|International Communist Party|
The following text, written in 1950 with a view to being published in French, is still as relevant today as it was then. On the one hand this is because the evolution of the capitalist world, Russia included, has more than confirmed our expectations, and on the other, because the reactions of many groups of vanguard workers against stalinism have never ceased to be hybrid and confused; a reaction which has taken the form of democratism, or even of the negation both of the role played by violence in the class struggle, and of the revolutionary party as fundamental and indispensable organ of the proletarian dictatorship. Thus it became a serious and urgent task for the Marxist Left to draw a demarcation line between itself and the myriad array of other political groups and currents which grew on the rotten soil constituted by democratic or parademocratic criticisms of the Soviet regime.
The democratic critics of the Russian
regime would in fact find their most avid supporters amongst the big bourgeoisie
of the capitalist West, with the latter, hoping to open up the vast Russian
market, quite happy to urge them on and encourage them in their criticism
of "Russian totalitarianism". Eventually, as the doors to that shrine of
American Capital, the Hamburger bar, swished open in Moscow to a fanfare
of International publicity, the crusaders of democracy would see their
dream of an elected Parliament realised. But it would not be long before
the staggering hypocracy of the bourgeoisie would be revealed once again,
and a chorus of Western "world leaders" would support President Yeltsin
as he dissolved Parliament, banned several papers and drowned the opposition
of the parliamentary democrats in blood. It is an episode which serves
as renewed testimony to the fact that the capitalist regime alternates
the totalitarian AND democratic means of Government to defend its class
The organization of the working classes of all countries of the world is, as a result of a series of splits and the spread of defeatism, almost totally dominated by two forces.
On the one hand there is the traditional form of democratic socialism. Based on peaceful relationships between classes, these organizations support a programme of social and political collaboration with the bourgeoisie, and plan to defend the workers’ interests by legal means within the framework of the bourgeois constitution. They suggest that private enterprise will gradually change to socialism, and on principle reject the use of violence and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
On the other hand there are those parties which defend the government in power in the USSR. These herald the USSR as a Workers State with a policy modelled on revolutionary communism as defined by Marx and Lenin, and consistent with the great victory of the October Revolution. This second force in the proletarian movement claims, in theory, not to reject the tactics of insurrection, dictatorship and terrorism. At the same time however, it says that it is expedient to use in capitalist countries the same tactical methods as the property-owning and non-proletarian classes, and even their propaganda slogans and demands as well. For instance, there is the call for national welfare, for the safety of the fatherland, and the slogan of peaceful coexistence between classes with opposed interests within the framework of parliamentary democracy.
The application of such a politics, identical to social-democracy, is dependent on the satisfaction of certain conditions. There would have to be peace between the government of the Soviet union and the bourgeois governments. The workers of the world would have to admit that by safeguarding the Russian power, as the premise and the promise of world socialism, they were guaranteeing themselves against future capitalist exploitation. And both the workers and the capitalists would have to acknowledge that for an unlimited period of time the Soviet Union could co-exist with the capitalist powers in a normal and peaceful manner. These conditions, a fools paradise, are summed up by the bourgeois democrats in the hackneyed formula of "non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign States" and in the new, even more ridiculous, slogan of "peaceful competition" between socialism and capitalism.
From time to time the rank and file of the working class has rebelled against the obvious contradictions of this historical viewpoint; and though until now these rebellions have been limited and uncertain they will undoubtedly gain strength.
The incessant propaganda is increasingly less successful in hiding these contradictions. It is skilfully aimed at deliberately confusing long-term objectives with immediate ones, the tactical expedients with principled positions, and is selected according to the particular social setting.
The plan of convincing the capitalist countries that they can very well let the Soviet regime survive, without making a military attack or engineering a social upheaval, can only mean convincing them that it is not a working class State and therefore no longer anti-capitalist. Such a policy emphasises the true state of affairs.
