On the same road as always
(from Il Partito Comunista, no. 1, September 1974)
The newspaper Il Partito Comunista, and the organised network of militants gathered and still gathering around it, are the result of a selection which occurred in the course of conducting «the hard work of restoring the revolutionary doctrine and party organ in contact with the working class, outside the realm of personalized politics and electoralist manoeuvrings»; a job undertaken by the Communist Left in Italy after the collapse in 1926 of the Communist International, the victim of Stalinism and the distorted theory of “Socialism in One Country”. The story of the real reconstitution of the revolutionary class party is inevitably marked by these periodic selections which, in the organisational sphere, express the clarification, definition or simply the placing on the agenda of the major questions of theory, of program, of tactics and of the party’s internal organisation and functioning, which reality itself, not men’s will, forces the party to face up to, to reassert and to formulate in an ever more precise way.
The Communist Left in Italy set out on the road to the restoration of the party after 1926, first of all by reasserting the full significance of the elements which had underpinned the victory in Russia and the formation of the 3rd International at its 2nd congress in 1920. Absolute necessity of the class political party organised on a global scale in a centralised and non federalist manner and founded on Marxist theory and doctrine, considered as invariable; necessity of violent revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, led in the first person by the class party; reaffirmation, against the prevailing Stalinism, of the thesis, very much alive in Lenin’s time, that the victorious proletariat in one country must subordinate its entire effort to achieving proletarian victory on a world scale, with the consequent hierarchy of the global communist party having to be: Communist International – party in power – proletarian State. In reasserting those key positions, the Left necessarily had to march against Stalinism, but seperate from other positions and groups which had drawn the lesson from the collapse of the International that the centralised party and the one party dictatorial state should be opposed; “anti-Stalinist” positions and groups which in fact marked a return to the Kapdist positions which had been defeated at the 2nd Congress.
Another of the Italian Left’s fundamental positions was that the series of objectively unfavourable events which marked the course of the proletarian revolution between 1917 and 1926 wasn’t the only cause of the degeneration of the International. There had also been a number of subjective weaknesses, which may be summed up as: a set of lacunae in the process of the formation of the International and of the parties belonging to it, a process which the requirements of the immediate battle had rendered imperfect; a lack of elaboration and order in the field of tactics, compared to the Bolsheviks’ magisterial effort in restoring the theory and the program; an incorrect organisational practice from the 4th Congress onwards, denounced by us as dangerous and the harbinger of organisational disintegration (mergers, infiltration, sympathiser parties, etc), and finally; an incorrect method of running the party and organising its work, which had started to gain ground around the time of the resolution of the German problem in 1923 and came to prevail in the International under the aberrant term, “Bolshevisation”. The Left drew the lessons of this historic tragedy by drawing up a critical balance sheet of the whole of the International’s work from 1920 to 1926; a balance sheet, incidentally, already contained in our Lyons Theses at the 3rd Congress of the Italian Communist Party in 1926.
This approach to the question necessarily provoked another parting of the historical ways, between our current and Trotsky and the Russia opposition’s which rejected our balance sheet for material reasons and certainly not through any lack of will on our part. In 1945, with the passage of Russia and the Stalinized parties to the counter-revolutionary camp a fait accompli, also in the physical sense, the reconstitution of the revolutionary communist party, on the abovementioned basis, was back on the agenda. By this time the road we had taken, and the road taken by the Trotskyist ‘International’, and by those who had relapsed into spontaneism, had diverged in all respects and there was now no going back. It wasn’t therefore possible to use the generic anti-Stalinism of the various regroupings as the basis for the new organisation. What was put forward instead, in the 1945 Political Platform, was the historical experience of the Italian Left and on this road, equipped with a fortnightly newspaper Battaglia Comunista, and its review, Prometeo, the “hard work” would begin.
The post Second World War period forced the party to confront a number of specific problems regarding tactics and its general perspective. The crucial point in this mammoth task, conducted between 1945 and 1952, was the drafting of the party’s Characteristic Theses in 1952 which constituted the basis for joining the party itself. Those who didn’t accept the Characteristic Theses en bloc found themselves automatically outside of the organisation. No-one had to expel them. Since they didn’t agree with the conclusions which the party had drawn in its various spheres of activity they left of their own accord. They could, in the words of our 1965 Theses, take any of the other paths which diverge from ours. They took one and are following it still, and at what distance from the party is none of our concern.
