Bordiga and the Big City

This new volume in the series on communism will look at the some of the major problems posed to the revolutionary project of the working class  by capitalism's entry into the last stage of its decadence, the phase of decomposition: social atomisation and loss of class identity, uncontrolled urbanisation and destruction of the natural environment, and so on. In doing so it will revisit some of the questions posed in the past about the social and economic measures needed to carry through a communist transformation. 

The 1950s and 60s: Damen, Bordiga, and the passion for communism

In this article, we return to the work of the Italian communist left, which before the war, in the shape of the Fraction in exile, had made such an irreplaceable contribution to our understanding of the problems of the transition from capitalism to communism, and to the inter-action, and often the opposition, of two leading militants of this current – Onorato Damen and Amadeo Bordiga.

Bilan, the Dutch left, and the transition to communism (ii)

While it lacks the immediacy of the class struggle, the question of the transitional period towards communism following the revolution, and of the nature of communist society itself, has always been hotly debated in the workers' movement. One major effort to systematise an understanding the issue was the publication of the Dutch councilist group GIC in the 1930s: Grundprinzipien Kommunistischer Produktion und Veiteilung. We publish here an account of the Italian Left's critique of the Grundprinzipien.

Presentation to the morning session: Communism is not a utopia

Convincing workers that capitalism is in their best interest is not the central purpose of most ruling class ideology. With rare historical exceptions, workers find the prosaic reality of capitalism with its exploitation and dehumanisation too obvious in their daily lives to ever be truly convinced of this...

History of communism: Understanding the defeat, and preserving the vision of the future

In the first part of this summary of the second volume (International Review 125) we looked at how the communist programme was enriched by the huge advances made by the working class movement during the world-wide revolutionary upsurge provoked by the First World War. In this second part, we consider how revolutionaries struggled to understand the retreat and defeat of the revolutionary wave, while showing that this too was a source of invaluable lessons for the revolutions of the future. 

Communism Vol. 3, Part 3 - Communism is not a 'nice idea', it is on the agenda of history (summary of Vol. 2)

This article continues the series on the history of the theory of communism with a summary of the second volume in the series. We examine the lessons drawn from the practical experience of proletarian revolution and power in Russia and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century.

1. What is Communism?

It is impossible to answer this question in a precise way. Firstly, the ever-present pressure of bourgeois ideology makes it very difficult to describe society in the future objectively. The aim of bourgeois ideology is to make it appear that capitalism is eternal. The pressure of bourgeois ideology thus mutilates and deforms all attempts to define communism and the proletarian revolution.

Perspective of Communism, part 3: Why the proletariat is a communist class

...We still have to deal with another question against the possibility of communism: ‘OK, communism is necessary and materially possible. Yes, men and women could live in such a society. But today humanity is so alienated under capitalist society that it will never have the strength to undertake a transformation as gigantic as the communist revolution.’ We’ll try to answer this now.

Perspective of Communism, part 2: Is communism against human nature?

In this second part, we are going to look at those who tell us that a communist society as envisaged by Marx and others is in any case impossible to realise because the characteristic features of capitalism, such as egoism, lust for wealth and power, the war of each against all, are actually unchangeable expressions of ‘human nature’. 

Perspective of Communism, part 1: Why communism is necessary and possible

In the movement of the working class against the attacks of capitalism, the specific role of revolutionaries is not just to insist on the need for workers to take control of their struggles and spread them as widely as possible; it is also to show that the day-to-day struggles of our class are the preparation for an ultimate confrontation with this system, aimed at dismantling it and replacing it with a radically new society...

Communism Vol. 3, Part 1: Mankind's entry into its real history

The only future is communism

With this article, we are beginning a third volume of our series of communism, begun nearly 15 years ago. The second volume of the series (in International Review 111) ended with an end: the exhaustion of the international revolutionary wave which shook world capitalism to its foundations, and more specifically, with an audacious description of the communist culture of the future, outlined by Trotsky in his 1924 work, Literature and Revolution.

Perspective for the 21st Century: communist revolution or the destruction of humanity

A century ago we heard much the same message. In 1898 Ivan Bloch published The War of the Future in St Petersburg. He said that war was bound to become obsolete, as it was too costly, too murderous and so complicated that it was impossible to win. However, such views did not stand uncorrected. In 1901, in exile in Siberia, the revolutionary Leon Trotsky had a more accurate view of what capitalism was, and what it had in store.

Only one other world is possible: communism

Between 12th and 15th November, the "European Social Forum" was held in Paris, a kind of European subsidiary of the World Social Forum which has taken place several years running in Porto Alegre, Brazil (in 2002 the ESF was held in Florence, Italy, while the 2004 event is planned in London). The ESF has attained considerable proportions: according to the organisers, there were some 40,000 participants from countries ranging from Portugal to Eastern Europe, a programme of 600 seminars and workshops in the most varied venues (theatres, town halls, prestigious state buildings) distributed across four sites around Paris, and to conclude a big demonstration of between 60 and 100,000 people in the streets of Paris, with the unrepentant Italian Stalinists of Rifondazione Comunista at the front, and the anarchists of the CNT at the rear. Though they received less media attention, two other "European forums" took place at the same time as the ESF, one for members of the European parliament, the other for trades unionists. And as if three "forums" were not enough, the anarchists organised a "Libertarian Social Forum" in the Paris suburbs, at the same time as the ESF and deliberately presented as an "alternative" to it.

The Proletarian Revolution

The Specific Nature of the Proletarian Revolution

The urgent necessity for communists to fight for maximum clarity and coherence concerning the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat derives from the unique nature of the proletarian revolution. Whereas the bourgeois revolution (England, France etc.) was fundamentally a political confirmation of the bourgeoisie's economic domination of society, which grew steadily and progressively out of declining feudal society, the proletariat has no economic power under capitalism, and in the period of capitalist decadence has no permanent organisations of its own. The only weapons available to the proletariat are its class consciousness and its ability to organise its own revolutionary activity; having wrested power from the bourgeoisie it has the immense task of consciously constructing a new social order.

Trotsky and the culture of communism

The following extracts, which are accompanied by our own comments, are taken from the final chapter of Literature and Revolution, where Trotsky outlines his vision of art and culture in the developed communist society of the future. Having rejected the notion of ‘proletarian culture’ in previous chapters, Trotsky permits himself a glimpse of the truly human culture of classless society; it is a glimpse which takes us far beyond the particular question of art to the prospect of a transfigured humanity.

1918: the revolution criticises its errors

Marxism is first and foremost a critical method, since it is the product of a class which can only emancipate itself through the ruthless criticism of all existing conditions. A revolutionary organisation that fails to criticise its errors, to learn from its mistakes, inevitably exposes itself to the conservative and reactionary influences of the dominant ideology. And this is all the more true at a time of revolution, which by its very nature has to break new ground, enter an unknown landscape with little more than a compass of general principles to find its way. As we shall see, one of the consequences of the Bolshevik party identifying itself with the Soviet state was that it increasingly lost this capacity to criticise itself and the general course of the revolution. But as long as it remained a proletarian party it continuously generated minorities who did continue to carry out this task.


Subscribe to RSS - Communism