Convincing the workers in the bourgeois countries that they need not organise their forces for an insurrection and the overthrow of their national economic, administrative and political systems, may well help to recruit members from the social strata who normally support the social democrats, but it has no effect however on the more advanced workers. To them is offered the perspective of a generalised war between States leading to the conquest of class power by the proletariat, a role which Marx and Lenin entrusted to the civil war. When a war of this type has broken out, and irrespective of which side started it, the stalinists promise the groups of advanced workers the chance to try out illegal and defeatist actions within their own countries. In support of this vain promise they say that these "partisans" will be able to rely not only on their own forces but also on the parallel action of a perfected modern military machine.
The other section of their followers, which certainly make up the vast majority, are made up of workers having no revolutionary consciousness; artisans, small land-owners, shop-keepers and middle-class manufacturers, white collar workers and civil servants, intellectuals and professional politicians. To this section the stalinists are continually making proposals which go so far as offering a permanent united front, not only with the propertied classes but also with the bourgeois parties, which they themselves classify as reactionary and right-wing. They also promise them a future of peace, both internal and world-wide; of democratic tolerance towards any political party, organization, or creed; of economic progress without conflict or expropriation of the wealthy; of equal welfare for all social strata. It is now increasingly difficult for them to justify, in the eyes of the masses, even the existence in the Soviet Union and her satellites of a harsh totalitarian police state, controlled by stalinists through a rigid one-party system.
This degeneration of the proletarian
movement has gone further than that of the revisionist and chauvinistic
opportunism of the Second International and it will last longer. The beginnings
of this modern opportunism we can fix, at the latest, in 1928; the opportunism
of the Second International reached the culminating point of its cycle
in the years 1912-1922, though its origins went back much further than
1912, and its consequences went well beyond 1922.
FIRST SYMPTOMS OF REACTION TO STALINISM
Recently there have been signs of impatience with stalinist opportunism. Both individual militants and groups have appeared on the political scenes of different countries advocating the return to the doctrine of Marx and Lenin and the theses of the 3rd International at its first four Congresses. These latter denounced the stalinists for their complete betrayal of the original policy.
However most of these splits cannot be regarded as a useful regrouping on a genuine class basis even of a small vanguard of the proletariat. Many of these groups, as a result of their lack of theoretical work and because of their class origin, show in the very nature of their criticism of stalinist activity, both past and present, that they are more or less directly influenced by political schemes which originate from the imperialist centres of the West and by the hysterical and hypocritical propaganda of liberalism and humanitarianism.
But whether or not such policies are the result of the machinations of secret agents, the real damage they cause is that they divert unwary militants.
However, historically speaking, fundamental responsability for allowing either means of counter-revolutionary defeatism to succeed rests entirely with the stalinist opportunists. It is they who have given their stamp of approval to an abundance of bourgeois ideologies and theories, who have frantically worked to prevent the working class movements from being autonomous, independent, and ready to defend themselves, despite the fact these attributes were so often stressed by Marx and Lenin.
This confused and unfavourable course of the proletarian struggle coincides with the irresistable growth of highly concentrated industrialization, which is taking place as much in the old industrial centres as by the extension of industry to the entire world. It therefore aids the offensive waged by the United States against the masses of the world. The United States is the greatest pillar of imperialism and, as with all large concentrations of metropolitan capital, forces of production and power, it tends to forceably exploit and oppress the world masses by breaking down all social and territorial obstacles. The stalinists have shifted the struggle from international objectives and have confined themselves to the defence of precise national objectives delimited by the political and military aims of the Russian centre. As a result they will be less and less able to lead either the international or the national struggle, and will become more and more linked in with western imperialism, as was openly shown by the war alliance.
The Marxist position has always been that the foremost class enemies are the great powers of the super-industrialised and super-colonial countries, which can only be overthrown by proletarian revolution. In accordance with the Marxist viewpoint, the communists of the Italian Left today address an appeal to the revolutionary workers’ groups of all countries. They invite them to retrace a long and difficult route and to regroup themselves on an international and strictly class basis, denouncing and rejecting any group which is influenced even partly or indirectly by the policies and philistine conformism emanating from the state controlled forces throughout the world.
