither can they carry out the real tasks of the day, the one which Bilan assigned to the fractions: to prepare the programmatic and organizational bases of the future world party.
Here are some ‘classic' lessons of the workers' movement which have been confirmed by ten years of experience in the ICC, and which are the indispensable preconditions for making a real contribution to the constitution of the revolutionary party and to the communist revolution itself.
 On the history of the ‘Italian Left', see our pamphlet La Gauche Communiste d'Italie.
 News and Letters: a group coming out of Trotskyism, animated by a former secretary of Trotsky and which, despite many confusions on ‘national liberation struggles', the black problem, feminism, etc, defended class positions on the essential question of the capitalist and imperialist nature of the USSR.
 The fact that we're now at IR 40 shows that its regularity has been consistently maintained since then.