Communist Left

Two main currents represent the tradition of the communist left, whose different groups and organisations were expelled from the Third International in the course of its degeneration after the victory of the Stalinist counter-revolution: the Italian Left, and the Dutch-German Left (also known as the "council communists").

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. 

Nature and function of the proletarian party

The document we are publishing below first appeared in 1947 in the pages of Internationalisme, the press of the small group “Gauche Communiste de France” (Communist Left of France), to which (amongst others) the ICC has traced its origins since its foundation in 1975.

The text’s main object is to examine the historical conditions which determine the formation and the activity of revolutionary organisations. The very idea of such determination is fundamental. Although the creation and survival of a revolutionary organisation is the fruit of a militant will, aiming to be an active factor in history, the form that this will takes does not come out of the blue, independently of social reality and independently above all of the consciousness and fighting spirit present in the broad masses of the working class.

The Italian Fraction and the French Communist Left

In the previous issue of this Review, we answered the polemic in Revolutionary Perspectives no.5 (publication of the Communist Workers' Organisation, CWO) entitled "Sects, Lies, and the Lost Perspectives of the ICC". We were unable, for lack of space, to deal with every question opened up by the CWO, and so limited ourselves to answering one of them: the idea that the ICC's perspective for the present historic period has completely collapsed.

What is the Communist Left? (Part 1)

We are re-publishing here the first part of an article written in 1998 for the Russian journal 'Proletarian Tribune', the aim of which was to give a brief history of the Communist Left for those who may not be well acquanted with the political tradition the ICC draws its heritage from. 

Decadence of Capitalism (x): For revolutionaries, the Great Depression confirms the obsolescence of capitalism

There was no real recovery of world capitalism after the devastation of the First World War. Most of the economies of Europe stagnated, never really solving the problems posed by the disruption of war and revolution, by outdated plant and massive unemployment. The plight of the once powerful British economy was typified by the situation in 1926 when it resorted to direct wage cuts in a vain attempt to restore its competitive edge on the world market, provoking the 10-day General Strike in solidarity with the miners whose wages and conditions were the central target of the attack.

Review: The communist left in Germany, 1918-21 (1)

Firstly, we welcome the recent appearance of this work by D. Authier and J. Barrot, which clearly attempts to make a clear analysis of the Left Communists from the viewpoint of revolutionary marxism, and which moreover will allow revolutionaries to study hitherto inaccessible texts of the Communist Left. The book is one of the very few to put forward the communist perspective -- the only possible perspective in the historical period inaugurated by the Russian Revolution -- of the proletarian revolution. The book has many strengths, but also some weaknesses, which we would like to discuss here.

In memory of Graeme Imray (1950 -2008)

Comrades of the ICC and World Revolution in particular want to express our sorrow that an old comrade of the left communist Workers' Voice group of the early 70s - Graeme Imray (whom contributors to Libcom may know by his pseudonym, Dave Graham) died, aged 58, at the end of 2008 after a short illness.

Reflections on Loren Goldner’s article The Biggest ‘October Surprise’ Of All: A World Capitalist Crash

In our view, the latest phase of the crisis, summed up under the short-hand ‘credit crunch', will certainly be a factor in challenging existing views and convincing people that we are seeing the real putrefaction of capitalism as a mode of production. In this context, we welcome a recent contribution by Loren Goldner, who would describe himself as part of a "left communist mood" which has been growing in the recent period.

Marc, Part 2: From World War II to the present day

The first part of this tribute to our comrade Marc, who died in December 1990, was published in the previous issue of the International Review, and dealt with the period from 1917 to World War II... In this second part, we will follow our comrade’s activity, first in the French Communist Left (“Gauche Communiste de France”, GCF), then during the last period of his life, when his contribution was decisive in the foundation and development of the ICC.

Marc, Part 1: From the Revolution of October 1917 to World War II

As readers of our territorial press will know already, our comrade Marc is dead. In the December issue of our French territorial press, we published, as usual, the list of donations; one was accompanied with these words: “In reply to many letters which have touched me deeply, and for a first combat fought and won, this donation for the ICC’s press...” As always, our comrade fought against his disease with lucidity and courage. But in the end, it was the disease - one of the most virulent forms of cancer - that had the upper hand, the 20th December 1990. With Marc’s death, not only has our organisation lost its most experienced militant, and its most fertile mind; the whole world proletariat has lost one of its best fighters.