The reorganization of an international
vanguard can only take place if there is absolute homogeneity of views
and orientations; the International Communist Party proposes to comrades
of all countries the following basic principles and postulates.
1. Reaffirmation of the Weapons of the Proletarian Revolution: Violence‑Dictatorship‑Terror
For revolutionary left-wing marxists,
knowing that acts of repression, cruelty or violence towards individuals
or groups have taken place, even if these acts were authorised or controllable,
is not in itself a decisive element in the condemnation of stalinism or
of any other regime. Manifestations of repression, even the most severe
repression, form an inseperable part of all societies based on class divisions.
From its very inception Marxism has rejected the so-called "values" of
a civilization based on class struggle, just as it rejects those rules
of "fair play" by which opposing classes are supposed to regulate robbery
and murder to their mutual satisfaction. No extortion or offense suffered
by "human beings", no "genocide", whether illegal or legal, can be fought
by ascribing them to particular individuals or to those who gave them their
orders but only by struggling for the revolutionary destruction of all
class divisions. In the present phase of capitalism, which is characterised
by mounting atrocities, cruelty and super-militarism, only the most idiotic
of revolutionary movements would circumscribe its methods of action within
the limits of formal kindness.
2. Complete Rupture with the Tradition of War Alliances, Partisan Fronts and National Liberations
Stalinism was first irrevocably condemned precisely because it abandoned these fundamental principles of communism by hurling proletarians into a fratricidal war which divided them into two imperialist camps, thus strongly reinforcing the shameful propaganda issued by the camp to which it had become allied. This camp, no better than the other, would mask its imperialist greed, which was exposed decades ago by marxist-leninist criticism, by alleging that its respect for "civilised" methods of war distinguished it from its adversary. It pretended that even if it was obliged to bomb, "nuke", invade, and finally, after anxious soul-searching, resort to hangings, it was not in order to defend its own interests, but in order to remove the threat to the "moral values" of civilization and human liberty.
Leninism had been the riposte when in 1914 this same disgraceful swindle saw the traitors of the Second International proclaim the patriotic alliance against the imaginary ogre of teutonic or tsarist "barbarism",
Exactly the same swindle would be the basis for the western imperialists entering the war against the new nazi or fascist barbarism, and the same betrayal was contained in the alliance concluded between the state of Russia and the imperialist states – with the nazis themselves to begin with – and in the alliance forged between the workers’ parties and bourgeois parties with a view to winning the war.
These lies and betrayals are a matter of historical record, especially now when we find the Russians accusing the Americans of being aggressors or fascists, and the latter accusing the Russians of the same thing, whilst admitting that had they been able to use the atomic bomb (not ready in 1941) to massacre Europe, they would have done so, rather than using the armies composed of Russian workers mobilised for the same task.
It is true Marxism has always investigated, and continues to investigate, what lies behind the perennial conflicts between bourgeois States, groups and fractions, and from this investigation has drawn its deductions and historical foresight. But to oppose a civilised wing of capitalism to a barbaric wing of the same system is a negation of Marxism. Indeed from a determinist point of view it may well be that the proletariat gains more from a victory of the attacking party which uses the harshest methods of combat than otherwise.
For human comunities to pass beyond barbarism, the development of productive techniques was indispensable; but man has had to pay for this passage by subjecting himself to the countless infamies of class civilization, and to the suffering arising from the exploitation of slavery, serfdom and industrialization.
It is therefore a fundamental condition
for the rebuilding of the international revolutionary movement that the
traditions of chauvinistic politics shown in the support of the 1914-18
and 1939-45 war alliances, popular fronts, guerilla resistances and national
liberations be equally condemned.
