Period of Transition

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.

Texts on the state in the period of transition

The platform of the ICC contains the essential acquisitions of the workers’ movement concerning the conditions and content of the communist revolution. These acquisitions can be summarized as follows:

a) All hitherto existing societies have been based on an insufficient development of the productive forces in relation to the needs of men. Because of this, with the exception of primitive communism, they have all been divided into social classes with antagonistic interests. This division has led to the appearance of an organ, the state, whose specific function has been to prevent these antagonisms from pulling society apart.

b) Because of the progress in the develop ment of the productive forces stimulated by capitalism, it has become both possible and necessary to transcend capitalism with a society based on the full development of the productive forces, on the abundant satisfac tion of human needs: communism. Such a society will no longer be divided into social classes and because of this will have no need of a state.

c) As in the past, between the two stable societies of capitalism and communism there will be a period of transition during which the old social relations will disappear and new ones put in their place. During this period, social classes and conflicts between them will continue to exist, and so therefore will an organ whose function is to prevent these conflicts endangering the existence of society: the state.

d) The experience of the working class has shown that there can be no organic continuity between this state and the state in capitalist society. For the period of transition from capitalism to communism to get underway, the capitalist state has to be complete ly destroyed on a world scale.

e) The world-wide destruction of the political power of the bourgeoisie is accompanied by the global seizure of power by the proletariat, the only class capable of creating communism. The dictatorship of the proletariat over society will be based on the general organizations of the class: the workers’ councils. Only the working class in its entirety can exert power and undertake the communist transformation of society: in contrast to previous revolution ary classes it cannot delegate power to any particular institution or to any political party, including the workers’ parties themselves.


Communism Vol. 3, Part 9 - The problems of the period of transition (V)

This is the concluding section of the series on "Problems of the period transition" published in Bilan between 1934 and 1937.This article appeared in Bilan n° 38 (December/January 1936/7). It is the continuation of a theoretical debate that the Italian left communists were extremely keen on developing...

The period of transition


Part I Political


The State

First, a few qualifying remarks. Historically speaking the State has appeared as an organ of class rule though, as Engels wrote in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (Moscow, 1968, p.65), it often appeared as standing above society, as a mediator between classes:

Italian Left 1936: Problems of the period of transition

The following article was originally published in the November-December 1936 edition of Bilan (n°37), the theoretical journal of the Italian Fraction of the Communist Left. It is the fourth article in the series "Problems of the Period of Transition" by the Belgian comrade who signed his contributions "Mitchell". The previous three have been published in the last three issues of the International Review.

The Russian experience: Private property and collective property (Internationalisme, 1946)

The article we reproduce below was published by the Gauche Communiste de France (GCF) in n° 10 of their magazine Internationalisme, which came out in May 1946. Internationalisme saw itself as the continuation of Bilan and Octobre, published by the International Communist Left before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Communism Vol. 3, Part 8 - The problems of the period of transition (IV)

With this article from Bilan n° 35 (September-October 1936), the theoretical publication of the Italian left communists, we continue our re-publication of the series of studies on the period of transition by Mitchell. The previous article in the series began the discussion on the economic tasks of a proletarian dictatorship...

WR Day of Study: Communism is possible, but not through the state

In an article on its recent International Congress the ICC saluted the appearance of a newly emerging generation of revolutionaries. Whether being engaged in online discussions on various web forums, receiving correspondence from people who've never contacted us before, discussing with new groups, or meeting people at meetings and demonstrations who have never come across the communist left before, we are finding ourselves in contact with a growing number of people who have fundamental questions about the nature of capitalist society and want to discuss the way to establish an alternative.

Communism Vol. 3, Part 7 - The problems of the period of transition (III)

The article published below, which originally appeared in Bilan n° 34 (August-September 1934), is presented as a polemic with another internationalist current active at the time, the Dutch GIK, whose "Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution" had been published in 1930 and was summarised in French in Bilan by Hennaut of the Belgian group Ligue des Communistes Internationalistes.

Communism Vol. 3, Part 6 - The problems of the period of transition (II)

In this issue of the International Review we are re-publishing the second article in the series “Problems of the Period of transition” by Mitchell, published in Bilan n° 31, in May-June 1936. Having laid out the general historical conditions of the proletarian revolution in the first article in the series, Mitchell traces the evolution of the marxist theory of the state, linking it closely to the most important moments in the struggle of the working class against capitalism – 1848, the Paris Commune, and the Russian revolution.

Communism Vol. 3, Part 5 - The problems of the period of transition (I)

In the previous article in this series (International Review n127, “The 1930s: debate on the period of transition”) we began a study of the efforts of the Italian communist left to draw the lessons of the first international wave of proletarian revolutions and of the revolution in Russia in particular, and to understand how these lessons could be applied to the revolutionary transformations of the future... In this issue, we begin the publication of another major series on the same basic theme: “Problems of the period of transition” written by Mitchell, who at the time the series began was a member of the Belgian group the Ligue des Communistes Internationalistes but who subsequently helped to found the Belgian Fraction of the Communist Left, which split from the LCI on the question of the war in Spain, and with the Italian Fraction formed the International Communist Left. To our knowledge this is the first time this series has been published since the1930s and the first time it has been translated into other languages.

1921: the proletariat and the transitional state

The seizure of power in Russia inevitably posed enormous new problems for the new proletarian power, and generated heated debates within the Bolshevik party on the transitional state. The tragedy of Russia's encirclement culminated in 1921 with the Kronstadt revolt, a veritable catastrophe which saw the revolutionary government gunning down those who had been its most stalwart supporters.

Resolution on the State in the Transition Period

During the period of transition the division of society into classes with antagonistic interests will give rise to a state. Such a state will have the task of guaranteeing the advances of this transitional society both against any exter­nal or internal attempt to restore the power of the old exploiting classes and maintaining the cohesion of society against any disintegration of the social fabric resulting from conflicts betw­een the non-exploiting classes which still subsist.

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