The Jury of Honour: a weapon for the defence of revolutionary organisations (Part 2)

At its 11th Congress in April 1995, the ICC took the grave decision to exclude one of its militants, the ex-comrade JJ, for destructive behaviour incompatible with member­ship of a communist organisation, notably his attempts to create within the ICC a secret network of adepts of the ideology of freemasonry (see WR 194). JJ rejected the arguments given for his exclusion, claiming that this decision was the result of a “serious deviation” by the ICC, the result of a “col­lective paranoiac delirium”. Faced with this “alternative analysis”, the ICC, in conform­ity with the traditions of the workers’ move-meat, has for two years continually at­tempted to push this ex-militant to defend himself by calling for a Court of Honour composed of representatives of other revo­lutionary organisations in order to allow the proletarian milieu to pronounce on the validity of this exclusion and to shed as much light as possible on JJ’s actions.

The Jury of Honour: a weapon for the defence of revolutionary organisations (Part 1)

Introduction (October, 2004)

At the time of its 15th international congress, in April 2003, the ICC excluded from its ranks several elements who had openly behaved like informers and who, under the name of "Internal Fraction of the ICC", had gathered around the individual Jonas (himself excluded from our organization for "behaviour unworthy of a communist militant", see 'A communique to our readers'). With regards to the attitude of Jonas and the members of the "FICCI", which consistied of refusing to defend oneself in front of the Congress of the ICC, our organisation, in accordance with the tradition of the workers' movement, had applied a policy of the defence of proletarian principles: it had proposed to them to call upon a Jury of Honour (which they refused) composed representatives of other organizations of the Communist Left, in order to make clearn the nature of their behaviour and the causes of their exclusion.

Revolutionaries denounce imperialist war

Imperialist war always puts revolutionaries to the test. Against the propaganda of the ruling class, which aims to win over the working class, or at least to silence it, the first duty of a revolutionary organisation is to denounce the war: to say as loudly and as clearly as it can that imperialist war is never in the interests of the working class.

Open letter to the John Gray website

In your guidelines to your website, you say that its aim is to “link to any site or document which we feel relates, in whole or in part, to discussion about communism, or to discussion based on a ‘communist perspective’, taking communist in the sense defined in the statement on the homepage for the site. (1)

World Revolution and Communist Tactics (1920) by Anton Pannekoek

Introduction - Parliament is alien to the working class

Faced with another general election, and the calls by any number of so-called ‘socialists’ for the working class to chose between the capitalist parties standing for parliament, genuine communists have to reaffirm their total rejection of the whole ‘democratic’ circus.

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.