3. Historical Denial of Defencism, Pacifism and Federalism between States
The guiding line of the marxist position when facing the prospect of a further war can be found in Lenin’s writings. According to him wars of the great powers since the time of the Paris Commune have been imperialist wars. This is because 1871 marked the end of the historical period in which there were wars and insurrections setting out the national boundaries of capitalist countries. Therefore when war occurs, any class alliance, any suspension of class opposition and pressure with war aims in mind constititutes a betrayal of the proletarian cause. For Lenin, also, the revolt of the coloured masses in the colonies against the imperialists and the nationalist movements in under-developed countries in this modern phase of capitalism have a revolutionary significance only if the class struggle of the industrialised sectors is neither halted, nor loosens its connection with the international objectives of the proletarian organization. Whatever may be the foreign policy of a state, the real internal enemy of the working class of each country is its government.
In this conception – considerably reinforced by the experiences of World War 11, which confirmed the explicit forecasts made in the theses and resolutions of the Third International up to the time of Lenin’s death – the period of imperialist wars will only draw to a close with the downfall of capitalism.
The revolutionary party of the proletariat must therefore deny any possibility of a peaceful settlement of the imperialist conflicts. It must energetically combat any proposals that hold out the illusion that a federation, league or association of States might be able to prevent conflicts by repressing "those who started them" with an international armed force.
Marx and Lenin, although aware of the rich complexity of the historical relationship between wars and revolutions, nevertheless condemned as an idealist and bourgeois deception the fallacious distinction between "aggression" and "defence" in wars between States. Similarly the revolutionary proletariat should know that all the suprastatal international institutions are only designed as a repressive force in order to conserve capitalism, and their armed forces are but a class police and a counter-revolutionary guard.
Real international communism is therefore
characterised by a total rejection of any ambiguous propaganda based on
the defence of pacifism and the stupid formula of condemning and punishing
4. Condemnation of Shared Social Programmes and Political Fronts with non-Working Classes
It is a tradition amongst the left-wing opposition of many groups, dating back to the first tactical errors of the Third International, to reject as incorrect the methods of agitation, rather badly defined as "bolshevik".
Especially after the complete and irrevocable elimination of all feudal institutions, working towards the final armed confrontation between the proletariat and the ruling class for the formation of a workers’ State and a worldwide Red dictatorship – one involving political terror and expropriation of all privileged classes – cannot be achieved if, at certain times and in certain places, we omit to mention these aims, which are precisely the programme of communism and of communism alone.
It is an illusion to think that one can conquer the masses more quickly by putting orders for popular agitation in the place of class positions. Equally it is a vain illusion to confidently suppose that the leaders of such a manoevre are not themselves taken in by it; although this is often proclaimed, at best it is nonsense.
Every time that the main content (always said to be transitory) of a political manoevre has been a united front with opportunist parties, or there has been a demand for democracy, peace, or non-class popularism, or worse still, national and patriotic solidarity, it has never been a matter of suddenly hoisting up the scenery – after having weakened the enemy front with this crafty camouflage – to reveal an army of soldiers of the Revolution ready at the crucial moment to open fire on the temporary allies of yesterday.
Quite the opposite has occurred. The masses, along with militants and leaders, have been rendered incapable of class action, and their organizations and rank and file, progressively disarmed and domesticated by such ideological and functional preparation, have ended up as the instruments, and preferred tools of the ruling bourgeoisie.
These historical conclusions are no longer founded on doctrinal criticism alone, they derive from the terrible historical experience, so dearly paid for, of thirty years of bankrupt efforts.
Therefore a revolutionary party will never again attempt to gain mass support with demands specific to the non-proletarian and socially hybrid classes and likely to be made by them.
This particular basic criteria does not
apply to the intermediate and specific demands which arise from the concrete
antagonism of interests between wage-earners and employers in the economic
sphere. It is, however, in opposition to classless or interclass demands,
especially political ones whether they be made by one nation or internationally.
