Party and Fraction

Once again on the party and its relation to the class

We publish here a second letter to the Tampa Communist League, in response to DP's reply on TCL's website to our previous letter. For us the last two questions – the relationship between activity and period, and the principal lessons of the Russian revolution regarding party and power – are probably the most important ones for further debate.

The International Conferences of the Communist Left (1976-80)

Twenty-five years ago, in May 1980, the cycle of international conferences of the communist left, initiated by the Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt, Battaglia Comunista) some four years earlier, ended in disarray and confusion. A brief glance at the sorry state of the proletarian political milieu today shows that we are still living with the consequences of this failure to create an organised framework for fraternal debate and political clarification among the groups of the left communist tradition.

The International Extraordinary Conference of the ICC

The ICC decided, earlier this year, to change the 15th Congress of its French section into an Extraordinary International Conference.

The fundamental task of this conference was to face up to an organisational crisis � the most serious in the history of the ICC � that emerged suddenly right after its 14th International Congress in April 2001.

80 years ago - the Communist International


80 years ago, in March 1919, the Communist International held its founding Congress in Moscow. The following article, originally published in WR 122, shows why this event was of immense importance for the international working class: faced with the outbreak of a massive, revolutionary challenge to capitalism all over the world, the CI was at to capitalism all over the world, the CI was at that moment the most advanced expression of the class movement, the crucible for synthesising the political programme needed to lead the movement to victory. Today, faced with the bourgeoisie's pernicious campaigns aimed at identifying communism with Stalinism and "proving" that marxist theory has been refuted by history, revolutionaries have the duty to affirm not only that they are the heirs of the CI, but also that its most central positions remain valid for the revolution of the future. The fact that the CI subsequently degenerated and succumbed to the Stalinist counter-revolution does not alter what it had been during the most heroic phase of the revolutionary wave that made the whole ruling class shake in its shoes.

Marxist and opportunist visions of building the party: debate with the IBRP

A question of method in the discussion

A recent article of ours 1 was devoted "to replying to the thesis of the IBRP that organisations such as ours are 'estranged from the method and perspectives of the work that leads to the formation of the future party'. In order to do so we have taken into consideration the two levels at which the organisational problem is posed: 1) how the future International should be conceived; 2) what policy should be followed for the construction of the organisation and the regroupment of revolutionaries, and in terms of both we have shown that it is the IBRP, not the ICC, that has abandoned the tradition of the Italian and the international Communist Left. In fact the eclecticism that guides the IBRP's policy of regroupment is similar to that of Trotsky when he was taken up with building the IVth International; the vision of the ICC on the other hand is that of the Italian Fraction, which always fought for regroupment with clarity and on a basis that would make it possible to salvage elements of the centre and those with hesitations".

The left fractions and the question of organisational discipline

In a previous article (InternationalReview n°108), we described the emergence of the leftfractions that fought the degeneration of the old workers'parties, in particular the German SPD that supported the wareffort of its national capital in 1914, and the Russian CP and theThird International as they were being transformed intoinstruments of the Russian state with the progressive defeat ofthe October Revolution. In this process, the task of the fractionswas to struggle to re-conquer the organisation for the fundamentalpositions of the proletarian programme, against their abandonmentby the opportunist right and the complete betrayal by theleadership controlling the majority of the organisation. Topreserve the organisation as an instrument of the class struggleand to save as many militants as possible, one of the leftfractions' main concerns was to remain in the party as long aspossible. However, the process of political degeneration wasinevitably accompanied by a profound modification in the partiesthemselves, and in the relationships between the militants and theorganisation as a whole. Inevitably, this situation posed for thefractions the problem of breaking party discipline in order tofulfil their task of preparing the new party of the proletariat.

1903-1904: the birth of Bolshevism, Lenin and Luxemburg

In the previous article in this series, we saw how the future Bolshevik, Trotsky, had failed to grasp the significance of the birth of Bolshevism, siding with the Mensheviks against Lenin. In this article, we look at how another great figure of the left wing of social democracy, Rosa Luxemburg – who in 1918 was to declare that “the future everywhere belongs to Bolshevism” – also used her considerable polemical skills to support the Mensheviks against the so-called ‘ultra-centralism’ personified by Lenin.

1903-1904: Trotsky against Lenin

In 1904, the Russian empire was on the verge of revolution. The lumbering Czarist war machine was experiencing a humiliating defeat at the hands of a far more dynamic Japanese imperialism. The military debacle was fuelling the discontent of all strata of the population. In her pamphlet The Mass Strike, The Party and the Trade Unions, Rosa Luxemburg recounts how, already in the summer of 1903, at the very time that the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was holding its s famous Second Congress, southern Russia had been shaken by “a colossal general strike”. The war brought a temporary halt in the class movement, and for a while the liberal bourgeoisie took centre stage with its “protest banquets” against the autocracy; but by the end of the 1904 the Caucasus was again aflame with massive workers’ strikes around the issue of unemployment. Russia was a tinder box, and the spark that set it aflame was soon to be lit: the Bloody Sunday massacre in January 1905, when workers humbly petitioning the Czar to alleviate their appalling conditions were slaughtered in their hundreds by the Little Father’s Cossacks.

Have we become "Leninists"? - part 2

In the first part of this article, we answered the accusation that we have become “Leninists”, and that we have changed position on the organisational question. We have shown not only that “Leninism” is opposed to our political principles, but also that it aims to destroy the historic unity of the workers’ movement. In particular, it rejects the struggle of the marxist lefts first within, then outside, the 2nd and 3rd Internationals by setting Lenin against Rosa Luxemburg, Pannekoek, etc. “Leninism” is the negation of the communist militant Lenin. It is the expression of the Stalinist counter-revolution of the early 1920s.

Have we become "Leninists"? - part 1

Ever since the end of the 1960s and the formation of the groups which were to create the ICC in 1975, we have been subjected to a dual criticism. For some - generally the various organisations that go under the name of “International Communist Party”, directly descended from the Italian Left - we are idealists on the question of class consciousness and organisational anarchists. For others - usually from anarchism or the councilist current which reject, or at least under-estimate the need for political organisation and a communist party - we are supposed to be “partyists” and “Leninists”. The former base their assertions on our rejection of the “classical” position of the workers’ movement on the seizure of power by the communist party during the dictatorship of the proletariat, and our non-monolithic view of the functioning of a political organisation. The latter reject our rigorous conception of the revolutionary militant, and our constant efforts to build a united, centralised international organisation.

The Italian Left, 1922-1937

The Italian Fraction, founded in the Paris suburb of Pantin in 1928 by a group of militants in exile, saw itself explicitly as taking on the task of educating militants in preparation for the time when the rebirth of class struggle after the defeat of the 1917 Russian Revolution would reach a point when the creation of a new Party - a new International - would be both possible and necessary.

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

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...

The Constitution of the IBRP: An Opportunist Bluff, Part 1

With the publication in English and French of the first issue of the Communist Review (April 1984), the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party, recently formed by the Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Battaglia Comunista) of Italy and the Communist Workers’ Organisation of Britain, has at last found a voice...
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