Internationalist Organisations against the war in Kosovo

The bombing of the population of ex-Yugoslavia by the major powers under the aegis of NATO represents a serious escalation of capitalist barbarism. It is accompanied by a cacophony of voices attempting to hide the imperialist nature of the war. There are the voices of those who justify the bombings and try to cover the sordid and bloody self the sordid and bloody self-interest of the major powers under a veil of humanitarianism. There are the voices of those who condemn the NATO attack in order to defend the 'little' ethnic murderer, Milosevic, against the high tech slaughter of the US and European powers. There are the voices of the pacifists who appeal for a peaceful capitalism, as if the spirit of competition weren't an intrinsic aspect of bourgeois rule that leads inevitably to the use of armed force as one country tries to impose its own imperialist interests at the expense of the others. But amid this barrage there is a clear and sane voice raised against the war and all its bourgeois protagonists, that of proletarian internationalism. This position in relation to imperialist war is the foundation stone of the international working class movement and the litmus test for revolutionary organisations. Its intransigent defence marks out the currents of the communist left from those of the radical bourgeoisie, who masquerade as friends of the working class while inviting them to massacre their class brothers in other countries in the name of siding with whichever imperialism they identify as the 'lesser evil'. This song is as old as capitalism! The essence of proletarian internationalism is expressed in the words of the Communist Manifesto, drafted by Marx and Engels in rx and Engels in 1848: "The workers have no country ... Workers of all countries unite!" It affirms the nature of the working class as an international class, no part of which has interests which are in conflict with any other sector in any other country. As such the proletariat has no interest in the victory of either side in wars between capitalist powers for the extension of their spheres of influence and for world domination. On the contrary, it is always expected to pay for the war by dying on the battlefield and by increasing productivity for the war effort. It is always the victim and never a victor while this system of death and poverty has not been overthrown once and for all. When the socialist parties of the Second International betrayed the principle of internationalism by supporting participation in the First World War and played a prominent role in mobilising the workers for the carnage, the International was lost to the working class. But the revolutionary minority regrouped around the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Spartacists in Germany, defended an internationalist position by opposing the war and calling for the workers to defend their own class interests. In the same way, with the onset of the second imperialist carnage, whereas the Trotskyist current passed over to the bourgeois camp by supporting the USSRporting the USSR and the democratic front in the name of opposing fascism, there remained fractions of the Communist Left who maintained the principle of internationalism and have continued to denounce it as an imperialist war. It is the organisations that are descended from this political current that have responded to the NATO bombings by taking up the only consistent and communist position: - condemning the carnage as an imperialist war; - calling on the working class not to defend any of the bourgeois factions involved; - condemning, implicitly or explicitly, the demands of the leftists for the workers to defend the 'lesser evil' or 'self-determination in Kosovo' and, - against the myth of pacifism, affirming that only the working class can offer an alternative to capitalist barbarism through its own struggle as a revolutionary class, whose historic destiny is to destroy the exploitation of the bourgeoisie and create a new society without classes and without exploitation. The titles of the leaflets produced by the various groups of the communist left, immediately after the start of the bombing of Kosovo, testify to the unity, in action, of the internationalists in the denunciation of the war (1): "Capitalism means imperialism, imperialism means war" (IBRP); "The Kosovo war "The Kosovo war is a war of capital" (Programma Comunista); "No to imperialist intervention in Yugoslavia! Down with all nationalism and all bourgeois oppression!" (Le Proletaire); "The real opposition to military intervention and war lies in the class struggle of the proletariat, in its class and internationalist reorganisation against all forms of bourgeois oppression and nationalism" (Il Comunista); "Down with the imperialist war" (Il Partito Comunista); "Capitalism is war, war on capitalism!" (ICC).

Cajo Brendel Meetings in Germany

Through his exposes and his contributions to the discussions, Cajo Brendel proved, in our opinion, that the 'classic' positions of the German-Dutch left have lost none of their relevance even if, as Brendel asserted, along with Marx, "our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action". As has long been the case with, what can be called "the Dutch can be called "the Dutch school of marxism", which was animated by, among others, Anton Pannekoek and Hermann Gorter, comrade Brendel denounced the bourgeois character of parliamentarism, the trade unions, and social democracy, and the state capitalist nature of the former eastern bloc. And while the state capitalist currents like Stalinism and Trotskyism have welcomed the new "Red-Green" government in Germany as a step forward for the working class, Brendel showed the profoundly anti-working class nature of this government.

Correspondence: anarchism, marxism, and the 'death of communism'.

We are publishing here a contribution from a comrade who describes it as "an attempt to clarify to myself why I broke with anarchism (or more specifically libertarian communism, having been a member of the Anarchist Federation)". We think that the text speaks for itself and will be very useful for many others who are currently seeking a way towards the clarity of communist positions.

The Dutch and German Communist Left

The Dutch communist left is one of the major components of the revolutionary current which broke away from the degenerating Communist International in the 1920s. Well before Trotsky's Left Opposition, and in a more profound way, the communist left had been able to expose the opportunist dangers which threatened the International and its parties and which eventually led to their demise. In the struggle for the intransigent defence of revolutionary principles, this current, represented in particular by the KAPD in Germany, the KAPN in Holland, and the left of the Communist Party of Italy animated by Bordiga, came out against the International's policies on questions like participation in elections and trade unions, the formation of 'united fronts' with social democracy, and support for national liberation struggles. It was against the positions of the communist left that Lenin wrote his pamphlet Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder; and this text drew a response in Reply to Lenin, written by one of the main figures of the Dutch left, Herman Gorter.


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