This criteria, flowing from a criticism of the proletarian political united
front, of the slogan workers government, and of popular and democratic
fronts, establishes a boundary between the movement supported by us, and
the one calling itself the Fourth International of the Trotskyists. Our
movement is seperated in the same way from all those kindred versions which
under a different title revive that slogan of revisionist degeneration
"the object is nothing, the movement is everything", and which accordingly
end up cherishing superficial agitations lacking in all content.
5. Proclamation of the Capitalist Character of the Russian Social Structure
The way in which the economy, legislation and administration of the Soviet Union has developed over the last thirty years gives historical proof that the workers’ revolution can be submerged not only in a bloody civil war as was the case in Paris in 1871 but also by progressive degeneration. This is equally illustrated by the ruthless repression, and extermination of the revolutionary bolshevik nucleus, which paid dearly for having allowed the party to be transformed from an iron vanguard into a top-heavy, amorphous mass, incapable of exercising control over its own legislature or executive. The monetary and mercantile character of the greater part of the Russian economy, which is in no way contradicted by the presence of State control of vital services and industries found also in several big capitalist countries, presents us not with a workers state menaced by degeneration, or in the process of degenerating, but by a State which has already degenerated and in which the proletariat no longer holds power anymore.
Power has passed into the hands of a
hybrid and shapeless coalition of internal interests of the lower and upper
middle classes, semi-independent businessmen, and the international capitalist
classes. Such a combination is contradicted only in appearance by the existence
of a police controlled and commercial iron curtain.
Repudiation of any Support for Russian Imperial Militarism,
open Defeatism towards America’s
As a consequence, a war which appears outwardly to arrest co-operation between the privileged stratas of various countries in administering the World (as all wars do) will not be a revolutionary war in the Leninist sense, that is: a war for the protection and diffusion of proletarian power throughout the World. Such an historical eventuality, which is not today on the agenda, would never involve making justifications for any country’s political and military complex; above all because revolutionary states, if any, could find no allies in the capitalist camp (as was clearly the case at the end of World War 1). Taking our hypothetical eventuality, a strong international communist party would time the attacks of its sections against the bourgeois powers so as to halt military "punitive" expeditions against the revolutionary countries, and would get the workers who had been armed and mobilised for such aims to turn their arms against those who armed them.
There is all the more reason for any revolutionary movement to constantly maintain a comprehensively anti-capitalist and anti-state orientation in all cases where the offensive is less developed, and the struggle of lesser potential. Communists know that there is only one way to stop capitalists indulging in punitive expeditions against the proletariat: they must eliminate the capitalist class, and this cannot be done unless the vanguard of the working class is everywhere kept on a war footing.
Even a temporary disarming of class consciousness, be it ideological, organizational or material, is therefore a betrayal whereever and whenever it occurs. The Centre of the communist movement must never succumb to it, even if it is a firmly established discipline that the Centre is responsible for choosing the timing, and forms, that party action takes. Any party or group which accepts being disarmed in such a way, especially if they refer to themselves as workers, communists or socialists, is the first enemy to fight and subdue. For it is precisely their existence, and the function they perform, that is holding back the overthrow of the capitalist system, an overthrow foreseen by Marx and Engels and awaited with conviction by all revolutionary marxists.
The completely opposite strategy which
was applied during the last war by the residue of the Communist international,
and which led to its shameful self-liquidation, was undertaken so that
"the western governments should not be hindered in their war efforts",
but it merely had the effect of strengthening the western imperialist power.
Too late did the Russian Government and military circles admit that the
latter were more of a threat to their objectives than Germany, objectives
by then overtly national.
Nevertheless, the new recourse to hurling accusations of barbarism and fascism is no less false and sinister (charges returned with equal effrontery by the "free world") and revolutionary workers of the vanguard must aim to draw their forces together for a combat in which they can expect neither help nor ammunition from the opposing military forces of today. They must work in the hope, and certainty, that the crisis and downfall of capitalism, expected in vain for 150 years, will strike at the heart of the highly industrialised States: the hitherto unvanquished black guard of the World.