Although, as far as the revolutionary crisis was concerned, the situation in 1964 was amorphous and completely dead, the very fact of the growth and consolidation of the party organisation around the fortnightly publication Il Programma Comunista, which was on an international scale, placed back on the party agenda the need to deal with problems which were related to its perennial tasks and the way the organisation functioned internally. Once again it would be circumstances rather this or that person’s will which would bring certain problems to the fore, which although already covered in a hundred and one enunciations dating back to 1920 now had to be settled once and for all, namely: the organisational problems faced by the reconstituted party, with its now much reduced network. This necessity we tackled in our usual way, taking into account not the opinions of individuals or groups but looking instead to the past, and to the future, for answers to today’s and tomorrow’s problems. Between 1964 and 1966 we undertook an assessment of the organisational experiences of the world communist party between 1848 and 1926, and aligned it with the Marxist method by reinstating the various factors which define the essence of the communist party: theory, program, tactics and organisation. Out of these experiences objective and definitive conclusions were drawn which were summarized in the 1964-66 Theses, which again you either have to accept or reject en bloc because they represent not the results of somebody’s questionable deliberations, whether of a leader or a rank-and-file member, but derive from the whole of the Left’s way of thinking over a span of fifty years.
With this new milestone on the road to the reconstitution of the party now set in place, the organisational repercussions of this act were in a certain sense secondary and didn’t really matter. Some, maybe quite a few, left. They as well were free to go down any road they chose. No action was taken either to push them out, or draw them back in. Our paths diverged and diverge still, and the divergence is summed up in a monolithic block of theses and statements that typify the Left.
In the 1964-66 Theses, in which the history of the party is sketched out and summarized, a description of the party’s organic dynamic is summed up in the following terms:
«The screening of party members in the organic centralist scheme is carried out in a way we have always declared to be contrary to the Moscow centrists. The party continues to hone and refine the distinctive features of its doctrine, of its action and tactics with a unique methodology that transcends spatial and temporal boundaries. Clearly all those who are uncomfortable with these delineations can just leave. Not even after the seizure of power may we admit forced membership within our ranks; all terroristic pressures in the disciplinary field are therefore out of the correct meaning of organic centralism; they even copy their vocabulary from abused bourgeois constitutional forms, like the faculty of the executive power to dissolve and reassemble elective formations – all forms that for a long time we consider obsolete, not only for the proletarian party, but even for the revolutionary and temporary State of the victorious proletariat» (Excerpt from Theses on the Historical Duty, Action, and the Structure of the World Communist Party, 1965).So, for Marx, Lenin and the Left, the task of honing the party’s theoretical, programmatic and tactical cardinal principles could always bring about organisational rifts and splits as a consequence. When a split occurs on this basis it is the result of divergent political positions having appeared, and it is a natural, organic and historically positive fact. But in the organic centralist scheme, that is, a correctly Marxist conception of the party’s internal dynamics, the use of organisational pressure as a way of resolving internal differences is viewed as a method which, little by little, corrupts the very nature of the party. It is a view the theses have no hesitation in sanctioning as one derived from historical experience.
Between 1970 and 1973 history has placed various problems on the party agenda. According to our classic method we needed to engage in a rational and objective search for the solution, which would prompt either unanimous agreement on the part of the entire organisation, or a clear delineation of contrary positions and consequently a spontaneous, natural and organic organisational split. But a whole series of material reasons has prevented the method we have always defended, codified back in 1965, from being put into practice. What was necessarily used was the opposite method, putting back on the agenda, inside the organisation, the practice of political struggle, of ideological terrorism, and of organisational pressure on militants who had declared themselves in absolute agreement on the bulk of the party’s fundamental positions and who totally accepted executive discipline within the organisation. The use of these methods ensured that the selection which now gave rise to the newspaper Il Partito Comunista had come about, for the first time in the party’s history, not as a voluntary departure of elements who disagreed about some fundamental position, but as the official expulsion of elements who had declared their acceptance of the entire tactical, programmatic and theoretical patrimony of the Communist Left.
The use of these methods contravenes in a practical sense the party’s theses on organic centralism; which means that it contravenes, given that these theses are not a theoretical luxury, the one method history has chosen to construct in practice the strong, compact revolutionary organisation needed by the proletariat to achieve its emancipation. It is not by such methods that the party constructed; with bloody lessons historical experience has taught as much. On the contrary, once it loses one of its main “guarantees” that it will keep on the correct path, its internal working practices – the third aspect of the resurgence of opportunism in the Moscow International denounced by the Left – the party lays itself open to deviations in the programmatic and tactical spheres as well.
Not our will, but material facts have plotted our course to this point; open defence of all of the Left’s classic and unchanging positions as the sole basis on which the organised network of the class party can be put back together and made compact and powerful. Forced to record the existence of two organisations, which we neither caused nor wanted, we have nothing to inscribe on our banner apart from our complete loyalty to and faith in the tradition of Marx, Lenin and the Communist Left, codified in the body of theses known respectively as the Rome Theses, Lyons Theses, Characteristic Theses of 1952, and the 1964-1966 Theses on Organic Centralism. And we must lay claim to the fact that it was only on those unchangeable and inviolable foundations that the International Communist Party arose and grew, and only on that basis can it survive, and become stronger.